WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH HONOREE: CELEBRATING AMELIA EARHART

3RD OF A SERIES…

By Allan Jamail

March 18, 2024 ~ Women’s History Month is from March1st. thru March 31st. ~ One of my favorite women in history is Amelia Earhart. She deserves recognition for her contributions to women’s rights and the aviation industry. (Contributions to this story came from hours of research from numerous sources.)

Even though I was a child, I do remember my parents and the news accounts being discussed about the female pilot Amelia Earhart’s accomplishments and mysterious disappearance 87 years ago. At age 40, she disappeared on July 2nd, 1937; she had become an American aviation pioneer and writer.

Why Amelia Earhart Still Matters?

In 1920, a Kansas woman took her first flight — and soon changed the aviation world. She deserves lots of credit for both women’s progress in a man’s world and for her contributions to Women’s Rights.

Amelia Mary Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas, in 1897, six years before the Wright Brothers first took flight. In her 1932 book Last Flight, she wrote that she saw her first airplane in 1910 at the Iowa State Fair, but that “I was more interested in an absurd hat made of an inverted peach basket which I had just purchased for fifteen cents.”

After attending school in Pennsylvania, she worked as a nurse’s aide during World War I in Canada. While there, she attended an airplane flying exhibition. She said, “Watching the planes soar in the sky and buzz the crowd had an enormous impact on me. I did not understand it at the time, but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.”

In 1920, she took her first flight with the U. S. Army’s World War I record-breaking pilot Frank Hawks. A year later she was one of the few women in flight school, and in 1923 she became the 16th female to get her pilot license from the World Air Sports Federation.

In 1930, she 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.

In 1932, piloting a Lockheed Vega 5B, Earhart made a nonstop solo transatlantic flight, becoming the first woman to achieve such a feat. She received the United States Distinguished Flying Cross for this accomplishment. And in 1935, she became the first person to fly from Hawaii to the United States mainland.

She set many other records, was one of the first aviators to promote commercial air travel, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences, and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS

In 1935, Earhart became a visiting faculty member at Purdue University as an advisor to aeronautical engineering and a career counselor to female students. She was also a member of the National Woman’s Party and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. She along with her close friendship of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt together they made a lasting impact on women’s causes from that period.

During an attempt at becoming the first woman to complete a circumference flight circling the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded LockheedModel 10-E Electra, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. The two were last seen 87 years ago in Lae, New Guinea, on July 2, 1937, on the last land stop before Howland Island and one of their final legs of the flight.

As the plane flew over a desolate portion of the Pacific, it became increasingly clear that they were in danger. The plane was too heavy, they were short on fuel, and the tiny island was always going to be difficult to locate—a two-and half-square-mile tiny piece of land in a big ocean.

As the hours ticked by and the morning sun obscured her view, Earhart’s voice rose in panic and confusion as she sent several clipped radio transmissions. Her last words were, “We are on the line 157-337 flying north and south. We are on you but cannot see you.” After those words only silence came from the plane. That silence 87 years ago would be the quiet beginning of one of the greatest mysteries in American history.

It is generally presumed that she and Noonan died somewhere in the Pacific during their attempt to be the first to circle the globe. A year and a half after their disappearance thery were officially declared dead. Investigations and significant public interest in their disappearance still continue over 87 years later.

After her presumed death, Earhart was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1968 and the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973. She now has several commemorative memorials named in her honor around the United States, including a commemorative US airmail stamp, an urban park, an airport, a residence hall, a museum, a research foundation, a bridge, a cargo ship, an earth-fill dam, four schools, a hotel, a playhouse, a library, multiple roads, and more. She also has a minor planet, planetary corona, and lunar crater named after her. She is ranked ninth on Flying’s list of the 51 Heroes of Aviation.

POSSIBLE PLANE’S DISCOVERY

On January, 29, 2024 it was announced there could be a breakthrough in search for Amelia Earhart’s plane after wreckage was found on seabed.

Before a solid confirmation can be made, more visits must take place. After scanning 5,200 miles of seabed near Earhart’s last known position, surveyors Deep Sea Vision believe they may have located her Lockheed 10-E Electra.

The 16-person crew has spent months combing through the Pacific Ocean with a Kongsberg Discovery HUGIN 6000, the most advanced unmanned underwater drone available.

The company announced that it has detected a plane shaped object lying on the ocean floor close to Howland Island, between Fiji and the Hawaiian islands.

The searchers have a grainy image in black and yellow which appears to show a small plane lying on the sea floor more than 3,000 meters down (10,000 ft). CEO Tony Romeo stressed this may be “the most exciting thing I’ll ever do in my life. […] I feel like a 10-year-old going on a treasure hunt,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

His crew launched in September, 2023 from Tarawa, Kiribati, a port near Howland Island, with 16 people on a research vessel. Their job was to take images of the deep sea bed in the hope of locating anything that could give a hint as to what happened to Earhart’s plane. The grainy picture was taken a month into the mission but was only discovered in December when the images were checked. It takes hundreds of hours to scan pictures to find potential wreck sites.

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