Aviation trailblazer Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the U.S. nonstop on this day in history, Aug. 24, 1932.
Earhart piloted her Lockheed Vega 5B from Los Angeles to Newark in a record 19 hours and 5 minutes.
The 3,986-kilometer (2,477-mile) flight set an official U.S. record for women’s distance and time, according to the National Air and Space Museum.
Earhart’s solo, non-stop flight’s average speed for this record-breaking flight was 206.42 kilometers per hour (128.27 miles per hour), and she flew most of the way at an altitude of 3,048 meters (10,000 feet), the same source recounted.
Less than a year later, Earhart would set a new transcontinental speed record, making the same flight in a record 17 hours and 7 minutes, the same source indicated.
Then on Jan. 11, 1935, she became the first person to solo fly the 2,408-mile distance across the Pacific between Honolulu, Hawaii, and Oakland, California.
It was also the first flight in which a civilian aircraft carried a two-way radio, according to The Amelia Earhart official website.
Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchison, Kansas. Her father was a railroad lawyer, and her mother was from an affluent family.
As a child, she displayed an adventurous and independent nature for which she would later become known, noted Biography.com.
The Earhart family often moved — and while on a visit to her sister in Canada, Earhart developed an interest in caring for soldiers wounded in World War I.
Her first airplane ride in 1920 was an experience that prompted her to take flying lessons.
In 1918, she left junior college to become a nurse’s aide in Toronto, the same source indicated. When the war ended, Earhart entered a premed program at Columbia University in New York City but left in 1920 after her parents insisted that she live with them in California.
“It was there she went on her first airplane ride in 1920, an experience that prompted her to take flying lessons,” cited Biography.com.
In 1921, she bought her first plane, a Kinner Airster, and two years later she earned her pilot’s license, the same source said.
Earhart moved to Massachusetts, where she continued to pursue her interest in aviation.
Earhart continued to reach new heights in aviation.
On June 17, 1928, she departed Trepassey, Newfoundland, Canada, as a passenger aboard a seaplane piloted by Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon, noted Britannica.com.
Much of the publicity was managed by publisher George Palmer Putnam, who had helped organize the historic flight. The couple married in 1931, but Earhart continued her career under her birth name.
That year she also piloted an autogiro to a record-setting altitude of 18,415 feet, the same source cited.
In 1930, Earhart purchased the plane that would carry her into history, the iconic red Lockheed 5B Vega she nicknamed “Old Bessie.” It’s been on display at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum since its opening in 1976, according to Popular Mechanics.
In 1930, Earhart purchased the plane that would carry her into history, the iconic red Lockheed 5B Vega she nicknamed “Old Bessie.”
Then, on May 20, 1932, and exactly five years to the date of Lindberg’s journey, she made her own indelible mark — becoming only the second person to pilot a plane solo across the Atlantic and the first woman, the same source recounted.
This flight in her 5B Vega from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, to Londonderry, Northern Ireland was completed in a record time of 14 hours 56 minutes despite a number of challenges.
Earhart faced inclement weather and some mechanical difficulties and was unable to land in her scheduled destination of Paris, Brittancia.com reported.
Earhart’s fate then turned to tragedy.
On the morning of July 2, 1937, she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off from Lae, New Guinea, on one of the last legs in their historic attempt to circumnavigate the globe, History.com reported.
Their next destination was Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean, about 2,500 miles away.
But Earhart never landed on Howland Island.
Battling overcast skies, faulty radio transmissions and a rapidly diminishing fuel supply in her twin-engine Lockheed Electra plane, she and Noonan lost contact with somewhere over the Pacific, the same source recounted.
“Despite a search-and-rescue mission of unprecedented scale, including ships and planes from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard scouring some 250,000 square miles of ocean, they were never found,” History.com stated.
Her accomplishments and her legacy serve as an inspiration to thousands.
At the time, the Navy concluded that Earhart and Noonan had run out of fuel, crashed into the Pacific and drowned, according to multiple sources. The mystery of her disappearance remains a fixture in popular culture and her fate has been the subject of numerous books and movies.
Although her plane disappeared on July 2, 1937, she was declared officially deceased on Jan. 5, 1939.
Earhart received numerous posthumous honors. She was enshrined in 1968 in the National Aviation Hall of Fame and in 1973 in the National Women’s Hall of Fame, noted the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Her image adorns a 1963 air mail stamp. She’s also the namesake of the USNS Amelia Earhart, a Navy cargo ship launched in 2007, the same source said.
Despite the tragic end to Earhart’s life, her accomplishments and her legacy still serve as an inspiration to thousands of budding young pilots everywhere, noted Britannica.com.
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