Early in the morning of May 20, 1932, airplane pilot Amelia Earhart left Newfoundland, Canada. Nearly 15 hours later, she landed in a pasture in Northern Ireland. This event crowned her as the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
In honor of this historic day, let’s take a look back on the life of Amelia Earhart, an aviation pioneer.
Birthplace and Childhood Home, Atchison, Kansas
Amelia was born in her grandparents’ home in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897. She lived her from age three to 13, and found her time here to be some of the best memories of her life.
The house white wood-framed Gothic Revival home on bank of the Missouri River, was built in 1861. It is now a museum of Amelia’s childhood, and is a great place to go to learn more about the world’s most famous female pilot, and about women in aviation.
Iowa State Fair Grounds, Des Moines, Iowa
When Amelia was ten years old, the family went to the state fair in Des Moines. There, she saw her first aircraft. Amusingly, she was not impressed, and turned down her father’s invite to take a ride. It wasn’t until she was a young woman that she flew in an airplane, but once she did, the rest was history.
Departure Site, Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, CA
After years of promoting flight, and women in flight, Amelia determined to set the record as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Early on May 20, 1932, she departed Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. She had a newspaper in hand to prove she didn’t fake the journey.
The town erected a statue to Amelia, and a local famous airplane is adjacent, making it a wonderful monument to aviation, and to the role aviation has played in the region.
Landing Site, Culmore, Northern Ireland
Aiming for Paris, France, Amelia encountered difficult weather and had mechanical trouble throughout the flight. On May 21, 1932, she landed in a pasture in Culmore, Northern Ireland. A farmer asked where she’d flown from and she shocked him when she said “From America”. She was an international hero!
Red Vega Aircraft, On Display at Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.
For years, Amelia flew a red Lockheed Vega. But in 1933, she realized she would need a more powerful aircraft to help her accomplish her bigger goals.
She sold her Vega to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. But in 1966, the Smithsonian acquired the aircraft. The airplane is now on display in the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery in the National Air and Space Museum.
Last Departure Site, Lae, Papua New Guinea
In 1937, Amelia determined to be the first person to fly around the world. She elected to fly with navigator Fred Noonan. The journey was uneventful through most of it, and they reached Lae, Papua New Guinea on June 29, 1937. The city, which is the second-largest in the country, has a memorial to Amelia, although it is pretty unremarkable.
Amelia and Fred took off from Lae Airfield on July 2, 1937 at midnight. The team anticipated a 15 hour flight reach tiny Howland Island, which was about 2,500 miles away.
Howland Island is a tiny, uninhabited, remote Pacific island that is an unorganized territory of the United States. It is visited every two years by Fish and Wildlife teams, but other than that, it is completely void of human life. In the 1930s, the US tried to settle the island, but its remote location, lack of reliable water, and lack of biodiversity made it difficult to maintain.
The sliver of an island was planned to be one of Amelia and Fred’s last stopping points before reaching Hawaii. An airstrip was constructed in anticipation of their arrival, but it has since been abandoned.
The two were supposed to land there late on July 2, and continue to Honolulu and then to Oakland, where the journey would be complete. Their radio communication and signals indicated they were in the area, but they never landed, and no trace of them was ever found.
Possible Final Location Site, Noriti, Kiribati
Immediately after the team went missing, ships in the area searched desperately for signs of life. None were found. Eventually, official searches were called off and Amelia and Fred were declared dead. However, people continue to look for, and find, potential clues about the missing adventurers.
One possible location is Nikumaroro, in Kiribati, a country made up of about 30 islands. The island is about 400 miles southeast of Howland Island. It’s a popular theory that Amelia and Fred crashed here and survived for an unspecified time. Some human artifacts dated to roughly the same time period have been found on the island, but no conclusive evidence whatsoever has put the team on the island.
After so many years, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever know where Amelia and Fred went, but we can look back and be so grateful for Amelia’s bravery, her unrelenting courage and curiosity, and her contributions to aviation.