– PEOPLE WORTH REMEMBERING –

This week, Tidbits is researching the life of the greatest female aviator of all time.

Amelia Earhart saw her first airplane at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines in 1907 when she was 10. Prompted by her father to take a ride, Amelia declared the biplane was “a thing of rusty wire and wood and not at all interesting,” and asked to return to the merry-go-round.

    During World War I, Amelia received training as a Red Cross nurse’s aide and served at Toronto’s Spadina Military Hospital. Besides listening to stories from military pilots, she spent her free time watching pilots in training at a local airfield, all of which sparked her interest in flying. In December, 1920, at age 23, she and her father attended an aerial show at a California airfield, where she had her very first airplane ride with a U.S. World War I pilot, a 10-minute flight for $10. It was 10 minutes that changed her life.

The next month, Amelia started flying lessons, a course of 12 hours of instruction for $500. She took on several jobs to save up $1,000 for two sessions, as well as to purchase her first plane, a yellow craft she named “The Canary.”

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    In October, 1922, Earhart set her first record when she became the first female to fly solo above 14,000 feet (4,300 m). Shortly afterward, she became the 16th woman in the U.S. to receive a pilot’s license.

    Earhart was invited to fly across the Atlantic in June, 1928, although she did none of the flying. Wilmer Stultz was the pilot, and Earhart was given the duty of keeping the flight log. The plane departed Newfoundland on June 17 and reached Wales 20 hours and 40 minutes later. Two months later, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across North America and back.

      In 1927, Charles Lindbergh made history as the first aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. For five years, the feat had not been matched. Amelia Earhart left Newfoundland exactly five years after Lucky Lindy, and landed in an Irish cow field in 14 hours, 56 minutes, becoming the second person and first female to achieve it.

In January, 1935, Earhart became the first person to fly the 2,408 miles (3,875 km) from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California, and she did so all alone. Three months later, she flew solo from Los Angeles to Mexico City, another first, followed by a solitary flight from Mexico City to Newark less than a month later.

      Earhart set her sights on circumnavigating the globe and on June 1, 1937, she and her navigator Fred Noonan set off from Oakland, California, on an eastbound route. The pair flew to Miami, then to South America, across the Atlantic to Africa, then east to India and Southeast Asia. The route then took them to Indonesia, Australia, and Papau New Guinea. The final leg was from New Guinea to be from Howland Island in the Pacific, on to Honolulu, and back to Oakland. They had flown 22,000 miles (35,405 km) with 7,000 (11,265 km) miles to go. However, on July 2, a month after they had taken off, the twin-engine Lockheed 10E Electra disappeared without a trace over the Pacific, never reaching Howland Island.

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched an extensive $4 million search for the plane, but no trace of any wreckage was ever found. On July 19, 1937, five days before Earhart’s 40th birthday, she and Noonan were declared lost at sea. Their baffling disappearance remains a mystery.