Constance Ruth Leathart

Royal Aero Club Certificate No. 8085 (18 Mar 1927)

  in 1927, aged 24

 
 

b. 7 December 1903 in Low Fell, County Durham; known as 'Connie'.

"Five foot three and of generous proportions" (Lettice Curtis);

0370 0018a

[Check]

"a very experienced pre-war racing pilot and ... looked like George Robey" (Mary du Bunsen).

[I'm not so sure this is fair ... here's a picture of George Robey for comparison:

robey3

Hmmm...]

"One of the first 20 British women pilots to obtain the RAeC certificate"

[Amazing - as Connie got her certificate No. 8,085 in 1927, 14 years after the first woman pilot Hilda Hewlett - but true; she was only the 12th woman to get an RAeC certificate]

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l to r Edith Chalmers, Adelaide Cleaver, Sir Sefton Brancker, Rosalind Norman and Connie before the start of the 1930 Heston Spring Flying Cruise to Germany

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, with Leslie Runciman (q.v.), she ran Cramlington Aircraft, a company which repaired damaged aeroplanes. She also designed and flew her own glider.

0122 0009a

Leslie Runciman and Connie (centre)

She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College, and then Ethelburgas School back in Newcastle. By 1939, her mother had moved to Ottery St Mary in Devon, but Connie was still in the north-east, at Morpeth in Northumberland.

In December 1939, aged 35, working in the map department at Bristol Airport, she applied to join the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). Her experience at the time was over 700 hours, making her one of the most experienced women pilots in the UK, so she started as soon as they could sort themselves out (Pauline Gower was only allowed to take on 8 women to begin with) ... which turned out to be August 1940. She was 'W.13' - the 13th woman pilot taken on by the ATA.

Air Transport Auxiliary in WWII

---

The Times wrote "She continued flying until 1958 when, reluctantly, she finally disposed of the last of her aeroplanes.

Connie Leathart remained a reserved, private person who shunned any form of publicity. In a sense this was a pity as many of her feats went unremarked. In retirement she farmed in Northumberland, where she bred Kyloe cattle [actually, it seems that "she did not breed Kyloe cattle; she did once have a couple of them, but both were bullocks"] and raised sheep. An accomplished horsewoman throughout her life, she continued into her fifties to ride regularly to hounds with the Morpeth and Tynedale hunts. She never married."

A friend of hers tells me: "I knew her for the last 20 years of her life, she was my parents' employer and my grandparents' before them. An amazing and eccentric and very kind lady."

Died 4 November 1993 in Northumberland, aged 89

...

and John G D 'Jack' Armour (q.v.), who was her first flying instructor in the ATA, was her cousin(!)

Connie owned

G EAIN 0025 0103 RAeC

the 1922 Sopwith Grasshopper (WO 2698, G-EAIN, the only one ever built, which she acquired in 1928),

a 1927 DH.60 Moth (G-EBRX, later PH-KLG),

a 1929 Westland Widgeon IIIa (WA1776, G-AAJF), and

a 1932 Comper Swift, G-ABUU.

 

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