Last living female Spitfire pilot of WW2 dies

Mary Ellis - who flew more than 76 different aircraft and landed at over 200 airfields during WW2
Mary Ellis - who flew more than 76 different aircraft and landed at over 200 airfields during WW2
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A Spitfire legend who flew over 400 of the aircraft has died at her home on the Isle of Wight aged 101.

Mary Ellis was the oldest surviving member of the Air Transport Auxiliary wing which delivered Spitfires and bombers from factories to the frontline in WW2.

Although she flew dozens of different aircraft, the Supermarine Spitfire was her favourite - despite being so short she often had to sit on cushions to see over the instrument panel.

In one interview she recalled that when she first flew one, an engineer helping strap her in asked how many she had flown.

She said: "Oh this is my first I replied! He suddenly turned a very different colour and jumped off the wing!"

In her incredibly demanding role - the 167 women of the ATA used AA maps to navigate and did not have radios - she clocked up more than 1,100 hours alone in the cockpit.

Mary Ellis with former Squadron Leader Allan Scott, 96 at the RAF100 commemorations at Biggin Hill Airport in Kent, earlier this year

Mary Ellis with former Squadron Leader Allan Scott, 96 at the RAF100 commemorations at Biggin Hill Airport in Kent, earlier this year

After the War she moved to the Isle of Wight in 1950 to take charge of Sandown Airport, marrying fellow pilot Don Ellis in 1961.

She lived with him by the runway of the airport until his death in 2009.

She joined the ATA in 1941 after hearing a radio advertisement and flew over 400 spitfires and 47 Wellington Bombers during World War Two.

Earlier this year, she was given the freedom of the Isle of Wight after being described by council leader Dave Stewart as a "national, international and island heroine".

Leading tributes, the head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, tweeted: "Another terrible loss. Mary Ellis, pioneering female aviator, Air Transport Auxiliary veteran, an inspiration to generations.

"I'll always remember her proudly reminding us at RAF100 events that she was older than the RAF itself! RIP Mary."

RAF veteran Sally McGlone noted that at 101, she was one year older than the RAF, adding:

"RIP Mary Ellis, you have inspired so many women to fly.

"You will always be remembered, with love and thanks. Blue Skies Thank You. Aetheris Avidi - Eager for the Air."

John Nichol, the retired Royal Air Force navigator who was shot down and captured during the first Gulf War, said she was a "truly remarkable lady."