Jean Batten

Airports named for aviation pioneers: Auckland Airport

My “At the Airport” column on last week was all about airports and airport terminals in the United States named for aviation pioneers.  You can see that story and photos from many of those airports here, on

There was, of course, not enough room to list all the U.S. airports with links to aviation history, nor to mention some notable international ones, such as the International Terminal at Auckland Airport, which is named for New Zealand aviatrix Jean Gardner Batten (1909-1982).


In the 1930s, Batten became well-known for taking a number of record-breaking solo flights across the world, including the first-ever solo flight from England to New Zealand in 1936.

Her Percival Gull airplane is on display in the terminal.


Meeting Aviation Pioneer Jean Batten in Rotorua, New Zealand

Rotorua  - blue gree statue

Earlier this week, my short flight from New Zealand’s Rotorua Regional Airport to Auckland was canceled, so I ended up stuck at that tiny airport for a while. Good thing.  The delay gave me a chance to look around.  In addition to finding more than a half-dozen giant statues, I was able to learn a bit about Jean Gardner Batten, a famous New Zealand aviatrix from the 1930’s who was born in Rotorua in 1909 and made a number of record-breaking solo flights across the world,  including the first direct flight from England to New Zealand

Rotorua - jane batten

( Photo: Jean Batten at Rongotai Airport, Wellington, circa 1930s, Photographic Archive, Alexander Turnbull Library).
Unfortunately, when Batten stopped flying she disappeared from public view and later became a reclusive. She died in November 1982 in Palma, Majorca after refusing treatment for a dog bite that had turned septic. She was buried anonymously in a mass grave and for five years, no one even knew she had died.

Later, it was discovered that Batten wanted to have her ashes interred at Auckland International Airport and today, that airport’s international terminal is named in her honor.   I’m going to poke around and see if I can find the spot where they’ve put her ashes.

Rotorua - Jean Batten statue

Jean Batten exhibit at Rotorua Regional Airport