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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 13:22 GMT
Amy Johnson's plane to be restored
Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson failed to reach Australia, landing in India
Aviation enthusiasts have embarked on a mammoth project to re-build the plane in which Amy Johnson competed in a race to Australia.

Members of the Derby Aero Club hope to finish restoring the de Havilland 88 Comet Racer in time for the 70th anniversary of the race in 2004.

The only part left of the plane, known as Black Magic, is the fuselage.

Restorer and former Rolls Royce engineer, Martin Jones, said: "Amy Johnson was as popular as Princess Diana in her day.

Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson died in 1941

"We are talking mega-star."

Hull-born Amy and her husband Jim Mollison, started as favourites in the 1934 race to reach Australia but the pair were forced to land in Karachi, India.

"Their marriage could be described as tempestuous and one of the reasons why they couldn't finish the race, reading between the lines, was because it was breaking up," said Mr Jones.

The plane is regarded as special by aviation enthusiasts because it included technological advances such as controllable propellers, retractable undercarriage and flaps.

"This was an epoch-making piece of kit so we would like to finish the task in time for the 70th anniversary of their flight in 2004," said Mr Jones.

But the Derby Aero Club know the project will need some financial support and are appealing for anyone who wants to help to contact them through the club's website.

Despite not finishing the race to Australia, Amy Johnson went on to achieve many aviation records.

She died in 1941 as a member of the Air Transport Auxiliary, when her plane crashed into the Thames estuary and she was drowned.

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