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Amelia Earhart, born in 1897 in Kansas, USA. Photo: Getty Images
Amelia Earhart, born in 1897 in Kansas, USA. Photo: Getty Images

Amelia Earhart – airborne pioneer

Amelia Earhart smiles as she sits clad in a leather jacket in the cockpit of a small plane. One of the world’s most famous aviators, Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932.

In 1937, Amelia Earhart was arguably the most famous woman in the world. She was certainly the most famous aviator, even ahead of Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly a plane solo and non-stop across the Atlantic.

While Lindbergh had left the US for a voluntary exile in Europe, Earhart had become the first person to fly across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans when she flew from Hawaii to Oakland on January 11, 1935. Between 1930 and 1935, Earhart set seven women’s speed and distance records and by 1937, she had already made the transatlantic flight twice, once as a non-flying member of a three-person crew and then in 1932 as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

On May 20, 1932, Earhart started her Lockheed Vega 5B in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland with the objective of landing in Paris. To prepare for the attempt, she worked with Norwegian aviator Bernt Balchen who had piloted a US Post Office airmail Fokker across the Atlantic in 1927.

Strong winds kept Earhart from reaching Paris, but she made it across the ocean and 14 hours and 56 minutes after taking off in Newfoundland, she landed in Culmore in Northern Ireland. When asked if she had flown far to get there, Earhart simply replied, “From America.”

In 1937, while attempting to circumnavigate the globe around the equator, Earhart and her navi­gator Fred Noonan disappeared somewhere over the Pacific, having completed 30,000 of the 40,000km. Despite the tragic end, Earhart’s groundbreaking legacy lives on.