Kiwi as

This week’s keen individual who inspired and surprised her generation and generations to follow is Rotorua born Jean Batten. Quote.

She was the manifestation of triumph and hope against the odds through the dark days of the Depression.[…]? Jean Batten was the ?Garbo of the Skies?. She stood for adventure, daring, exploration and glamour. In her time, Jean Batten was one of the most famous people in the world. […]

Throughout her [flying lessons], her publicly stated main focus was to be the first person to fly between England and New Zealand. To those around her this notion was patently ridiculous, but she was undeterred. She applied herself assiduously and, after a brief return [from the UK] to New Zealand, gained her commercial license in mid-1931.

Jean was resolute in her determination to complete the flight from England to New Zealand, and to achieve more than ?just? this. As Ian Mackersey says, she ?had an almost messianic faith in herself, and an unshakeable conviction that she had a significant role to play in putting New Zealand womankind on the map?. With this self-belief and sense of purpose came the notion that it was the duty of others to fund her flights. Despite the later embroidered self-depiction of her state of affairs, her own resources were meagre: The post-war depression hit her father?s Auckland dental practice hard and his allowances to her had dwindled to nothing. She had sold her piano and long since spent the proceeds.

But she still managed to fund her way into the sky. Jean was physically attractive and was aware of her allure. On several occasions, besotted men gave her large sums of money for her missions ? in the case of Kiwi RAF pilot Fred Truman, his entire life savings . Many were under the impression Jean would marry them. She never married.

Jean?s flying skills improved on a parallel with her powers of persuasion. In 1932, she was virtually gifted a second-hand Gipsy Moth bi-plane by the elegant, public-school educated and infatuated Victor Doree, who borrowed the purchase price from his wealthy linen-merchant family. Such patronage was to set Jean on the way to achieving all her aspirations for fame and success. […]

Jean took off? on May 8th 1934 [on her third attempt to fly England to Australia.] Battling the elements, she reached Darwin in 14 days and 22 hours, not quite a day longer than her stated goal but smashing Amy Johnson?s time by five days.

Charles Kingsford-Smith now had cause to remember Jean?s fateful declaration of six years earlier, and would wryly regret the two pieces of advice he?d offered ?Don?t attempt to break men?s records ? and don?t fly at night.? Of course, as Jean was often to repeat, ?I made a point of ignoring both of them.? She received a hero?s welcome in Australia, and although she travelled by sea to New Zealand (the Gipsy Moth would not have made it across the vast Tasman Sea) the welcome at home was rapturous. End of quote.

Jean flew back to England from Australia, the first woman to make the return flight and in 1935 Jean flew across the South Atlantic from West Africa to Brazil in 61 hours and 15 minutes, almost a day faster than the current record held by?Scotsman, Jim Mollison.

Her next challenge was England to Auckland and at 3:30 a.m. on 5 October 1936 she took off for a?14,000-mile trip. She arrived in Australia in six days, which was less than half the time it had taken in the Gipsy Moth three years earlier, setting a new solo record.? Five days later Jean?took off for Auckland at 4.40am, October 16. The flight across the Tasman took 10 and a half hours and her landing at Auckland caused 13 miles of traffic jams.

A few months later, Jean made the return trip to England in five days and 18 hours which meant that she now held the world record in both directions.

Content with her achievements, that was to be Jean’s last long distance flight. In 1938 she was the first woman to be awarded the medal of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, aviation?s highest honour.

As The Times said in her obituary. “She captured the imagination of an age and her feats of daring broke barriers of distance, time and gender.