Lettice Curtis

Legendary British aviatrix Lettice Curtis died on 21 July, at the age of 99.

Lettice learned to fly in 1937 at the Yapton Flying Club at Ford, West Sussex. She went on to obtain her B (commercial) licence and flew a Puss Moth for CL Aerial Surveys, taking air-to-ground photographs for the Ordnance Survey.

In July 1940 Lettice became one of the first women pilots to join the British Air Transport Auxiliary, and remained with it until the ATA disbanded in November 1945. She began by delivering trainers before graduating to all categories of wartime aircraft, and was the first woman to deliver a Lancaster, armed with no more than a set of Pilot’s Notes. During her ATA service she flew 90 different types of aircraft, and delivered hundreds of single-engine fighters, 150 Mosquitos and 400 heavy bombers.

Post-war, Lettice became a flight test observer at the A&AEE Boscombe Down, moving later to Fairey Aviation as a senior flight development engineer and test observer, during which time she flew in the Gannet anti-submarine aircraft and regularly piloted Fairey’s communications fleet. Lettice competed in air races in her own Foster-Wickner Wicko G-AFJB (now a familiar sight on the vintage aircraft scene following restoration by Ron Souch’s Aero Antiques team) and a Spitfire XI owned by the American Air Attaché to London. She was a founding member of the British Women Pilots’ Association, and continued to fly aircraft and helicopters until voluntarily giving up her pilot’s licence in 1995. In 1976 she published The Forgotten Pilots, about the ATA. Her autobiography, Lettice Curtis, followed in 2004.