A young woman who might have become the RAF’s first female pilot.
The 17-minute flight ended in tragedy when the training aircraft spun into the ground, killing a World War Two veteran and a young pupil who might have become the first woman to gain her RAF pilot’s wings.
Barbara Gubbins made her first solo flight at the age of 17 after 5½ hours flying and gained her private pilot’s licence soon after. Dubbed the “Pigtail Pilot” in a newspaper photo caption, Barbara paid for her flying by picking fruit and giving horse riding lessons.
A talented scientist with a passion for chemistry and applied mathematics, she went to Nottingham University and joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a cadet pilot.
Barbara, an only child, had logged some 150 hours of day and night flying at the time of the crash. She was 20 years old. Her attempt to fly through glass ceilings had put her on track to become the RAF’s first woman pilot, a distinction that went just six months later to Pilot Officer Jean Lennox Bird.
This is Barbara’s story.