KIDSGAZETTE

A century ago, Amelia Earhart took flight

In this undated photo, aviator Amelia Earhart, left, and navigator Fred Noonan pose with a map of the Pacific Ocean show
In this undated photo, aviator Amelia Earhart, left, and navigator Fred Noonan pose with a map of the Pacific Ocean showing the planned route of their round-the-world flight. (AP Photo)
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One-hundred years ago, Amelia Earhart learned to fly.

The first time the future explorer saw an airplane was at the Iowa State Fair in 1908, but she was unimpressed. According to PBS, Earhart, 10, said the airplane “was a thing of rusty wire and wood and looked not at all interesting.”

Her opinion of planes and flying shifted dramatically years later. The future explorer was 25, and she had been a passenger on a flight for the first time just days before. After the flight, according to the Library of Congress, Earhart wrote: “As soon as I left the ground, I know I myself had to fly.”

So on January 3, 1921, Earhart and her father arrived at an airfield near Long Beach, Calif., to meet Anita “Neta” Snook, a well-known woman aviator. Most aviators were men, but Earhart was “no stranger to disapproval or doubt,” according to the California Museum’s website.

Six months after her first flying lesson with Snook, Earhart had saved enough money to buy her first plane, a used, yellow Kinner Airster that she named “The Canary.” She flew The Canary to an altitude of 14,000 feet in 1922, setting her first women’s record.

In 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She made the journey exactly five years after Charles Lindbergh, who was the first person to make the trip. Earhart planned to land in Paris, like Lindbergh, but icy winds forced her land in a cow pasture in Ireland. She was quite the surprise for some Irish farmer!

By then, Earhart was famous. She said she thought the flight proved women and men were equal in “jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness, and willpower,” according to her website.

In following years, she became the first person to ever fly solo across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California (she got chilly and sipped on a thermos of hot chocolate to stay warm). She also was the first person to fly alone from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey.

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Her final brave journey was an attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world. With her navigator, Fred Noonan, she left Miami, Fl., on June 1, 1937. By June 29, they had completed all but 7,000 miles of the 29,000-mile trip. But the pair got lost during a 2,556-leg journey from New Guinea to Howland Island, a tiny piece of land just a mile-and-a-half long in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.

Earhart, Noonan and their plane have never been found, and while there are plenty of theories about what happened to Earhart, she most likely ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea. But she knew the risks of being one of aviation’s pioneers, and hoped her bravery would inspire others.

“Women must try to do things as men have tried,” she wrote in a letter to her husband. “When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”

Comments: molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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