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Aviator Ivy May Pearce on the front cover of The Queenslander Pictorial in 1936 (Credit: State Library of Queensland)

A road at Brisbane Airport was named after her and, likewise, a building at Gold Coast Airport – but who was Ivy May Pearce?

As Girls in Aviation Day (September 27) approaches, University of Southern Queensland aviation expert Natasha Heap hopes her research into one of Australia’s first female pilots will inspire more women to join an industry in crisis.

“The aviation industry has been grounded amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but will slowly find its wings again,” Ms Heap said.

“Key to its future is a pipeline of young people ready to fill the vacancies that will be there by the time they graduate.”

Ms Heap said gender had continued to hold back women in the sector, with just five per cent currently making up the global pilot workforce.

“We have a short yet rich history, and in order to grow we must recognise and celebrate how we got here by looking at what icons like Ivy May Pearce were doing back in the 30s,” she said.

Born in Ipswich, Ivy attended school in Dalby and Brisbane before learning to fly at Archerfield.

At 20 years old, a 1935 edition of The Australian Woman’s Mirror reported Ivy’s flight licence and said she was ‘claimed by Queensland as its youngest girl air-pilot’.

Her first passenger was the Archbishop of Brisbane James Dulhig, and she handled the aircraft ‘like a veteran.’

Ivy’s flying career highlight was as one of five female pilots, and the youngest entrant overall, to compete in the Brisbane to Adelaide Centenary Air Race in 1936.

“Air races were a crowd pleaser and a way for pilots to show off their skills and measure themselves and the improving technology and speed of their aircraft against each other,” Ms Heap said.

“Once she finished her flying career, Ivy was quite the celebrity.

“Her life was long and adventurous, later running the Railway Hotel in Toowoomba and establishing herself as a world renowned fashion designer and owner of one of the first fashion boutiques on the Gold Coast.”

University of Southern Queensland aviation expert Natasha Heap will present ‘Did you know? Girls in Aviation Day: Who is Ivy May Pearce’ on September 17


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