Joy Lofthouse, who flew bombers and fighter aircraft for the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in WW2, has died.
The 94-year-old was part of a group of female pilots, known as the “Atagirls”, based in Berkshire, who flew aircraft during WW2, including Barracuda bombers and Spitfires.
The 164 female pilots flew aircraft from the factories to airfields during the war, alongside 1,153 male pilots.
Lofthouse told the BBC: “I’d never even been in an aeroplane and I didn’t even drive a car, so I learned to fly before I could drive,”
“The freedom of being up there in the air, you know? The wide open spaces and seeing the ground from the air. You never took it for granted.
You were thrilled every time.”
Joy joined the ATA with her sister in 1943 after reading an advert in a magazine encouraging women to become pilots.
She said that becoming a pilot for the war effort had “sounded better than working in a bank”.
In an interview back in 2015, Lofthouse said other women at the time were ‘envious’ of her job.
“Other women, certainly, were envious of our job because all women were doing something during the war, and there we were flying aeroplanes.
And they paid us for it, too.
We were doing just about the most exciting job there was to be done by women in the war.”
Lofthouse recalled the first time she flew a spitfire, calling it ‘the fastest thing you’d ever flown’.
“But my big worry, the first time I flew it, was whether I’d lose the airfield.
You’re so busy looking at the cockpit, and then you shut the hood and you’re miles away by then because it was going so fast.”
ATA pilots typically flew alone, and with no navigation aides. The Atagirls incurred 156 casualties, mainly caused by poor weather conditions.
The organisation was disbanded once World War Two ended.
“I missed flying dreadfully when we first stopped,” she told the BBC. “I think I last flew in September 1945, and I thought to myself: what am I going to do for the rest of my life?
I am never going to do anything as exciting as this again – and I was probably right.”