Hilda Hewlett, English aviation pioneer, c 1910-1920.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Hilda Hewlett (1864-1943) is considered the first British woman aviator. Hewlett initially attended art and nursing colleges before becoming interested in aviation after observing the first English flying meeting in Blackpool in 1909. Adopting the pseudonym Grace Bird, she then moved to France to study aeronautics and there met a Frenchman, Gustave Blondeau. With Blonedeau she returned to England in 1910 and together set up the Hewlett and Blondeau Flying School using a Henri Framan biplane they nicknamed 'The Blue Bird'. They extended their company into aircraft manufacture and by 1914 were employing 700 staff and making 10 different types of planes. In 1911 she became the first British woman to obtain a pilots certificate.