Luff, David

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Luff, David

PERSONAL:

Male.

CAREER:

Author. Also worked at Merton Printers, Ltd., London, England, 1965-82.

WRITINGS:

Bulldog: The Bristol Bulldog Fighter, Airlife (Shrewsbury, England), 1987, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1988.

Mollison: The Flying Scotsman, Lidun (Lytham St. Annes, England), 1993, published as Mollison, the Flying Scotsman: The Life of Pioneer Aviator James Allan Mollison, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1995.

Amy Johnson: Enigma in the Sky, Airlife Publishing (Shrewsbury, England), 2002.

Trouble at Mill: A Brief History of the Former Liberty Print Works Site, including Textile Printing at Merton Printers, Ltd. (Libertys), 1965-1982, Merton Historical Society (Morden, England), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS:

David Luff's Amy Johnson: Enigma in the Sky tells the story of Britain's most famous female pilot. She was born in 1903, at the beginning of the aviation era, and developed a fascination with flying in her twenties. Her father supported her interest and, in partnership with a British philanthropist, bought her a used De Havilland Moth that she named "Jason." In 1930 she became the first woman to pilot an aircraft alone from Britain to Australia and earned the Harmon Trophy for the most outstanding aviatrix of the year. She later set other long-distance flying records, including a trip from Britain to South Africa, and had a strained six-year marriage to fellow aviator Jim Mollison that suffered from the fact that the two were sometimes rivals for the same flying records. In July 1932, immediately after they were married, Johnson broke her husband's record for the Britain-to-South-Africa trip that he had only established a few months earlier. In 1933 the couple flew together in an attempt to circumnavigate the world, but their aircraft crashed in Connecticut; both of them were injured and the attempt was called off. Johnson and Mollison were divorced in 1938.

Johnson's husband is the subject of Luff's biography Mollison, the Flying Scotsman: The Life of Pioneer Aviator James Allan Mollison. The author points out that Mollison's career during and after his marriage to Johnson was marred by heavy drinking. Mollison also flew for the Air Transport Authority. He survived the war but was later grounded in 1953 when his flying license was revoked because of his drunkenness.

During World War II Amy Johnson joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, an organization of pilots who were not qualified to fly for the Royal Air Force but who flew their aircraft in other capacities. She was killed in 1941 when she had to bail out of the plane she was flying. She landed in the Thames estuary and drowned while attempts were being made to rescue her. Luff's Amy Johnson "is significant in that it provides the reader with an intimate portrait of the struggles of a young woman determined to be successful in a challenging field," wrote Ronald J. Ferrara in Air Power History. "It introduces us to a woman with the same problems experienced by other young women, the heartbreaks and the frustrations of being a woman in Edwardian society." Ferrara concluded: "Luff's masterful presentation does justice to a remarkable young woman in a remarkable age."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Air Power History, September 22, 2006, Ronald J. Ferrara, review of Amy Johnson: Enigma in the Sky, p. 52.

Aviation History, March 1, 2004, C.V. Glines, review of Amy Johnson, p. 74.

ONLINE

Channel4.com,http://www.channel4.com/ (August 14, 2008), review of Mollison: The Flying Scotsman.

Merton Historical Society Web site,http://www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/ (August 14, 2008), review of Trouble at Mill: A Brief History of the Former Liberty Print Works Site, including Textile Printing at Merton Printers, Ltd. (Libertys), 1965-1982, and author profile.