Amelia Earhart teaching pupils in Newark, New Jersey, USA
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Her legend and mystery endure. Amelia Earhart
Few people in modern history capture the collective imagination as much as the American aviator Amelia Earhart, born on this day in 1897. A skilled pilot when flying was a relatively new and daring endeavour, and a woman in a male-dominated field, Earhart’s legend was made, sadly, not as much by her piloting accomplishments as by her sudden disappearance in 1937. The 39-year-old famously went missing, along with navigator Fred Noonan, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean while attempting to fly around the world.
The US Navy and Coast Guard searched 150,000 square miles of the Pacific for 17 days, the most expensive search in history at the time. Earhart’s husband George Putnam led a private search in the months that followed. No verified trace of Earhart, Noonan, or the twin-propeller Lockheed Electra plane has ever been found.
Earhart began flying lessons at age 23 and in 1928, she became the first female passenger to fly across the Atlantic; in 1932, she became the first woman to fly non-stop solo across the Atlantic, and the second person (after Charles Lindbergh) to accomplish the feat. She also became the first woman to fly alone across the US and set the woman’s distance record of 2,447 miles; and in 1935, she became the first person to fly from Hawaii to the US mainland. We’ll never know what else she could have accomplished had she lived longer. But in her relatively short life, she created a legacy that has far outlived her.