Two days ago, on the 2nd of July, marked the 84th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in the middle of the Pacific Ocean while attempting to circumnavigate the globe on a twin-engined Lockheed 10E Electra. Even though she wasn’t the first one to do so, Amelia was an especially notable pilot because female aviators were not a common sight back then, let alone circling the globe via the Equator which is not an easy feat to achieve even nowadays.
Amelia loved adventure and exploration from a young age, and this was believed to be one of the causes that motivated her to fly. Amelia’s first ‘flight’ (not sure if it can be considered a real flight, but still) was when she attached a ramp onto a shed and slid down on a box. It was reported that she mentioned the experience to be ‘just like flying’.
In 1920, Amelia flew for the first flight on a plane piloted by Frank Hawks, and decided that she would learn to fly shortly afterwards. She worked hard to save up money for flight training, and had her first lesson in 1921. Amelia then bought a Kinner Airster which she named ‘Canary’. She set an altitude record by flying to 14000ft on it.
This was one of the many achievements in aviation that she made.
Charles Lindbergh flew solo for the first time across the Atlantic in 1927. Amelia made her first transatlantic flight in 1928 on a Fokker Trimotor, from Trepassey Harbour in Newfoundland to Burry Port, South Wales. The flight took 20 hours and 41 minutes. However, Amelia didn’t really fly the plane since the flight was IFR and Amelia wasn’t trained for it back then. As a result, her co-pilot Wilmer Stultz was the pilot flying.
In 1932, she flew solo across the Atlantic on a Lockheed Vega 5B from Newfoundland again, but to Paris this time. Flight time was shorter, at 14h 56min but the adverse weather she encountered really posed a threat to safety. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic non-stop.
In 1933, Wiley Post became the first person to circumnavigate the globe. Amelia decided to follow him and fly around the world in 1937 but she had different plans - to fly via the equator, the longest route around the globe. Amelia’s plane was a Lockheed 10E Electra with extra fuel tanks for the long journey. She began the first leg of the journey to Hawaii on March 17, 1937, with three crew members on board. Nevertheless, the aircraft encountered technical difficulties and had to return to California. The crew headed east to Miami afterwards on their second attempt on June 1st. Stops were made along the way at various continents. By June 29th the aircraft had already reached Papua New Guinea.
The next day, she and her navigator - Noonan - set off for the final leg across the Pacific Ocean but the journey came to a tragic end when trying to land at Howland Island - an unincorporated territory of the USA in the Pacific Ocean. Until now, there is no definite conclusion on what happened to the plane, but the most popular theory was that the plane ran out of fuel on the way to Howland. There are clues that it was an emergency situation at the very end, since it was reported that Amelia declared an emergency through the radio transmissions between the Electra and the USS Coast Guard Cutter Itasca (the ship which was assigned to provide radio aids to the Lockheed.) Also, what seemed to be fragments of the plane and Amelia’s clothing were found in the water near Howland, but there is not enough evidence to determine whether they belonged to the 10E and Amelia or not.
84 years later, her legacy lives on. Even though it is unsure what happened to the Electra at the very end, it is certain that Amelia was truly a legendary aviator, with how she shaped the industry for many years to come and the records she broke first-hand, in the early and often perilous days of aviation.
Amelia will never be forgotten, and will continue to live on in the books of aviation and the hearts of aviators; for the fact that she was truly amazing.