Darling of the cockpit: The real Amy Johnson

Amy setting off, August 11, 1930 from Croydon Airport on a flight to her home city of Hull. This was to be the start of a three month publicity tour of the country
Amy setting off, August 11, 1930 from Croydon Airport on a flight to her home city of Hull. This was to be the start of a three month publicity tour of the country
  • A new photographic book hopes to shed new light on the private life of the very public face of aviator Amy Johnson. Sarah Freeman reports.
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There are a few iconic images of Hull-born aviator Amy Johnson. Most of them picture her next to a plane having just set off or having just returned from another record-breaking flight. Nines times out of 1o, she’s dressed for the part in jumpsuit and flying goggles. A new photographic collection, Amy Johnson: A Life in Pictures, is a little different.

There are planes, lots of them, but there are also more candid pictures taken behind the scenes of her often gruelling publicity tours and others of her on holiday, enjoying a few days of relaxation between adventures.

Madeira 1935. A note on the back of this photograph, in Amy's handwriting, reads: "You can see what fun we are having - picnic lunch on the rocks. See how brown I am! these peopel are all young and friendly and we have good times together."

Madeira 1935. A note on the back of this photograph, in Amy's handwriting, reads: "You can see what fun we are having - picnic lunch on the rocks. See how brown I am! these peopel are all young and friendly and we have good times together."

“Amy Johnson’s image is already so well known,” says Rick Welton, director of this year’s Amy Johnson Festival in Hull. “But as we developed our plans for the event it became clear that there were many more photographs of Amy which shed a deeper, clearer light on her life and character than the few that are routinely reproduced in biographies. They show the woman and the personality behind the glamorous facade and the ambitious record breaker.”

From early studio photographs before the world knew her name to family snapshots, the book chronicles Johnson’s short life. Born in 1903 when photography was a relatively new medium, by the time of her death in 1941, when her plane went off course during what should have been a routine flight from Prestwick to Oxford, bulky camera equipment had been replaced by lighter handheld devices.

“I think these photographs provide a glimpse of a world in transition,” says Rick. “When Amy flew to Australia in 1930 the majority of her flight was over countries of the British Empire, a world map that was to change radically during the rest of the 20th century. These photographs also document the styles and fashions from the late Edwardian period, through the inter-war years, to the start of the Second World War. Everyone involved in the festival hopes the book is not just a photographic tribute to a remarkable woman, but will introduce many more people to Amy Johnson and her achievements.”

• Amy Johnson: A Life in Pictures is published by Paul Gibson, priced £18.

August 1, 1933. They crossed the Atlantic, but not without incident, making a forced landing on Monday, July 24 in marshland near Bridgeport aerodrome on Long Island Sound, about 40 miles short of New York. Both were injured.

August 1, 1933. They crossed the Atlantic, but not without incident, making a forced landing on Monday, July 24 in marshland near Bridgeport aerodrome on Long Island Sound, about 40 miles short of New York. Both were injured.

December 1932, St Moritz, Switzerland. After an exhausting Cape Town flight, Amy and Jim had a much deserved holiday abroad

December 1932, St Moritz, Switzerland. After an exhausting Cape Town flight, Amy and Jim had a much deserved holiday abroad