Amelia Earhart was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and set plenty of other amazing world records – she’s definitely someone to admire!
About Amelia Earhart:
Amelia Earhart was born in Atchinson, Kansas on the 24th of July 1897. Growing up, she had always had a strong passion for aviation and adventure and would often explore her local neighbourhood with her sister and would often be called a tomboy by others. She was also homeschooled until age 12, had a great love of reading, and would often spend hours in the home library reading away.
Throughout Amelia Earhart’s childhood, she kept a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings all about strong women in male-dominated roles, such as law and film directing.
In 1917, she began to work as a nurse’s aide and helped the wounded soldiers from World War 1 recover – she often heard stories about the pilots too, which fuelled her love for aviation even more.
Her Love of Flying:
December 28th 1920 is when her life changed for good. She was at an aerial meet with her dad and booked in for a passenger flight the next day, with Frank Hawks. The flight cost $10 for 10 minutes, and she loved it so much, that she famously said:
By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly.
A month later, Amelia Earhart recruited Neta Snook as her flying instructor. She paid $500 for 12 hours of lessons and managed to save over $1000 for flying lessons by working various jobs such as a photographer and truck driver – I wish it was still that price for flying lessons today 🙁 Amelia would take a bus and then walk four miles just to get to the airfield.
Soon after, she cut her hair short as it was fashionable amongst other female pilots at the time. Amelia Earhart’s iconic look was also accompanied by a leather flying coat, which she got teased for as it looked so new, therefore she slept in it and stained it with aircraft oil to age it. Her first plane was a secondhand Kinner Airster biplane, which she called The Canary due to its bright yellow colour.
On October 22nd 1922, Amelia flew The Canary to an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,300 m), which was a new world record for female pilots. She was also the 16th woman in the United States to be issued a pilot’s licence on the 16th of May 1923.
During her life, Amelia Earhart also took part in competitive flying, became involved in The Ninety-Nines, had lots of promotional items produced in her name and even became good friends with the First Lady, Elanor Roosevelt.
One of Amelia’s Most Famous Flights:
One of Amelia Earhart’s most famous flights was in 1932 – her transatlantic solo flight. Amelia set off on the 20th of May from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. Her flight took 14 hours and 56 minutes and was subject to strong winds, icy conditions and mechanical issues.
Amelia landed in a pasture in Culmore, Northern Ireland and when a farm hand asked her “Have you flown far?”, she replied, “From America”.
She gained lots of awards and medals for this flight, such as the Gold Medal from the National Geographic Society and the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government – it was an amazing achievement for women and aviation!
What Happened to Amelia Earhart?
In early 1936, Amelia Earhart started planning an around-the-world flight. Other people have flown around the world before, however, her flight would be the longest as she would be following the equator – it would’ve been 29,000 miles in total.
Her plane was a Lockheed Electra 10E and was built especially for her specifications. She also chose Captain Harry Manning as her navigator, as he was not just a navigator but was also a pilot and a skilled radio operator who knew Morse code. Fred Noonan was also chosen as a second navigator because there were significant additional factors that had to be dealt with while using celestial navigation for aircraft.
The original plans were for Fred to navigate from Hawaii to Howland Island, as it was a particularly difficult portion of the flight, then Harry would continue to Australia and then finally Ameilia would fly on her own for the remainder of the trip.
The first attempt was made on March 17th 1937, however, the trip failed due to various reasons, mainly with the plane. This made Harry leave the trip as he felt like there were too many issues to continue.
The second attempt began with an unpublicized flight from Oakland to Miami, and after arriving there Earhart publicly announced her plans to the world. Harry was now Amelia’s only crew member. They left Miami on the 1st of June, made numerous stops in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and arrived at Lae in New Guinea on the 29th of June 1937. At this stage, around 22,000 miles of the journey were completed and the remaining 7,000 miles would be over the Pacific.
Where It Started To Go Wrong:
They left Lae on the 2nd of July, and Amelia reported her altitude as 10,000 ft but that she was going to reduce the altitude because of thick clouds. Around 5 pm, Earhart reported her altitude as 7,000 ft…their last known position report was near the Nukumanu Islands, 800 miles into their flight.
The USCGC Itasca was at Howland Island to communicate with them and guide them to the island once they arrived near. They were expected to do voice communications through the radio, however, there were lots of errors which meant that their final approach to Howland Island was unsuccessful.
Calls came through in the early morning that said the weather was cloudy and overcast, on the 2nd of July. These calls were broken up by static, and the aircraft would still be a long distance from Howland Island at this time.
A radio log at 7:30–7:40 am stated:
EARHART ON NW SEZ RUNNING OUT OF GAS ONLY 1/2 HOUR LEFT CANT HR US AT ALL / WE HR HER AND ARE SENDING ON 3105 ES 500 SAME TIME CONSTANTLY
This meant that there was a huge problem, and it made it worse that they were unable to communicate well. Amelia Earhart’s last known transmission was at 8:43 am and said:
We are on the line 157 337. We will repeat this message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles. Wait.
The last voice transmission received on Howland Island suggested that they were flying along a line of position that Harry would have calculated and drawn on a chart as passing through Howland Island. After contact was lost with Howland Island, attempts were made to reach them with voice and Morse code.
Official search efforts lasted until the 19th of July and cost around $4 million, and were the most expensive and intensive in U.S. history up to that time. Charles Putnam (Amelia’s husband) conducted a private search of nearby islands, however, there were no answers. He became the trustee of Amelia’s estate in order for him to pay for the searches and other related bills. He also went to court in order to get the “declared death in absentia” seven-year waiting period waived so that he could manage Earhart’s finances, therefore, Amelia was legally declared dead on the 5th of January 1939.
- Many people speculate that what happened was that Amelia and Harry ran out of fuel, which led to them crashing and sinking and ultimately dying at sea. David Jourdan, a former Navy submarine stated that he believes “The analysis of all the data we have – the fuel analysis, the radio calls, other things – tells me she went into the water off Howland”. Amelia’s stepson, George Palmer Putnam Jr. has also been quoted as saying that he thinks “the plane just ran out of gas”.
- The Gardner Island theory suggests that Amelia and Harry were unable to find Howland Island, and would not waste time searching for it, so they turned to the south to look for other islands. There was a search conducted there but no evidence was found…until 1940 when a skull was discovered. A further search found more bones, a bottle, a shoe, and a box. However, tests were conducted and the skull was not from Amelia or Harry.
- Others believe that the Japanese forces captured them. In an interview on the TV show, Unsolved Mysteries, a Sapienese woman claimed to have witnessed their execution by Japanese soldiers, but there has never been any confirmation for these claims. Some of Amelia’s relatives are convinced that the Japanese captured them. A major criticism of this theory is that the Japanese islands were very far from Howland Island and they would not have made it low on fuel. Also, the Japanese would’ve been labelled as heroes if they found Amelia and Harry.
Why Amelia Earhart is a Strong Woman:
Amelia Earhart is a strong woman and is admired even after her disappearance all over the world. She is a fantastic example to every girl about following your passion and that girls can do “male” roles, no matter what, just as long as you put your mind to it.
Amelia Earhart’s accomplishments have and continue to inspire countless women globally, to get into aviation and achieve amazing things. She has even inspired more than 1,000 women pilots of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who ferried military aircraft, towed gliders, flew target practice aircraft, and served as transport pilots during World War II – talk about badass!
I first learned about Amelia Earhart from Night At The Museum 2 – and was in awe of how cool she was as a character (also loved the redhead reputation!). She is one of my main inspirations to this day and has encouraged me to start flying and follow my passion for travel.
List of Records:
How many records did Amelia Earhart achieve? Amelia Earhart achieved an impressive 17 records in her lifetime, these are:
- The Woman’s world altitude record: 14,000 ft (1922)
- The first woman to fly the Atlantic Ocean (1928)
- The Speed records for 100 km (and with 500 lb (230 kg) cargo) (1931)
- The first woman to fly an autogyro (1931)
- Altitude record for autogyros: 18,415 ft (1931)
- The first woman to cross the United States in an autogyro (1931)
- The first woman to fly the Atlantic solo (1932)
- First person to fly the Atlantic twice (1932)
- The first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross (1932)
- The first woman to fly nonstop, coast-to-coast across the U.S. (1932)
- Women’s speed transcontinental record (1933)
- First person to fly solo between Honolulu, Hawaii, and Oakland, California (1935)
- The First person to fly solo from Los Angeles to Mexico City (1935)
- First person to fly solo nonstop from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey (1935)
- The speed record for east-to-west flight from Oakland, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii (1937)
- First person to fly solo from the Red Sea to Karachi (1937)
Why do you think happened to Amelia Earhart? Why is Amelia Earhart inspiring to you? What strong woman would you like to see next?
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