Amelia Earheart – Daredevil of early aviation

Bogdan U. August 18, 2014 1
Amelia Earheart – Daredevil of early aviation

One of Amelia Earheart biggest fears in life was that nothing is going to happen, she had to have an important life and that meant to try things that where new and exciting. She thought that it is better to die young but really feel that you live. Like most of the American, Amelia was fascinated by the novelty brought in by flights.

On Christmas day on 1920, when she was 23 years old, her father took Amelia to opening of a new air field in Long Beach, California. Pilots and machines were doing dare-devil stunts raising a new passion for her. Few days later she paid 5 dollars for a plane ride and knew that flying would become more than a passion. Amelia was already a daredevil, not a nice Victorian lady, in the spirit both her mother and grandmother struggled to raise her.

Amelia’s Earheart first world-record flight

Back in 1932, Amelia Earhart completed a record-breaking flight by becoming the first woman to cross solo the Atlantic Ocean. She started her flight on May 20 carrying with her a newspaper – to confirm the moment of the set off, a chicken sandwich, a chocolate and water (as stated by her upon landing during a press interview). Amelia departed from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and landed north of Derry, in Northern Ireland. The total flight time was of 14 hours and 56 minutes, during which she faced the force of nature (very low temperature, strong wind) as well as mechanical problems.

Amelia Earheart receiving the Gold Medal from President Hoover in 1932

Amelia Earheart receiving the Gold Medal from President Hoover in 1932

Her action shortly got well-known and everyone was fascinated by everything she was saying or doing; she was the peak of the pyramid in a man’s world. The French government, president Hoover and the National Geographic Society offered her prestigious titles and medals as consequence of this flight (Distinguished Flying Cross, Cross of the Knight of the Legion of Honor and a Gold Medal).

Amelia Earheart continue the streak of solo-flight records with becoming the first women (and person) to fly between Honolulu in Hawaii to Oakland, California, notably calling the plane upon arrival “old Bessie, the fire horse”, a Lockheed Vega 5B plane. Same year she flew from Los Angeles to Mexico and participated to the Bendix Trophy Race in 1935, where she took only the fifth place. This outcome was due to the fact that “old Bessie” was not able to reach any speed above 195mph (approximately 314 km/h), while the other contesters were having an average of 300 mph (about 480km/h). Within five years (1930 – 1935), she set seven women’s speed and distance records in aviation.

Aiming for more: a trip around the world

In 1936, while being a faculty member and technical advisor at the Purdue University, she started planning a trip around the globe. The University liked her plans of traveling 29,000 miles (about 47,000km) and decided to finance them, during the same year.

Amelia Earheart inside the Electra cockpit in 1936.

Amelia Earheart inside the Electra cockpit in 1936.

The first try takes place one year later as she departed from California to Hawaii. Due to several technical problems, the aircraft was in need of immediate service. Three days later, the plane left Hawaii but ended up shortly on Ford Island, Pearl Harbour, as consequence of being severely damaged due to controversial circumstances (a ground-looping, according to Amelia or a tire-blow, according to some Associated Press journalists).

The second try took place from west to east, during a not-reported flight from Oakland to Florida. Amelia stated that she changed the direction of the flight as result of wind changes and various weather conditions. Earheart left Miami on June 29, 1937, heading to Lae from where she departed 3 days later. The last place where the place was seen was close to the Nukumanu Islands in the Southwestern Pacific. The approach to the intended destination, Howland Island, was not successful.

The accident was later covered in mystery and the only known arguments explaining it, are a malfunction of the radio navigation, lack of fuel and bad weather conditions.

Amelia Earheart was an international celebrity and was praised by the press of the time as independent, charming, ambitious and brave. Her achievements inspired a whole generation of female aviators which served the United States during the World War II.


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