Maude (preferably known as ‘Lores’) Bonney was an Australian aviator, born in 1897, who set world records for flying and was awarded the Order of the British Empire, the Order of Australia medal and was inducted into the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame.
After Bonney’s husband’s brother took her on her first flight in 1928, her passion was born. She learnt how to fly in secret, and when her husband found out what she’d been doing, he bought her her own plane.
In 1931, after just one year of flying lessons, Bonney flew from her home in Brisbane, leaving at 4:30am, and arrived at Wangaratta, Victoria at 7:20pm in time for dinner with her dad. The 1,600 kilometre flight broke records as the longest distance on a single flight flown by a woman at the time—but she was hardly done yet.
In 1932, Bonney became the first woman to circumnavigate Australia, spending 95 hours in the air and surviving a mid-air collision when another plane flew too close to her to allow its passengers to take her photo.
Bonney spent time learning how to overhaul engines and had her aircraft modified so that in 1933 she could become the first woman to fly from Australia to England. Her plane was made of wood with an engine as strong as today’s average car.
Halfway through the 157-hour journey, Bonney encountered a tropical storm and had to land on an island off Thailand, crashing into the sea to avoid a herd of stampeding water buffalo. She got her plane fixed and arrived safely in England two months after take off.
In the most heroic aerial feat, Bonney became the first person to fly from Australia to South Africa in 1937. She flew from Brisbane to Cape Town, a journey of more than 29,000 kilometres.
When her eyesight began to fail her, she travelled around the world (as a passenger this time), before she died at the age of 97 in 1994. A true icon.