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Nancy Bird Walton - Pioneer
, 2003

by Danelle Bergstrom

oil on canvas (support: 152.0 cm x 91.0 cm)

Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE (1915-2009) is one of Australia's pioneering pilots. Bird worked in her father's country store to save up for helmet, goggles and leathers. She began lessons with Charles Kingsford Smith in 1933, obtained her pilot's licence in 1935 and promptly organised the first Ladies' Flying Tour of Australia. The following year she won the Ladies' Trophy in the Brisbane to Adelaide Centenary Air Race. Appointed to the Far West Children's Health Scheme, she became the first Australian woman to work commercially in aviation and the first female pilot in the Commonwealth to carry passengers as she flew the Aerial Ambulance and Baby Clinic Service in northwest NSW. After a spell with the Charter Air Service in Cunnamulla she became a commandant in the Women's Air Training Corps. In 1950 she founded the Australian Women Pilot's Association. Eight years later she became the first woman from outside the US to enter the All Women's Transcontinental Air Race (the 'Powder Puff Derby') and took fifth place in a field of 61. Her books include Born to Fly (1960) and My God it's a Woman (1990). Named a Living National Treasure, Nancy Bird Walton is patron and life member of many aeronautical associations and a much-loved public speaker

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2004
Accession number: 2004.1