Tuesday, September 1, 2009

nancy bird's bird

Spent a very busy and fun filled weekend in Idaho with fellow blogger Texaco, and for some reason it seems I'll be sharing it in inverse order. The next couple of Sunday Drives are handled. Oh, the things I do for my readers...

Touched down at LAX in mid afternoon and taxing happily along when what do I spot but this big bird:

This is Qantas Airbus A380 Nancy Bird Walton (A380-842, registered VH-OQA, MSN 014) on the tarmac at LAX. She's Qantas' first A380 and was delivered September 19, 2008. Serial number fourteen, she is the 9th A380 to be delivered to an airline. Only 18 of the double decker monsters are in airline service so far.

She was named in honor of Australia's first female pilot. Here's some background from the Australian News Blog Dance With Shadows:

The 92-year-old Nancy herself performed the christening of the plane at a ceremony held at Sydney Airport on September 29, 2008.

Nancy Bird, who learnt to fly in 1933 when she was just 17 and became Australia’s first woman to be licensed as a commercial pilot, said at the ceremony held in her honour: “Qantas first asked if they could name this magnificent plane after me at my 90th birthday three years ago and I made it my decision to stay alive – and I’ve made it. It is my greatest pleasure to name this aircraft Nancy-Bird Walton.”

On the occasion, Geoff Dixon, chief executive of Qantas Airways, told the assembled guests: “Nancy-Bird Walton was an automatic choice when it came to naming the airline’s first A380.” He then turned to the aviation pioneer and said: “Nancy-Bird Walton, your courage, resilience and optimism represent the very best of Australia. We are so delighted you agreed to have this plane named in your honour.”

After the naming ceremony, Nancy joined guests of Qantas and mediapersons on a joyflight on the A380 up the north coast and returned to Sydney in the afternoon.

Nancy Bird was born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, in 1915. When she was 13 years old, she went for a joy flight in a Gipsy Moth aeroplane at a local fair, and, as it were, her future was decided. Soon, she began saving for flying lessons.

Though her father did not approve of her desire to fly, Nancy did not change her mind. It was the legendary Charles Kingsford Smith who first conducted her flying lessons.

In an era when women pilots where very rare, Nancy learned to fly at the age of 17.

In the beginning, Kingsford Smith did not take her as seriously as he should have, since Nancy only stood at 5 foot (150 centimetres), but she soon won the trainer’s respect.

In 1935, she was hired to operate an air ambulance service, named the Far West Children’s Health Scheme, in the outback New South Wales. Nancy’s own Gipsy Moth plane was used as the air ambulance.

Here she is in her flying days:

And here she is at age 92, at the naming ceremony for VH-OQA:

Sadly, she passed away a few months later at the age of 93. She was given a state funeral, and in tribute to her, the Majestic Nancy Bird Walton did a flyover of the Cathedral in her honor.

An awesome tribute to a fearless lady pilot who inspired so many.

And here's a better picture of her namesake:

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