Sunday 16th April 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Wilbur Wright. He and his brother Orville are famous for inventing and building the first powered flying machines that were fully controlled by pilots. 2017 is also the 80th anniversary of the disappearance of the record breaking pilot Amelia Earhart. We have written a set of comprehension worksheets looking at famous aviators and aviatrixes (female pilots) including the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart and Amy Johnson. The comprehensions have been written at two different ability levels to make it easy to provide material for a range of reading abilities and ages and we have included factsheets which are an excellent starting point for further research.
The Wright Brothers became interested in flying machines at an early age after their father gave them a toy helicopter which was made from paper, cork and bamboo and had a rubber band to twirl the rotor. They played with it so much that eventually it broke and so they built their own. This inspired them to pursue a career in aviation and to become the first people to invent, build and fly the world’s first powered flying machines that were fully controlled by pilots.
Amelia Earhart is best known for becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. During her life she set many women’s speed and distance aviation records and she was known throughout the world. However, in 1937 Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan set off on their ill-fated round the world flight. They were aiming to set a record for the longest round the world flight, but disaster struck and they were never seen again. What happened to Amelia Earhart has always been a bit of a mystery, but discoveries and research over the last 80 years have resulted in some interesting theories.
British pilot Amy Johnson became the first female pilot to fly solo from England to Australia. When she undertook this in 1930 it was a very risky venture indeed: not only would she be flying over some of the world’s most desolate land, there would be no radio link with the ground and therefore no contact with people if she went off course or got into difficulty. She successfully completed the flight on 24th May and became famous across the world. She went on to break numerous other aviation records in the 1930’s. During the Second World War Amy joined the ATA (a newly formed organisation whose role was to transport RAF aircraft around the country). She was flying an aeroplane for the ATA on 5th January 1941 when due to poor weather conditions she went off course and seemingly ran out of fuel. She parachuted out of her aeroplane just as it crashed into the Thames Estuary. The crew of a nearby ship tried to rescue her but they were unsuccessful and her body has never been found. Read the worksheets to find out why an air of mystery still surrounds Amy’s death.
We also couldn’t resist writing an extra comprehension worksheet about Mary, Duchess of Bedford who we came across in our research. She was the wife of the 11th Duke of Bedford (of Woburn Abbey) and took up flying when she was in her 60’s because she believed that it gave her relief from tinnitus. The Duchess went on to set some world records including one in 1929 when she and her crew flew from Kent to Pakistan and back to Croydon, near London in just 8 days. She became known as ‘The Flying Duchess’.