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80-Year-Old Reflects On Time As Youngest Female Pilot

Acquiring her pilot’s licence at age 17 in 1952, Brigid Holmes was the youngest female pilot in Australia and the toast of Tasmania.

In an article with the  ABC , the now 80-year-old Yeppoon-based resident said she was encouraged towards aviation by her mother, also a pilot – though a rare one at the time.

Her uncle was also involved in aviation, being the founder of Holyman’s Airways, later forming Australian National Airways in 1937.
Beginning training at the very tender age of 15 at the Devonport Aero Club, Ms Holmes said her achievement two years on led to admiration from both men and women.

“I got a lot of admiration and I think because of that I became a school prefect, I think my popularity rose a little bit,” she said.
“I’d be asked out but Mother was very strict and at my age I had a very strict curfew put on me.

“If any of [the young men] asked me out for dinner, it was ‘Well Brigid, you’ve got to be home at nine o’clock or I’ll come looking for you!’ and she did once or twice.”

The attention even indirectly resulted in a crash landing during one of her earlier flights.

“I was supposed to wear distance glasses but because of the lovely men at the Aero Club I didn’t like putting them on when I was out there,” she explained.

“I thought I could probably see enough and I remember this day there was quite a wind blowing and … I couldn’t see which way the windsock was blowing.

“Of course that’s all we had because there was no radio attached to the Tiger Moth, so I landed downwind and kept going to the end of the dirt runway and flipped up straight into a ditch.”

Brigid Holmes with sister Honor, also a pilot. Image via The ABC.
Brigid Holmes with sister Honor, also a pilot. Image via The ABC.

Ms Holmes gave up flying upon having children, due to the expense, but she said she would loved to have become a commercial pilot given the opportunity (women were not allowed to at the time).

“I was determined to be one of the best pilots and I passed all of my aviation exams with high marks,” she said.

Ms Holmes still has many newspaper clippings, original photographs and even her diary with extensive notes about her earlier flights.

“I’m very proud, I have to be proud because so many people have loved my story,” she said.

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Alana Lowes

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