Amelia Earhart was an American aviator who set many flying records and championed the advancement of women in aviation.
She became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and the first person ever to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland.
During a flight to circumnavigate the globe, Earhart disappeared somewhere over the Pacific in July 1937. Her plane wreckage was never found, and she was officially declared lost at sea.
Her disappearance remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the twentieth century.
Amelia Mary Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897. She defied traditional gender roles from a young age. Earhart played basketball, took an auto repair course and briefly attended college.
During World War I, she served as a Red Cross nurse’s aid in Toronto, Canada. Earhart began to spend time watching pilots in the Royal Flying Corps train at a local airfield while in Toronto.
After the war, she returned to the United States and enrolled at Columbia University in New York as a pre-med student. Earhart took her first airplane ride in California in December 1920 with famed World War I pilot Frank Hawks—and was forever hooked.
In January 1921, she started flying lessons with female flight instructor Neta Snook. To help pay for those lessons, Earhart worked as a filing clerk at the Los Angeles Telephone Company.
Later that year, she purchased her first airplane, a secondhand Kinner Airster. She nicknamed the yellow airplane “The Canary.”
Earhart passed her flight test in December 1921, earning a National Aeronautics Association license. Two days later, she participated in her first flight exhibition at the Sierra Airdrome in Pasadena, California.
Earhart’s Aviation Records
Earhart set a number of aviation records in her short career. Her first record came in 1922 when she became the first woman to fly solo above 14,000 feet.
In 1932, Earhart became the first woman (and second person after Charles Lindbergh) to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She left Newfoundland, Canada, on May 20 in a red Lockheed Vega 5B and arrived a day later, landing in a cow field near Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
Upon returning to the United States, Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross—a military decoration awarded for “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” She was the first woman to receive the honor.
Later that year, Earhart made the first solo, nonstop flight across the United States by a woman. She started in Los Angeles and landed 19 hours later in Newark, New Jersey. She also became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the United States mainland in 1935.
(To be continued in Part 2)