Nancy Bird Walton Celebrates 90th Birthday

Sydney, 16 October 2005

Qantas will honour Australia's first female commercial pilot, Nancy Bird Walton, for her contribution to the aviation industry at a special 90th birthday celebration at the Qantas Heritage Collection at Sydney Airport (T3) tonight.

Ms Bird Walton was 17 when she first commenced flying lessons with Charles Kingsford Smith in 1933. In 1935 she used her own Gipsy Moth to operate an air ambulance service in outback New South Wales before travelling the world to promote women in aviation.

Ms Bird Walton continued to inspire other women to join the flying ranks when she founded the Australian Women Pilots' Association in 1950.

Around 200 guests will gather at tonight's special dinner, including Australian astronaut Andy Thomas; media commentator Alan Jones; aviator Dick Smith; politicians, including the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Warren Truss; aviation industry leaders; business, community, Defence and media representatives; and entertainer Kamahl.

The Chairman of Qantas, Margaret Jackson, said Qantas was delighted that people from so many fields would be coming together to pay tribute to Nancy Bird Walton.

"Nancy Bird Walton has been a powerful force in aviation, inspiring other women to enter the once male-dominated industry," she said.

Qantas employs 62 female pilots across its mainline operations including 12 Captains, 33 First Officers and 17 Second Officers.

Issued by Qantas Corporate Communication (3335)