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Southern Queensland uni hails female pilot pioneer

written by Adam Thorn | September 9, 2020

Ivy May Pearce
Ivy May Pearce’s life is to be celebrated in a session held virtually by the University of Southern Queensland

The University of Southern Queensland is to hold a Zoom talk on the life of Ivy May Pearce, who was one of Australia’s first female pilots.

Natasha Heap’s session will take place on 17 September and detail how the pioneering aviator became the youngest entrant to compete in the famed Brisbane to Adelaide Centenary Air Race in 1936.

You can register your interest to watch here.

“Air races were a crowd pleaser and a way for pilots to show off their skills and measure themselves and the improving technology and speed of their aircraft against each other,” Heap said.

“Once she finished her flying career, Ivy was quite the celebrity. Her life was long and adventurous, later running the Railway Hotel in Toowoomba and establishing herself as a world-renowned fashion designer and owner of one of the first fashion boutiques on the Gold Coast.”

Pearce attended school in Dalby and Brisbane before learning to fly at Archerfield. Aged just 20, a 1935 edition of The Australian Woman’s Mirror said she was Queensland’s “youngest girl air pilot”.

Her first passenger was the Archbishop of Brisbane James Dulhig, and she reportedly piloted the aircraft “like a veteran”.


“The aviation industry has been grounded amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but will slowly find its wings again,” Heap said.

“Key to its future is a pipeline of young people ready to fill the vacancies that will be there by the time they graduate.

“We have a short yet rich history, and in order to grow we must recognise and celebrate how we got here by looking at what icons like Ivy May Pearce were doing back in the ’30s.”


In July Australian Aviation reported that the University of Southern Queensland unveiled a huge new A320 simulator that perfectly recreates the nose and flight deck of its real-life equivalent.

The institution’s head of aviation said it features “state of the art” technology that allows trainees to experience “normal and abnormal scenarios while completing all of the necessary checks and procedures in a real flight”.

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