Amelia Earhart (July 24, 1897 - July 2, 1937) was a famous American aviator.
Born in Atchison, Kansas, Amelia Mary Earhart worked as a nurse’s aide in a military hospital in Canada during World War I. Her career began in Los Angeles in 1921 when, at age 24, she took flying lessons from Neta Snook and bought her first airplane, a Kinner Airstar. Due to family problems, she sold the plane in 1924 and moved back East, where she was employed as a social worker.
One afternoon in April 1928, she got a phone call while at work. The man at the other end asked her "Would you like to fly the Atlantic?" She interviewed with the project coordinators, including book publisher and publicist George Putnam, and was asked to join pilot Wilmer Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis Gordon. The team left Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland, in a Fokker F7 on June 17, 1928, and arrived at Burry Port, Wales approximately 21 hours later. When the crew returned to the States, they were greeted with a ticker-tape parade in New York and a reception held by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House. From then on, flying was the fixture of Earhart's life. She placed third at the Cleveland Women's Air Derby (nicknamed the "Powder Puff Derby" by Will Rogers). Her life also began to include Putnam. The two developed a friendship during preparation for the Atlantic crossing. They were married on February 7, 1931. Earhart referred to the marriage as a "partnership" with "dual control."
On May 20, 1932, she took off from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland in a Lockheed Vega, intending to fly to Paris, duplicating Charles Lindbergh's solo flight. However, strong north winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems forced her to land in a pasture near Londonderry, Ireland. She received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government, and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from President Herbert Hoover.
On January 11, 1935, Earhart became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu to Oakland, California. Later that year she soloed from Los Angeles to Mexico City and back to Newark, New Jersey. In July 1936 she took delivery of a Lockheed 10E "Electra," financed by Purdue University, she started planning her round-the-world flight.
Her flight would not be the first to circle the globe, but it would be the longest at 29,000 miles, following an equatorial route. Fred Noonan was chosen as the navigator. He had vast experience in both marine (he was a licensed ship's captain) and flight navigation. He had recently left Pan Am, where he helped establish the company's seaplane routes across the Pacific. He hoped the resulting publicity would help him establish his own navigation school in Florida.
On March 17, 1937 they flew the first leg, Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. The flight resumed three days later, but a tire blew on takeoff and Earhart ground-looped the plane. Severely damaged, the aircraft had to be shipped to California for repairs, and the flight was called off. The second attempt would begin at Miami, this time to fly from West to East. They departed on June 1, and after numerous stops in South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, they arrived at Lae, New Guinea on June 29. About 22,000 miles of the journey was completed. The remaining 7,000 miles would all be over the Pacific.
On July 2, 1937, at midnight GMT, Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae. Their intended destination was Howland Island, a flat sliver of land 2000 meters long and 500 meters wide, 10 feet high and 2556 miles away. Their last positive position report and sighting were over the Nukumanu Islands, about 800 miles into the flight. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Itasca was on station at Howland, assigned to communicate with Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10E and guide her to the island once she arrived in the vicinity.
Through a series of misunderstandings or errors (the details of which are still controversial) the final approach to Howland using radio navigation was never accomplished, although vocal transmissions by Earhart indicated she and Noonan believed they had reached Howland's charted position (which was incorrect by about five nautical miles) over scattered clouds. After several hours of frustrating attempts at two-way communications, contact was lost, although subsequent transmissions from the downed Electra may have been received by operators across the Pacific.
The United States government spent $4 million looking for Earhart, which made it the most costly and intensive air and sea search in history at that time, organized by the Navy and Coast Guard. Many researchers believe the plane ran out of fuel and Earhart and Noonan ditched at sea, however one group (the International Group for Historic Aircract Recovery) suggests they may have flown along a standard line of position, which Earhart specified in her last transmission received at Howland, to Nikumaroro (then known as Gardner) Island in what is now Kiribati, landed there and ultimately perished. TIGHAR's research has produced a range of documented, archaeological and anecdotal evidence (but no proof) supporting this theory.
In a Star Trek: Voyager episode, Earhart and Noonan were kidnapped by aliens in 1937 and taken to the Delta Quadrant, where they were found by Kathryn Janeway. The Rosalind Russell film Flight for Freedom was a fictionalized treatment of Earhart's life, with a heavy dose of Hollywood World War II propaganda.
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Butler, Susan, East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart. Reading MA: Addison-Wesley, 1997.
Devine, Thomas E., Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident. Frederick, CO: Renaissance House, 1987.
Goerner, Fred, The Search for Amelia Earhart. New York: Doubleday, 1966.
Long, Elgen M., Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
Loomis, Vincent V., Amelia Earhart, the Final Story. New York: Random House, 1985.
Lovell, Mary S., The Sound of Wings. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989.
Rich, Doris L., Amelia Earhart: A Biography. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.
Strippel, Dick., Amelia Earhart - The Myth and the Reality. New York: Exposition Press, 1972.