Jean Gardner Batten CBE
(15 September 1909–22 November 1982)
A New Zealand aviatrix.
If I have a choice, I would name Jean batten as New Zealand's number one daughter. When I was a kid, I wanted to be like her. I went to Rotorua yesterday and saw the square next to the Information centre named after her. It prompted me to do this post.
Born in Rotorua, from an early age Batten was encouraged by her mother Ellen to compete in traditionally male careers.
In 1924, aged 15, Batten enrolled at secretarial school and began to study ballet and the piano, with the goal of becoming a professional performer. In 1927 she found a new ambition: when pilot Charles Lindbergh made a non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, Batten decided she wanted to fly.
In 1929 Ellen took Batten to Sydney, to fly with the Australian pilot Charles Kingsford Smith. The experience cemented Batten’s desire to be a famous pilot, competing against men to win recognition. The next year she and Ellen sailed to England, where Batten learnt to fly at the London Aeroplane Club, gaining her 'A' licence in December 1930.
Batten's first major flight was an attempt to break English pilot Amy Johnson's record solo flight from England to Australia. Batten made two unsuccessful attempts, crash-landing in Karachi in April 1933 and near Rome in April 1934. Batten was lucky to survive these attempts, but she refused to give up, and made a third attempt in May 1934. She landed in Darwin in 14 days 22½ hours, breaking Johnson's record by over four days.
In November 1935 Batten became the first woman to fly from England to South America. In 1936 she made the first direct flight from England to New Zealand, leaving England on 16 October and arriving at Mangere aerodrome in Auckland 11 days and 45 minutes later. She was welcomed by a crowd of 6,000 people.
In October 1937, aged 28, Batten made her final long distance flight, from Australia to England in 5 days 18 hours. The flight set a solo record for pilots of either sex.
A house in Macleans College and Westlake Girls High School is named after her, as is a primary school in Mangere, Auckland, as with Batten (Blue) house from the house system at Orewa College, New Zealand. Five streets in New Zealand are named after her (in Auckland, Christchurch, Mount Maunganui,Wellington and her birthplace of Rotorua). The historic Jean Batten building on the Auckland street has been incorporated into the design of the new Bank of New Zealand head office. The Auckland Airport International Terminal is named after her. A bronze sculpture of Jean Batten is now located in the main terminal of the Rotorua Airport and a small park in the middle of the city is also named after her.
In October 2008 a musical Garbo of the Skies written by Paul Andersen-Gardiner and Rebekah Hornblow had its inaugural performance in Opunake by the Opunake Players at the Lakeside Playhouse. This was based on Ian Mackersey's biography.