Bird of a different feather: The first female pilot to receive RAF wings
In 1930 when a third of women worked in domestic service, and the choice for most others was between being a typist, a factory worker, or a homemaker, 18 year old Jean Lennox Bird got her pilot’s licence.
Yet despite this, and her four years service with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) delivering aircraft in World War II, Pilot Officer Jean Lennox Bird of the WRAF Volunteer Reserve had to wait until 1952, aged 40, to gain her RAF wings at Redhill Aerodrome.
In 1940, Jean commissioned as a reservist officer into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). But her love of flying was so strong that a year later in 1941, she resigned her commission to join the ATA, where she could get into the sky.
She spent most of the Second World War ferrying aircraft — and as a result, when she finally became the first RAF female to win her wings, Lennox Bird had already clocked more than 3,100 flying hours on more than 90 aircraft types.
On 29th April 1957, 60 years ago, she was killed in the crash of a Miles Aerovan G-AISF, that she was piloting from Manchester (Ringway) Airport. She was surveying the proposed route of a new road at the time that she was killed.