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Amelia Earhart: A Flying Legend

Amelia Earhart: Flying Legend

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”

Beginnings

Amelia Earhart, born in 1897, was an American pilot and pioneer in women’s aviation. After serving in the Red Cross in World War I, she attended Columbia University as a pre-med; with financial constraints stemming from her family inheritance, Earhart shifted her focus to her newly-discovered passion, flying.

Not even a full year after flying lessons in 1921, Earhart purchased her first plane: a Kinner Airster that she called “The Canary”. She worked in various magazines throughout her life and used this platform to encourage women to enter the field of aviation, a role traditionally reserved for men. Additionally, Earhart was instrumental in the push for a separate standard of aviation records for women pilots.

 

Record in Flight

Seven months after she set a women's altitude record at 14,000 feet, Earhart received her pilot’s license, the 16th woman in the US to do so. Nine years later in 1932, she became the first woman, and second person ever, to traverse the Atlantic in a plane by herself. For this, Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross--another female first. Not only was she the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the US, she was also the first person ever to fly solo from Hawaii to the US in 1935.

 

Disappearance

Earhart secured funding to attempt a flight around the world in 1936. In 1937, her first try failed after a blown right tire forced the pilot to abandon the effort at the runway on Ford Island in Hawaii. Her second attempt saw the penultimate leg of the trip from Lae, Papua New Guinea, to an island southwest of Honolulu.

Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan never made it to that island, and their remains, including the remains of the Lockheed Electra 10E in which they flew, were never recovered. Decades later, the circumstances of their deaths remain a mystery, though the US government maintains the position they ran out of fuel searching for the island and crashed into the ocean. A new study from medical records of bones on a neighboring island suggests that Earhart perished there, though this is still unconfirmed.

 

A Lasting Legacy

Though Earhart is now most famous for her mysterious disappearance, her legacy also endures through the Ninety-Nines, an organization of female pilots (Earhart was their first president) that is still active in encouraging moral support and bringing together women in aviation. The Ninety-Nines will even be holding a career expo in Philadelphia on July 6th! The lasting impact Earhart had on women’s expanded role in aviation can still be felt today, and her image lives on in the hearts and minds of American pilots and pilots across the world.