When Nancy Bird Walton was inducted into the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society on Saturday night it was a very special moment for her great grand daughter who is eager to follow in her famous Nan’s footsteps.
Nancy Bird’s grandson Baron Walton and his daughter Maysa Walton were filled with pride as they accepted the plaque and spoke of how the aviation pioneer had inspired them as well as millions around Australia.
Mr Walton invited his daughter to travel to HARS to accept the induction with him on stage because of how much she wanted to fly like her famous great grand mother.
“I am so pleased to have my daughter here. I have four children but I brought my daughter Maysa who is attending high school next year. She is going to an aviation school and she is dead keen. At the school she will learn to fly. And in Year 11 and 12 she can actually be in the air,” he said.
Maysa was also with Mr Walton’s aunty and other members of the family.
She said it was great to see what her great grandmother meant to other people.
“I was half nervous and really excited,” Maysa said.
“I am 11 and I definitely want to fly like Nan.”
Nancy Bird Walton became Australia’s youngest female commercial pilot and went onto found the Australian Women’s Pilots Assocation in 1950.
“It is wonderful to see so Australian Women’s Pilot Association member here,” Mr Walton said.
“It is always great to hear your stories about Nan. She would have loved this. It would have meant so much to here. Nan had two families. Her blood family and her aviation family which was an international family. She could travel anywhere in the world and have somewhere to stay with people who shared that aviation history and that love of flight. Her Australian aviation family was a very tight-knit group especially the women pilots,” Mr Walton said.
In 1933 at the age of 18 Nancy Bird Walton took her first flying lesson with Charles Kingsford Smith who had just opened a flying school at Mascot.
When she gained her commercial pilots licence at 19 she became the youngest woman to ever do so in the British Empire.
She bought a plane and did a barnstorming tour of NSW at a time when many people had never seen a plane.
She then established a flying medical service in outback NSW called the Royal Far West Children’s Health Scheme and she became known as the Angel of the Outback.
When World War II broke out she trained women to back up men flying in the Royal Australian Airforce.
The presentation to the 2017 recipients was held at HARS for the first time following the finalisation of an agreement in June to co-locate the AAHOF to a permanent home and display within the complex at Illawarra Regional Airport.
AAHOF was created to publicly recognise the outstanding achievements of the individuals and organisations who have made significant contributions to aviation and aerospace and to seek for opportunities to inspire our future generations.
It started in Wagga Wagga in 2010 with the support of founding sponsors to honour Australia’s aviation past and has inducted 31 individuals and five organisations.
AAHOF Chairman Steve Padgett took the opportunity on Saturday to publicly thank HARS and its president Bob De La Hunty as well as Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba and Shellharbour City Council.
“After seeking proposals from various locations around Australia, we were delighted to find that our objectives and interests and those of HARS were closely associated, enabling us to jointly form a relationship for the benefit of both organisations and to those who support both HARS and the Hall of Fame,” Mr Padgett said.
Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said the public recognition of the hard work and achievements of HARS members was well-deserved.
“Our airport is one of Shellharbour’s biggest assets and to have a world-class attraction located there for both educational and recreational purposes reflects well on our city,” said.=
Mr De La Hunty said having both a home for such a wonderful collection of historical aircraft as well as an aviation hall of fame at the airport was a major drawcard for the Illawarra.
AAHOF and HARS are presently designing and constructing a display area to showcase inductees such as Nancy Bird Walton.
On Saturday night the other new inductees were pioneer of the north Edward John Connellan, Starlet designer and builder John Cyril Corby, former Qantas chief executive James Alexander Strong, aviation theory school founder Robert Stuart Tait and Trans Australia Airlines which was accompanied by an old TAA television commercial about going Up, Up and Away and Flying the Friendly Way. As well as an old documentary revealing among other things how far booking a flight has come in recent decades.
Also in attendance was Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin.