JEAN BATTEN
Pilot
1909-1982

World-record-setting aviatrix

Rotorua-born Jean Batten was arguably the most well-known New Zealander during the 1930s owing to a series of historic record-breaking solo flights.

They include completing the first-ever solo flight from England to New Zealand in 1936.

Batten set about becoming a pilot aged 18 and in 1929 she moved to England with her mother to enrol in the London Aerospace Club. Three years later she had obtained both her private and commercial flying licenses.

Batten's historic solo flights include flying from England to Australia in a Gipsy Moth – a journey which took her 14 days – a world record flight from England to Brazil and then her world record solo flight from England to New Zealand in 1936.

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Batten died in Majorca, Spain, from complications after suffering a dog bite.

For two months her body lay unclaimed in a mortuary in Palma before she was buried in a communal paupers' grave. Sadly, her family didn't know that she had died and only learned the truth about her death and resting place in 1987.

Honours that the legendary Kiwi pilot earned include Commander of the Order of the British Empire, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale's medal (becoming the first woman to receive the honour), Officer of the Order of the Southern Cross, Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur and the King George VI Coronation Medal.

Houses at numerous schools have been named in her memory, as well as Auckland Airport's International Terminal and a street in the area of Palma where she died.

Batten was also the subject of the 2008 musical, Garbo of the Skies.