Australian women first took to the skies as early as 1909 and since then they have flown everything from Gipsy Moths to Jumbo Jets. This exhibition was a tribute to the spirit and achievements of women pilots from across Australia. Set against striking backgrounds of dramatic skies and aircraft, the 33 photographic portraits in this exhibition captured these pilots’ love of flying and the freedom of the sky.
One of the many remarkable women featured in the exhibition is pioneer aviator Nancy Bird, who formed the Australian Women Pilots’ Association in 1950 to foster closer ties among women pilots. Nancy Bird learnt to fly in the early 1930s with Charles Kingsford Smith, and became the youngest commercial pilot in the British Empire.
The exhibition also drew on the Powerhouse Museum’s rich collection of aviation objects, including early flying accessories and model aircraft, from pioneer aviators such as Lores Bonney. Material from Australian Women Pilots’ Association members, documenting the history of the association, were also on display.
Today there are approximately 2000 women pilots in Australia, flying across all areas of aviation – commercial, military and sport. Powerhouse staff photographer Sue Stafford has travelled throughout Australia photographing and interviewing women pilots. Some of the pilots and their stories that were in the exhibition included: