Nancy Bird Walton | Our Spirit in the Sky

At the age of 4 Nancy was balancing on a six-foot back fence with her arms out stretched and as her mother remembered, she called herself an ‘eppy plane’. Australia and the world were in awe of those amazing young men in their flying machines and little Nancy’s imagination was ignited.

Nancy Bird was born in Kew, New South Wales in 1915 and lived her junior years on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. In 1919 when Nancy was 4, the whole of Australia was excited about the England – Australia Air Race. A bullock paddock at Mascot was cleared for the competitors home coming and when Keith and Ross Smith touched down the crowd roared.

Nancy Bird Walton

A few short years later, returning airmen decided to set up a mail route between Longreach and Cloncurry and our Queensland and Northern Territory Air Services (QANTAS) was born. Record breaking feats of endurance, courage and airmanship continued to excite the world. Aged 13, Nancy moved to Mt George to help out with the books at her Father and Uncles store. An air pageant came to town and Nancy paid for a joy ride. She was hooked. At age 15, Nancy paid for her first instructional flight at Mascot. She took flying lessons from Kingsford Smith and gained her class A flying licence when she was 17 years old.

Back in those days women where frowned upon for wearing pants. Nancy wore overalls, subsequently learning engineering so she could service her own aircraft. In a man’s world she was an enigma. Her passion and determination were an inspiration, convincing mentors and ultimately her Father to buy her an aircraft. Nancy moved to the bush and established her own charter business. She was a true pioneer with the courage of a lion. Imagine flying in the bush with no maps, no radio, no navigation and no insurance for her or her passengers. She never had a single crash. Among her many achievements, including forging the way for women pilots, Nancy was honoured with having the first Qantas A380 Airbus named after her.

Nancy’s Bird Walton OBE, OA died in 2009. She should have been KBE’d and along with Smithy and many others, is Australia’s spirit in the sky.

Thank you, Nancy.