Australia’s newest major airport will be named after pioneering pilot Nancy-Bird Walton to honor her significant contribution to the nation’s aviation industry.
Walton began her training aged just 17 in 1933 in Sydney and was one of the first students of another aviation legend, Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith.
She overcame many obstacles, including her height, to obtain her commercial pilot’s license in 1935 and was the first female pilot in Australia to be licensed to carry passengers.
After a barnstorming tour with friend Peg McKillop and charter jobs in regional New South Wales, she worked with the Far West Children’s Health Scheme flying nurses to the outback.
The title of her autobiography, “My God! It’s a Woman”, stemmed from reaction over the telephone of Queensland grazier Charles Russell after he discovered the Walton was to be the pilot of a plane tasked to rescue him during a 1936 flood.
Walton went on to train pilots during World War II and in 1950 established the Australian Women’s Pilots Association.
She was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire, awarded an order of Australia and was declared a national living treasure by the National Trust of Australia.
She maintained an active interest in aviation until her death in 2009 at age 93 and lived long enough to see the first Qantas Airbus A380 superjumbo named after her.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the $A5.3 billion Western Sydney Airport would officially become Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport.
“It is fitting that having recognized Charles Kingsford Smith at Sydney Airport that we now recognize Australia’s greatest female aviation pioneer, Nancy-Bird Walton in the naming of Western Sydney Airport,’’ Morrison said.
“Nancy-Bird Walton was an inspiring and natural choice.”
The new airport will cater to both domestic and international flights and is designed to operate in competition to Sydney’s existing airport from 2026.
It will have an initial capacity of 10 million passengers a year and plans for staged growth will allow it to cater for 82m passengers by 2060.
Both major Australian carriers have already said they will use it and it is also attracting interest from low-cost international airlines such as AirAsia X.