Mary Bailey (aviator)

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The Hon Dame Mary Bailey
StateLibQld 1 114664 Lady Bailey.jpg
Mary, Lady Bailey, 1930
Born The Hon Mary Westenra
(1890-12-01)1 December 1890
Rossmore Castle, County Monaghan, Ireland
Died 29 July 1960(1960-07-29) (aged 69)
Nationality United Kingdom
Occupation Aviator
Spouse(s) Abe Bailey; 5 children

Dame Mary Bailey DBE (1 December 1890 – 29 July 1960), née Westenra, was a British aviator.

The daughter of Derrick Warner William Westenra, 5th Baron Rossmore, of Rossmore Castle, County Monaghan and his wife, Mittie (née Naylor),[1] Bailey was known as one of the finest aviatrices of her time, who "personally guided a plane from England to the nether tip of South Africa and back" (Time, 28 January 1930). In January 1930 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).[1]

She was awarded a pilot's licence in early 1927[2] and quickly started a sporting career. She became the first woman to fly across the Irish Sea.[3] On 5 July 1927 she set a world's height record of 17,283 ft (5268 m) in a light aircraft category, flying DH.60 Cirrus II Moth.[4]

Between 9 March and 30 March 1928, she made an 8,000 mile solo flight from Croydon to Cape Town, flying de Havilland Cirrus Moth with an extra fuel tank, then she made 18,000 mile journey back between September 1928 and 16 January 1929.[3] It was the longest solo flight and longest flight accomplished by a woman that far.[5][6]

In 1927 and 1928 she twice won the Harmon Trophy as the world's outstanding aviatrix. She also participated in two F.A.I International Tourist Plane Contests - Challenge International de Tourisme 1929, which she completed off the contest, and Challenge International de Tourisme 1930, in which she took 31st place for 60 participants, being one of only two women.[7]

She gained the rank of Section Officer in the service of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, during World War II.[1]


She married Sir Abraham "Abe" Bailey on 5 September 1911, being his second wife, and they had five children:

  1. Mittie Mary Starr Bailey (born 1 August 1913 — died 10 April 1961) [1]
  2. Sir Derrick Thomas Louis Bailey, 3rd Bt (born 15 August 1918 — died 19 June 2009)[1]
  3. Ann Hester Zia Bailey (born 15 August 1918)[1]
  4. James Richard Abe Bailey (born 23 October 1919 — died 29 February 2000)[1]
  5. Noreen Helen Rosemary Bailey (born 27 July 1921)[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h
  2. ^ The Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom - official notices to members in Flight, 17 February 1927, pg. 84
  3. ^ a b Lady Mary Bailey (1890-1960)
  4. ^ British Light 'Plane Record Confirmed, Flight, 15 September 1927, pg. 654
  5. ^ Editorial Comment , Flight, January 10, 1929
  6. ^ Wilkins, Harold T. (Sep 1928). "Champion Air Woman Wins 8000 Mile Race". Popular Mechanics 50 (3): 457–459. 
  7. ^ (Polish) Krzyżan, Marian. Międzynarodowe turnieje lotnicze 1929-1934, Warsaw 1988, ISBN 83-206-0637-3