Fond Memories of Flying Pioneer Jean Batten
“Jean Batten was the first woman to be awarded the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale’s highest award, the FAI Gold Air Medal. Awarded 80 years ago in 1937 she got it for the remarkable feat of flying solo from England to New Zealand – the first person ever to do so,” the FAI reports in a history news piece.
“[Rotorua-born Batten] was 27-years-old when she made the record flight, which took her a total of 11 days 45 minutes. A young woman at the height of her fame, she attracted movie-star style crowds wherever she went and earned the nickname the ‘Greta Garbo of the Skies’ for her remarkable achievements and public persona.
“On her speaking tours and public engagements she travelled with a black cat called Buddy, wore red lipstick in the cockpit, and knew the power of a well taken photograph. She was an international superstar of aviation, famous across the Western world in the 1930s as it was gripped by flying fever and the exploits of the remarkable men and women who pushed the boundaries of flight in that decade.
“Worldwide, she became the most famous New Zealander of the 1930s. And she is still recognised as a heroine in her native country today. Her face has appeared on stamps and bank notes, and now when you fly into New Zealand you will likely land at the Jean Batten International Terminal at Auckland Airport.
“Her flight earned her many global prizes and awards, including the prestigious FAI Gold Air Medal for 1937. She was the first woman to win it.”
Batten died in Majorca in 1982.
Original article by FAI, December 14, 2017.