Amelia Earhart was one of the world’s most celebrated aviators. She broke records and charted new skies in the course of her short life. She disappeared while she was on a flight around the world.
Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchison, Kansas. She was the elder of Edwin Stanton and Amy Otis Earhart’s two daughters. Childhood was not happy for the two bright sisters. Their father was an alcoholic and lost jobs often. The family travelled a great deal.
The girls often recited poetry while doing their chores but also loved sports, including basketball and tennis. Their parents encouraged them to try new things.
Amelia wanted to attend college after finishing school. But, she met some World War I (1914 – 1918) veterans and decided to study nursing, instead.
During the war Amelia worked as a military nurse in Canada and later she became a social worker and taught English to immigrant children.
Besides work, Amelia had one hobby. She enjoyed watching airplane stunt shows, which were popular in the 1920s. Then one day she took a 10-minute plane ride and knew what her vocation would be – she would learn to fly.
Amelia did several odd jobs and with the help of her mother, she put together the fee – $1,000. In those days, $1000 was an extremely large amount of money.
After 10 hours of instruction and several crashes, Amelia was ready to fly. She made her first solo flight in 1921. The flight went well. By the next year, Amelia had saved enough money to buy her own plane.
Till 1928, flying was only her hobby. This changed when Amelia received a call from Captain Hilton H Railey. He asked her to join pilots Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon on a flight from the United States to England.
Though Amelia was just a passanger, she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic. The plane they flew in was ‘The Friendship’ and the trip was made on June 17-18, 1928. A publisher named George Putnam wrote an article on the flight and in 1931, Amelia married him.
After this, Amelia got tremendous publicity. In May 1932, she crossed the Atlantic alone and set a new transatlantic crossing record of 13 hours, 30 minutes. She received a medal from American President Herbert Hoover for this.
Several years later, she became the first woman to fly from California to Hawaii, which was a difficult route.
Amelia’s last flight began in June 1937. She and navigator Fred Noonan set out to fly around the world. They were in a twin-engine Lockheed Electra. The two of them took off from Miami in America to South America. Then they crossed the South Atlantic Ocean to Dakar in Africa. From there to Thailand to Australia.
However, after they left Lae in New Guinea for Howland Island, the American coast guard lost contact with the plane. They received a final message on July 2, 1937 at 8:45 am, and Amelia’s tone was described as frantic.
Despite an extensive search, the American Navy never found a trace of either the plane or the aviators. Their disappearance is still a mystery.
While some believe that she and Noonan were captured and executed by the Japanese, others feel that President Roosevelt sent Earhart on a secret spy mission. However, none of these theories has been confirmed.
In a tribute to Amelia, her husband published her biography entitled Soaring Wings in 1939. The biography described her adventurous life. What egged Amelia to keep flying? Maybe it was “a lonely impulse of delight.”