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Diana Barnato a British inspiration, world record breaker and war ATA pilot

Friday, June 29, 2018

This month marks the 79th anniversary of the start of World War II. We would like to talk about the memory and achievements of Diana Barnato, a woman pilot who has broken records and gender boundaries in the aviation industry.

Diana Barnato was born in 1918 to the sounds of bombs thumping down from German Air force in North London. She was born into a very wealthy family, and was known as a big socialite in the London night scene up until the War, wherein she became an ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) at the young age of 22.

Diana volunteered as an ATA pilot, a fact that surprised many men as the girls would often fly over war zones with no weaponry and often no radios. Making it a particularly hard dangerous and hard job. In her four years of service, Barnato flew and delivered about 260 of the most renowned war aircrafts. She flew every type of war plane from Spitfires to Hampden bombers. In her autobiography, “Spreading my Wings”, Barnato recalls brushing with death twice, but always said she was protected by a “guardian angel.

After the war, Diana went on to fly commercially and she also worked with the Women’s Junior Air Corps, encouraging and training young women to become pilots. In 1963, Diana broke the air speed record by flying an English Electric Lightning at a speed of 1,262 mph. Later, Diana became a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and was awarded an MBE in 1965. After surviving 3 cancer incidents in her 60s, at age 88 Diana flew for the last time taking the controls of a twin-seat Spitfire.

Today, it is women like Diana who have inspired many others to break gender stereotypes and achieve their dreams all while breaking world records. The remembrance of the courage and professionalism of women such as Diana, who have helped us win W.W.II., is something that should be celebrated by all of us inside the aviation industry.