When 10-year-old Amelia Mary Earhart saw her first plane at a state fair, she was not impressed. It wasn’t until Earhart attended a stunt-flying exhibition, almost a decade later, that she became seriously interested in aviation. A pilot spotted Earhart and her friend, who were watching from an isolated clearing, and dove at them. Earhart, who felt a mixture of fear and pleasure, stood her ground. As the plane swooped by, something inside her awakened. On December 28, 1920, pilot Frank Hawks gave her a ride that would forever change her life. Although Earhart’s passion was strong, challenging obstacles awaited her. But the former tomboy was no stranger to disbelief. She kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about successful women in mostly male-oriented fields, including film production, law, advertising, management, and mechanical engineering. After graduating from Hyde Park High School in 1915, Earhart worked as a nurse’s aide in a military hospital in Canada during WWI, attended college, and later became a social worker. Earhart took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921, and in six months managed to save enough money to buy her first plane. The second-hand Kinner Airster was a two-seater biplane painted bright yellow. Earhart named the plane “Canary,” and used it to set her first women’s record by rising to an altitude of 14,000 feet.
One afternoon in April 1928, a phone call came for Earhart at work. He asked her if she would like to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. She immediately said yes. After an interview in New York with the project coordinators, she was asked to join pilot Wilmer Stultz and co-pilot Louis E. Gordon. The team left Trepassey harbor, Newfoundland, in a Fokker F7 named Friendship on June 17, 1928, and arrived at Burry Port, Wales, in roughly 21 hours later. Their landmark flight made headlines worldwide, and when the crew returned to the United States they were greeted with a parade in New York and a reception held by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House.
From then on, Earhart’s life revolved around flying. She placed third at and air show in Cleveland. As chance would have it, she also found a close friendship with a man named George Putnam. The two developed a friendship during preparation for the Atlantic crossing and were married February 7, 1931. Together they worked on secret plans for Earhart to make a solo flight across the Atlantic. On May 20, 1932, she started the trip from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to Paris. Strong north winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems weighed down the flight and forced her to land in a pasture near Londonderry, Ireland. As word of her flight spread, the media surrounded her, both overseas and in the United States. President Herbert Hoover presented Earhart with a gold medal from the National Geographic Society. Earhart felt the flight proved that men and women were equal in jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness and willpower. In the years that followed, Earhart continued to break records. On January 11, 1935, she became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific from Honolulu to Oakland, California. Later that year she was the first to solo from Mexico City to Newark. A large crowd overflowed the field, and rushed Earhart’s plane.
In 1937, as Earhart neared her 40th birthday, she was ready for a final challenge. She wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. Despite a ruined attempt in March that severely damaged her plane, a determined Earhart had s feeling that she would accomplish this challenge this time. On June 1st, Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan departed from Miami and began the 29,000-mile journey. By June 29, when they landed in Lae, New Guinea, all but 7,000 miles had been completed. Every unessential item was removed from the plane to make room for additional fuel, which gave Earhart approximately 274 extra miles. At 12:30 p.m. on July 2, the pair took off. Despite favorable weather reports, they flew into overcast skies and intermittent rain showers.
This made Noonan’s method of tracking, space and star navigation, impossible. At 8:44 a.m her and her navigator were lost and never heard of again.A rescue attempt commenced immediately and became the most extensive air and sea search in naval history. On July 19, after spending $4 million and seaching 250,000 square miles of ocean, the United States government called off the operation. To this day, people wonder what happened. Some believe Earhart had been spying on Japanese military moves for the U.S. government. She might have made an emergency landing and survived. Some claim she was captured by the Japanese and executed. One investigator says Earhart was kept prisoner in Tokyo, Japan, until after the war. He thinks she then returned to the U.S. under a new name. Many theories remain. An investigator may someday find enough evidence to prove that Earhart survived. Until then, most people will hold to the belief that Earhart and Noonan died at sea after running out of fuel. In the end, Earhart may have died as she had wished. “When I go,” she often said, “I’d like best to go in my plane. “In 1938, a lighthouse was constructed on Howland Island in her memory. Today, though many assumptions exist, there is no proof of her fate. There is no doubt that the world will always remember Amelia Earhart for her courage, vision, and incredible achievements, both in aviation and for women.