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Amelia Earhart

Born: July 24, 1897
Died: July 1937 (?)

History powered by Prof. WalterAmelia Earhart isn't afraid to break down barriers. In 1928, she is the first woman to fly as a passenger across the Atlantic Ocean. Then, in 1932, she becomes the first woman to pilot a plane across that ocean. There aren't many female pilots back then, and her actions inspire other women to follow their dreams. This is especially important because there are few career choices available to women at that time. Amelia Earhart has inspired generations of women to do things that has never been done by women before.

Amelia Earhart Learns to Fly
Amelia Earhart is born in Atchison, Kansas, on July 24, 1897. In those days, airplanes are not nearly as common as they are today. Earhart is 12 years old before she ever sees an airplane, and she does not take her first flight until 1920. Amelia Earhart is so thrilled by her first airplane ride that she quickly begins to take flying lessons. She writes, "As soon as I left the ground, I knew I myself had to fly."

Earhart excels as a pilot. Her first instructor is Neta Snook, one of the first women to graduate from the Curtiss School of Aviation. Earhart borrows money from her mother to buy a two-seat plane. She gets her U.S. flying license in December 1921, and by October 1922, she set an altitude record for women of 14,000 feet. In 1923, Earhart receives her international pilot's license - only the 16th woman to do so. At the same time, she is becoming famous for her aviation achievements.

Amelia Earhart Flies Across the Atlantic
In 1928, Amelia Earhart receives a phone call that will change her life. She is invited to become the first woman passenger to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a plane. "The idea of just going as 'extra weight' did not appeal to me at all," she says, but she accepts the offer nonetheless. On June 17, after several delays due to bad weather, Amelia Earhart flies in a plane named Friendship with co-pilots Wilmer "Bill" Stultz and Louis "Slim" Gordon. The plane lands at Burry Port, South Wales, with just a small amount of fuel left.

Today, pilots routinely cross the Atlantic in about seven hours. How long is Earhart's flight?

Earhart's first trip across the Atlantic takes more than 20 hours! After that flight Earhart becomes a media sensation. Following the trip, she is given parties and even a ticker tape parade down Broadway in New York City. President Coolidge calls to congratulate her on crossing the Atlantic. Because Earhart's record-breaking career and physical appearance are similar to pioneering pilot and American hero Charles Lindbergh, she earns the nickname "Lady Lindy."

Earhart writes a book about her first flight across the Atlantic, called 20 Hrs., 40 Min. She continued to break records. She also polishes her skills as a speaker and writer, always advocating women's achievements, especially in aviation. Can you name some women who have been pioneers in other fields?

Amelia Earhart's Last Flight
After flying across the Atlantic as a passenger in 1928, Amelia Earhart's next goal is to achieve a transatlantic crossing alone. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh becomes the first person to make a solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic. In 1932, exactly five years after Lindbergh's flight, Earhart becomes the first woman to repeat the feat. Her popularity grows even more. She is the undisputed queen of the air! Still, she wants to achieve more. What does Earhart do next?

She decides that her next trip will be to fly around the world. In March 1937, she flies to Hawaii with fellow pilot Paul Mantz to begin this flight. Earhart loses control of the plane on takeoff, however, and the plane has to be sent to the factory for repairs.

In June, she goes to Miami to again begin a flight around the world, this time with Fred Noonan as her navigator. No one knows why, but she leaves behind important communication and navigation instruments. Perhaps it is to make room for additional fuel for the long flight. The pair make it to New Guinea in 21 days, even though Earhart is tired and ill. During the next leg of the trip, they depart New Guinea for Howland Island, a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. July 2, 1937, is the last time Earhart and Noonan communicate with a nearby Coast Guard ship. They are never heard from again. What do you think happened?

The U.S. Navy conducts a massive search for Earhart and Noonan that continue for more than two weeks. Unable to accept that Earhart has simply disappeared and perished, some of her admirers believe that she is a spy or is captured by enemies of the United States. The Navy submits a report following its search, which includes maps of search areas. Neither the plane nor Earhart nor Noonan are ever found. No one knows for sure what happens, but many people believe they got lost and simply ran out of fuel and died. Amelia Earhart is less than a month away from her 40th birthday.

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