Born in Rotorua, New Zealand, Jean Batten (1909 – 1982) was a gifted pianist. At the age of 18, she decided to become a pilot. In 1929, she moved to England with her mother to join the London Aeroplane Club. She took her first solo flight in 1930 and gained private and commercial licences by 1932, when she acquired a second-hand Gipsy Moth bi-plane.
In 1934, she became the first woman to fly solo the round trip between England and Australia in the Gipsy Moth. For this achievement and for subsequent record-breaking flights, she was awarded the Harmon Trophy three times from 1935 through to 1937. She also received an endorsement contract with Castrol oil.
In 1935, she set a world record flying from England to Brazil in the Percival Gull. In 1936, she set another world record with a solo flight from England to New Zealand. At her birthplace of Rotorua she was honored by local Maori, as she had been after the 1934 journey. She was given a chief’s feather cloak and given the title Hine-o-te-Rangi – “Daughter of the Skies”. Batten was created Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1936, and she was also given the Cross of the French Legion of Honour that year.
World War II was the end of Batten’s flying adventures. Her Percival Vega Gull was commissioned to active service but Batten was not permitted to fly it.