On this day in history : 27th April 1922 – The birth of aviator Sheila Scott – who broke over 100 aviation records and was the first British pilot to fly solo around the world….
Sheila Christine Hopkins was born in Worcester and she had a troubled childhood…. She attended the Alice Ottley School, a prestigious school that has seen pupils such as Barbara Cartland and Vanessa Redgrave…. But Sheila was not to do well at the school and was nearly expelled on several occasions….
During World War 2 she was to serve as a nurse at the Haslar Royal Naval Hospital – and then between 1945-1959 she was to pursue a career as an actress and model…. Using the name Sheila Scott she had small roles in theatre, films and TV…. She married Rupert Bellamy in 1945 but it was to be a short-lived marriage, ending in 1950….
Sheila learned to fly at Thruxton Aerodrome, near to Andover, Hampshire in 1958…. Her first aircraft was a Thruxton Jackaroo – a converted de Havilland Tiger Moth – which she bought from the RAF…. She owned this plane until 1964 and won several races with it…. To pay for her flying she worked as a demonstrator for Cessna and Piper….
In April 1966 she bought her Piper Comanche, which she named ‘Myth Too’ – it was the aircraft in which she set almost 90 of her records…. In 1967 she set the world record for flying between London and Cape Town and also in the same year the record for crossing the North Atlantic Ocean…. In 1969 the South Atlantic – and then in 1971 flying from Equator to Equator over the North Pole…. Sheila was the first to fly over the North Pole in a light aircraft….
Her first solo around the world flight began on the 18th of May 1966, from Heathrow…. 34 days later, after flying some 31,000 miles and 189 hours of flying time, on the 20th of June 1966 she arrived back…. She was to repeat the trip again 1969-70…. In 1971 she bought her Piper-Aztec in which she completed her third solo around the world trip…. Unfortunately this aircraft was destroyed in 1972 whilst at the Piper factory in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, after a severe flood caused by Hurricane Agnes….
Sheila was to win several awards…. She received a Herman International Aviation Trophy for setting a new light aircraft speed record of 28,633 miles solo in 33 days and 3 minutes in 1967…. She won the Brabazon of Tara Award in 1965, 1967 and 1968, the Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Britain 1968 and the Royal Aero Club Gold Medal in 1971…. In 1968 she was awarded an OBE….
She wrote two books:- ‘I Must Fly’ (1968) and ‘On Top of the World’ (1973)…. She founded the British branch of the ‘Ninety-Nines’ an international organisation providing support, networking, mentoring and scholarship for female pilots – which was originally created by Amelia Earhart in 1929…. She was also a member of the ‘International Association of Licensed Women Pilots’ and the ‘Whirly-Girls International’ – a non-profit making educational organisation to help women advance in helicopter aviation….
After having achieved so much in her lifetime it is sad to think Sheila’s life ended in poverty, living in a bedsit in Pimlico, Central London…. She died of cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital on the 20th of October 1988, aged 66….