Joan Hughes

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Joan Hughes

Joan Lily Amelia Hughes

(1918-04-27)27 April 1918
Died16 August 1993(1993-08-16) (aged 75)
Years active1933–1985

Joan Lily Amelia Hughes, MBE (27 April 1918 – 16 August 1993) was a World War II ferry pilot and one of Britain's first female test pilots.

Early life[edit]

Hughes was born in West Ham, Essex in 1918. She started flying training at the age of 15, before age restrictions were introduced, and by 17 had become the youngest female pilot in Britain.

Air Transport Auxiliary[edit]

As an experienced aviator, Hughes was one of the first eight female pilots[a] accepted into the Air Transport Auxiliary on 1 January 1940 and Hughes was the youngest female pilot to join the service.[2]

Hughes initially flew Tiger Moths from Hatfield Aerodrome, Hertfordshire and soon Hughes had more than 600 hours' experience ferrying aircraft around the country. Though small in stature, she ferried all types of aircraft including heavy four-engined bombers such as the Short Stirling. She became both a senior pilot and the only woman qualified to instruct on all types of military aircraft then in service.

Post war[edit]

Hughes continued to fly after the war, using her talents as an instructor. She was featured in "The Eagle Special Investigator Meets Joan Mills in 'Special Investigator Flies Solo'" in the 1953 book Eagle Special Investigator.[3] In the 1960s, Hughes served as a flying instructor with the Airways Aero Association, first at White Waltham Airfield, and then at Booker Airfield.

In early 1964, due to her low weight and considerable experience, Hughes was recruited for testing a near-replica of the 1909 Santos-Dumont Demoiselle monoplane, ultimately flying it for the shooting of the 1965 film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. She also flew replica World War I aircraft for the film The Blue Max (1966) and a Tiger Moth bi-plane for the live-action flying shots in Thunderbird 6 (1968).

During the June 20, 1966 episode of To Tell The Truth, Hughes appeared as herself; two of the four panelists correctly picked her as the contestant.[4]

She retired at Booker Airfield in 1985, with 11,800 flight hours in her logbook.


Hughes was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1946 for her war work.[5]

Later life[edit]

Hughes died in Somerset on 16 August 1993, aged 75.



  1. ^ "British Air Transport Auxiliary: The First Eight". British Air Transport Auxiliary. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  2. ^ Twitter Retrieved 4 April 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Macdonald Hastings, Eagle Special Investigator by Macdonald Hastings, page 61, published by Michael Joseph.
  4. ^ "To Tell the Truth - Movie stunt pilot; Penguin expert; Lightning expert (Jun 20, 1966)". To Tell The Truth. CBS. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  5. ^ "No. 37412". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 January 1946. p. 296.