Picture of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)

She referred to herself simply as "AE," and that's what her friends called her. Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchison, Kansas. She was 10 years old when she saw her first airplane at the Iowa State Fair. But it would be more than a decade before Amelia's interest in aviation would be awaken. Her flying career began in Los Angeles in 1921 when, at the age of 24, she took flying lessons from Neta Snook and bought her first airplane - a Kinner Airstar. Four years later she became the first woman to make a solo-return transcontinental flight. From then on, she continued to set and break her own speed and distance records, in competitive events, as well as personal stunts promoted and publicized by her husband George Palmer Putnam.

speaker Amelia Earhart about flying.

Lockheed Vega

On May 20, 1932, the anniversary of the first Atlantic crossing by Charles Lindbergh, Amelia began her attempt to be the first woman pilot to cross the Atlantic alone with the Lockheed Vega plane shown above. The crossing was difficult and dangerous. She flew through a lightning storm, and once almost crashed into the ocean because ice collected on the wings of her plane. Then it began to leak fuel, and Amelia was forced to make an emergency landing in an Irish cow pasture. But, she had completed the Atlantic crossing, and in the process set a new record of thirteen hours and thirty minutes.

In the autumn of 1934, Amelia announced that her next venture would be a trans-Pacific flight from Hawaii to California and then on to Washington D.C. Ten pilots had already lost their lives attempting this crossing. Amelia's flight would also be the first in which a civilian plane would carry a two-way radio telephone. She departed Wheeler Field on January 11, 1935 and landed in Oakland, California to a cheering crowd of thousands.

Lockheed Electra 10E

In July 1936 she took delivery of a Lockheed 10E "Electra," financed by Purdue University, and started planning her round-the-world flight. She would not be the first to circle the globe, but she would do it following the longest route - 29,000 miles along the equator. For this trip she asked her old friend Fred Noonan to join her as navigator. They studied charts and learned about weather patterns along their flight-plan. In June of 1937 they set out on an eastward heading. After 30 days, Amelia and Fred had nearly completed their circumnavigation of the Earth. On July 2, 1937, with only 2 days of travel remaining, they missed a scheduled refueling stop at tiny Howland Island in the Pacific. Ships and planes from all over the area began an exhaustive search, but no trace was ever found. Their disappearance remains a mystery. Amelia Earhart left the following note behind that was to be opened in case her attempt failed:

"Please know I am quite aware of the hazards.
I want to do it because I want to do it.
Women must try to do things as men have tried.
When they fail their failure must be but a challenge to others."