Jean Batten Statue

Jean Batten statue, Auckland Airport, Public Art

Public Art : Jean Batten Statue

Sculptor : © Anthony Stones

Description : A bronze statue of famed aviator Jean Batten, clutching a bouqet of flowers in one hand while her other reaches up to the skies in a welcoming wave as though acknowledging a crowd.

Date Unveiled : The statue of the famed aviatrix was unveiled on the 5th of October, 1989.

Location : Jean Batten statue can been found waving to passengers outside the Auckland International Airport, New Zealand.

Inscription :

This memorial to
JEAN BATTEN
was unveiled by
His Excellency The Most Reverend
SIR PAUL REEVES G.C.M.G., GCVO, QSO,
Governor-General of New Zealand
on 5 October 1989
The principal financial sponsors of the statue were :
Air New Zealand LTD
Auckland International Airport LTD
Bitumix LTD
Challenge Properties LTD
Coopers & Lybrand
Downer & Co LTD
Hawkins Construction LTD
Lion Nathan LTD
Mainzeal
McDonalds System of NZ LTD

Newmans group of companies:
        Newmans Coachlines
Newmans Tours
Atlantic & Pacific Travel Group
Horizon Holidays
Go International Travel Group

NZ Lottery Board
Nissan Datsun Holdings
Telecom (AK) LTD

BARRY CURTIS
Mayor of Manukau
Chairman, Jean Batten Memorial Trust

Sculptor: ANTHONY STONES



 

The first person to
fly solo from England
to New Zealand. She left
England on 5 October
and landed here at Mangere
11 days later on 16th October 1936.

"I was destined to be a wanderer....
I seemed born to travel .....
In flying I found ..... speed and freedom
To roam the earth"
Jean Batten

 

Jean Batten
1909 -1982
New Zealand's most
famous aviatrix.


So Who Was Jean Batten? : Jean Batten was a famed aviatrix who not only became known for her record breaking feats in airplanes but later for her reclusive behavior, which earned her the title "Garbo of the skies". Jean Gardner Batten was born in Rotorua, New Zealand in 1909. It was probably more than destiny that her parents placed a newspaper clipping of French aviator Louis Bleriot (the first person to successfully cross the English Channel in an plane) above 2 month old Jean's cot. 

In 1915 her brothers formed the New Zealand Flying school and a young Jean spent many a day watching the machines take to the skies. When her father returned home from WWI, it wasn't long before the Batten family began falling apart. Her parents eventually  separated, with her brothers choosing to live with their father and Jean electing to go with her powerful and domineering mother.

When Jean discovered Australian aviator Charles Kingston Smith was to be guest of honor at a dinner in Auckland she used all her charm to persuade her father to allow her attend. It was there she declared to a surprised Smith, and father, of her intentions to learn to fly.

Encouraged by her mother, a staunch women's libber, who some would argue had a dominant streak, Jean took up flying lessons. She even went so far as to take her daughter to Australia where she somehow managed to persuade Charles Kingston Smith to take the young Jean up in his Southern Cross plane.

With mother never far from her side, Jean sailed to England in 1930 so she could pursue her dreams of flying. By December she had become the first New Zealand woman to be awarded the British Air Ministry 'A' Licence. Next in her sights was to beat Amy Johnson's solo England to Australia flight record.

Flying was an expensive past time and it wasn't long before Jean learned how to manipulate the media and men in order to raise the required funding for her record attempts. This became blaring apparent when a love struck RAF pilot, by the name of Fred Truman, withdrew his life savings in order for Jean to pay the £500 sterling for her 'B' licence. If he was expecting marriage in return, he was sorely mistaken. Jean took the money, obtained her licence and never gave him a second glance. Nor did she ever attempt to pay him back.

The next man to fall for her charms was Victor Doree, who bought her a De Havilland Gipsy Moth DH-60 using £400 sterling he borrowed from his family. This plane was used in her first attempt to knock Amy Johnson off her pedestal and beat her England to Australia record. The flight was going well until she hit Iraq and a sandstorm. Mother nature was not kind and after three downings due to sand storms her plane's engine finally conked out over Karachi, where she crashed near an airfield.

She then returned to England where she tried to convince Doree to buy her another moth but he wasn't falling for it this time. Needless to say their relationship ended soon after.

Things were soon looking up for Jean,  firstly she became engaged to a London stockbroker, Edward Walter and secondly Lord Wakefield, head of the Castrol Oil Company , agreed to purchase another DH60 for her. This attempt also ended in disaster when she ran out of fuel near Rome and was forced to crash land after maneuvering through a maze of radio masts. After having the plane repaired she once again flew back to England rather dejected.

Never one to quit, in 1934 Jean convinced fiance Walter to lend her the lower wings off his plane so she could make a third attempt.14 days and 22 and a half hours later she was the new world record holder, crushing Amy's record by 4 days. She became a celebrity overnight with credit and inspiration going to her mother. As for Walter, he got dumped for an Aussie pilot named Beverley Shepherd. In response he sent her a bill for the wings she had borrowed.

Jean was now the toast of the town and began mingling with the British upper crust. Of course there were talking engagements and a CBE from King Edward VIII but Jean still had her heart set on breaking other records. Cashed up, she purchased herself a Percival Gull 6 (monoplane), the most advanced she had ever flown, and began a series of flights around the world, breaking record after record.

Then everything changed.

In 1939 the world was at war. Jean was in Sweden at the time and surprisingly was given special permission from Germany to use their airspace to fly back to England in her Gull. Soon after her beloved plane was requisitioned for the war effort by the RAF but she was not allowed to fly it, so instead she drove an ambulance. Jean never flew again. Her great flying rival, Amy Johnson, however continued to fly and died under mysterious circumstances when her plane crashed during a secret flight. Tragedy was not to end there. During the war Jean fell in love with a RAF Bomber pilot known only as Richard. He would later die on the battlefields.

The public saw little of Jean after the war. She and her mother went to live in Jamaica in 1946 before taking off on an epic adventure traveling around Europe in 1953.The two moved from country to country living out of cheap boarding houses.

However,following her mother's death in 1966, Jean decided to make a comeback, as only Jean knew how. In 1969, after more than 30 years out of the spotlight, the 60 year old inexplicitly re-emerged sporting a facelift , dyed jet black hair and a mini skirt. For ten years she travelled the word giving interviews and getting involved in aeronautical events. Then as suddenly as she re-emerged she disappeared to the Mediterranean island of Majorca.

Within five weeks of arriving on the island she simply vanished. For five years her whereabouts remained a mystery and her bank account left untouched. Then  author Ian Mackersey discovered the sad truth, Jean Batten had died soon after her arrival in Majorca. The cause? A dog bite. Yes, the famed aviator had been bitten by a dog but had refused medical attention. Instead she died a lonely death in a seedy motel from a pulmonary abscess. Her body was later buried in a unmarked pauper's grave.

Jean Batten Statue, Auckland international airport, public art

Jean Batten Statue, Auckland international airport, public art

Jean Batten Statue, Auckland international airport, public art

Jean Batten Statue, Auckland international airport, public art

Jean Batten Statue, Auckland international airport, public art

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