Written by Tess Shingles, Assistant Curator (Acting), Queensland Museum
It was love at first flight for Lores Bonney (pronounced Lore – ree), who took up the offer of a joy flight in 1928.
Lores decided to learn to fly. It was an unusual choice of hobby, as aviation was only in its infancy, expensive, and dominated by men, but Lores wanted to create a legacy in the air.
Preparation was key. In order to be a self-reliant solo pilot, Lores learnt not only the art of flying but navigation, meteorology and engineering.
As her capabilities grew, so did her achievements. She set the record for the longest flight in a day by an aviatrix (Brisbane – Wangaratta, 1931), became the first woman to circumnavigate Australia by plane (1932), the first woman to fly from Australia to England (contested, 1933) and was the first to fly from Australia to South Africa (1937).
It wasn’t all smooth…flying. In the air, pilots like Bonney battled fatigue and extreme heat as well as threats to visibility, such as bad weather and bushfire smoke.
In 1933 Lores was caught in a monsoon off Malaysia, crash landing in the ocean and damaging her plane. She had to free herself and pull herself to shore before salvaging the plane for repairs.
On the same trip Lores was arrested twice for landing in countries without a permit during emergencies. A pilot had to keep their wits about them and be prepared for every scenario.
Lores gained some fame at the time of her feats and was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire and later a Member of the Order of Australia. But Lores is not just consigned to the history books, her history is still here in Brisbane if you know where to look…
15 Jordan Terrace, Bowen Hills
The home named Montana was built in Bowen Hills at Lores’s request in 1918. It was designed by Brisbane architect Walter Carey Voller. Lores lived here with her husband Harry Bonney, a leather goods merchant.
The house was source of pride for Lores who hosted family and friends in her carefully decorated rooms.
Harry Bonney no longer resided here after the couple separated sometime in the early 1950s however Lores lived here until 1968 before retiring to the Gold Coast.
The house was placed on the Brisbane Heritage Register in 2002 for its architectural design and celebrated previous owner.
2. Bert Hinkler’s Avro Avian G-EBOV
Queensland Museum Foyer
If you have seen Bert Hinkler’s Avro hanging in the foyer of Queensland Museum, you may not have realised it has significance for two renowned Australian pilots! Famously, Hinkler used this plane in his record-breaking flight from London to Darwin in 1928, but a flight in this plane on 7 September 1928 was Lores Bonney’s first aviation experience.
Bonney’s husband and Hinkler were related, and Lores accepted Hinkler’s offer of a joy flight in 1928. One flight and Lores was hooked!
I was literally feeling like a bird.Lores Bonney, in Taking Flight
Hopefully when you next visit the Avro Avian you can appreciate its less marked connection to women’s history! While you are at the museum be sure to visit the Anzac Legacy Gallery where you can find Lores’s pith helmet on display.
3. Eagle Farm Airfield
Terminal Road, Eagle Farm
Lores Bonney took lessons in flying at Brisbane’s original airfield in Eagle Farm. She had to keep it a secret from her husband.
He had already stopped me from learning to drive a car, saying it was too dangerous for a woman.Lores Bonney, in Air Space Magazine
When she finally broke the news (by phone) she needn’t have worried as he was supportive of her endeavour and had already guessed her secret.
She first flew solo on 22 November 1930.
Today there is little remaining of the original airport which played such a pivotal role in Lores’s life. In 1931 all aviation activity was moved to Archerfield as it was deemed a more suitable location for Brisbane’s airport. You can still visit one of the roads that led to an old terminal and see an igloo hangar that was in use during WWII, after Lores’s time there.
As the planes moved to Archerfield, Lores Bonney followed.
4. Archerfield Airport
381 Beatty Rd, Archerfield
Archerfield was an important place in the life of Lores Bonney.
Lores stored her plane in the QANTAS hangar and long hours were spent here preparing for the trip to England.
On 10 April 1933, a group congregated to farewell her on her voyage to England (including a very nervous Harry Bonney).
It was also here that QANTAS Hangar 2 caught fire in 1939 and her plane My Little Ship II burned beyond repair. Bonney never purchased another plane. She voluntarily gave up her licence in 1948 due to some vision loss.
Her connection at Archerfield remains with a road named in her honour, Lores Bonney Drive.
5. Lores Bonney Riverwalk
241 State Route 25, Hamilton
The Lores Bonney Riverwalk opened in 2018 .
The path aptly starts in Newstead, a few blocks from her home in Bowen Hills. It follows the Brisbane River, mirroring Kingsford Smith Drive, named after her aviation contemporary. The walk incorporates the war memorial at Cameron Rocks Reserve, a Heritage Tram Shelter and signposts notable residences and historical sites you can see along the way.
As you follow the walk to Portside Wharf you can see the planes flying low as they prepare to land at The Brisbane International Airport, a fitting outlook to commemorate one of Brisbane’s most ground-breaking pilots.
Keep exploring more of Lores’s story through Queensland Museum’s Lores Bonney Collection online.
Do you know of any local spots linked to our aviation history? Let us know in the comments.
- Alexander, Kristen. Taking Flight. Canberra, NLA Publishing, 2016.
- Bonney, Lores and Gwynn-Jones, Terry. “Australia to England Alone.” Smithsonian Magazine, 16 July 2021.