Joy Lofthouse is a veteran of the Air Transport Auxiliary during World War Two and now, at 92-years-old, the former Spitfire pilot returned to the skies. Seven decades after her last flight in the iconic plane, Joy described the experience as “lovely: it was perfect”, making her feel “quite young.”
The ATA made an enormous contribution to the war effort by taking over from service pilots the task of ferrying Royal Air Force and Royal Navy warplanes between factories, maintenance units and front-line squadrons.
At the start of World War II it quickly became apparent that all the trained and in-training RAF and Royal Navy pilots would be needed for combat roles and the important task of ferrying freshly built aircraft from factory to Maintenance Units for armament and radio fitting or moving them between airfields would need to be given to non-RAF and RN pilots. As a result civilian pilots were recruited and the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was formed. The ATA web site explains the history in detail.
Initially only male pilots were recruited but within a few months this was expanded to include women who were qualified civilian pilots. Joy Lofthouse joined the ATA in 1943 when they started recruiting people who would be trained to fly as all qualified civilian pilots had already been recruited and were in service!
Joy said the women ATA pilots progressed from being allowed to fly single engine training aircraft to single seat fighter aircraft (Hurricane and Spitfire), twin engine aircraft and in some cases even 4 engine heavy bombers (Lancaster). She also talks about how important the Ferry Pilot Notes were in helping explain handing characteristics. Very important when you cannot be trained to fly a single seat aircraft. Every flight will be solo – even the first one!
It is a sad story that many of these very capable women were not allowed to continue their careers after the war and this is reflected in the fact that many women worked in heavy engineering, manufacturing and the traditional “male jobs” during the war but were ejected when the men came back after the war. What a loss of talent and ability and a sad indictment of the male dominated society, not least the Trade Union movement who should hang their head in shame at their opposition to “equality” for women.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take this lady into schools, colleges and universities to talk to young women to inspire them.