Jean Batten was born in 1909 in Rotorura, New Zealand. In her late teens, her father took her to a lecture given by the aviator Charles Kingsford-Smith. She was so inspired by the famous pilot that she declared her decision to learn to fly and was especially interested in breaking flight records.
Batten and her mother moved to London in 1930, where she began flying lessons at the London Aero Club. Within two years she earned her private pilot’s license and her commercial license as well as learning to perform maintenance on her own plane. With the financial assistance of friends, Batten bought her first plane.
Her first goal was to beat the record of Amy Johnson. Johnson was the first woman to fly from England to Australia. Batten made her first attempt in 1933 but had weather difficulties. After another unsuccessful flight, she finally set a new reoord in 1934, landing in Darwin, Australia.
She continued to break records, including France to Casablanca and England to Brazil. Batten then flew from England to Auckland. She was the first woman to complete this flight and also broke the record set by a male aviator. Her last record-breaking flight was from Australia to England. Batten’s plane is located at Auckland Airport where a terminal is named in her honor.
Jean Batten – Ferry Pilot
During World War II Batten wanted to be a ferry pilot, the only job available for women pilots. She was not offered a position but did help raise money and recruited members for the Royal Air Force.
After her career as a pilot, Batten led a solitary life. By the 1980s she was living on Majorca in the Canary Islands when she was bitten by a dog. An infection from this wound led to her death after she refused treatment, and she was buried in a pauper’s grave in 1982. Because she had become a recluse, her friends did not learn of her death until five years later.