Amelia Rose Earhart and CFII John Post fly a Cirrus SR22 over Oakland's Bay Bridge in December 2011.
I have to admit it was a little disconcerting to answer the phone and hear, "Hi Marc, it's Amelia Earhart," knowing it wasn't my birthday or April Fool's Day. In fact, it really was Amelia—Amelia Rose Earhart—a distant relative and namesake of the original Earhart who vanished somewhere near Howland Island over seven decades ago. This contemporary Earhart is re-creating one of the legendary aviatrix's flights: the leg from Oakland, Calif., to Miami, Fla., where she announced her ill-fated, round-the-world attempt in 1937.
Our modern-day Amelia Earhart is making the flight in a turbo Cirrus SR22, which is a long leap from the Lockheed Model 10 Electra the historic Earhart used, but she's doing it to inspire others and show them that dreams can come true, and not to break any world records.
What's In A Name?
"My mom gave me this name because she wanted me to have a positive woman role model in my life," says Earhart about her moniker. She and the legendary Earhart share common ancestry on her father's side back in the 1700s. This is the only connection to the aviatrix, since neither of her parents are pilots. "They never pushed me into flying either," she adds.
Instead, this Earhart got tired of being asked by everyone if she was a pilot. "I saw the disappointed looks on their faces when I said I didn't fly," Earhart says, "So, I decided I was going to take flying lessons." That was when she was 18.
Earhart was born in Downey, Calif., and grew up in the tiny town of Phelan, on the shoulders of the San Gabriel Mountains. She ended up in Kansas, and went to college to be an English teacher. It was there that fate intervened and introduced her to flying through a boyfriend whose father owned a Cirrus. "I wasn't afraid the first time we flew," she says. "And from that time, the Cirrus became my dream plane." Earhart earned her private certificate in a Cessna 172, then completed Cirrus transition training in the SR20.
The iconic photo of Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan in a Lockheed Model 10 Electra prior to their first attempt to fly around the world in March 1937.
It seems fate meddled once again and landed Earhart a job in television. "I was an English major, but I was offered this incredible opportunity to do traffic reporting," recalls Earhart. She put in five years as an aerial reporter in Denver and Los Angeles, covering everything from traffic to wildfires, riding along in an A-Star helicopter. The gig led to another job with local NBC affiliate station, KUSA, in Denver—where she is today—along with getting close to finishing a broadcast meteorology degree at Mississippi State University.
An interesting by-product of Earhart's television job is that she gets to speak at local schools on a regular basis. Earhart is passionate about following dreams and making things happen in life, and it's this drive that gives her the chance to inspire students. "I talk about what it's like to have this name," she relates, "and how to follow your dreams and passions."
Until now, Earhart says she wanted to have something more that she could talk to students about. "It's sometimes hard to talk to these kids without having done something extraordinary." She combined that thought with her dream of flying around the world—a dream she hatched as a sophomore in college—and also with the lingering accomplishments of her namesake, to create a single, driving passion. The Oakland-to-Miami flight is only the first of what Earhart hopes will be many more adventures. "I want to show kids that you can do anything."
Amelia Rose Earhart in the cockpit of a Cirrus SR22T at a stop on her Oakland, Calif., to Miami, Fla., flight, re-creating the North American leg of the original Amelia's flight around the world.
Oakland To Miami
Earhart is making this first flight with her instructor, John Post. Post offers instrument training at Independence Aviation at Centennial Airport in Colorado. In addition to the adventure aspect of this flight, Earhart is using it as the culmination of her instrument training (for the cross-country hours), and will take the checkride shortly after. She wisely used this flight as a purpose for her training. "Having a goal like this was more fun than if I'd just flown out of Centennial every day," she explains.
Our Plane & Pilot team caught up with Earhart and Post (no relation to Wiley) during the Burbank, Calif., stop of their Oakland-Miami odyssey. Burbank holds a special place in Earhart lore, since it's where she trained and where many of her flights originated. The city is full of statues, streets and plaques commemorating her accomplishments. The telegenic Earhart says she feels at home here, having lived in an apartment just across the street from the airport for a time while she worked in Los Angeles. It's a homecoming of sorts with Earhart's mother joining her for dinner in Burbank. About her mom, Earhart writes in her blog, "Thanks for instilling in me the desire to soar."
The gleaming Cirrus SR22, donated for the flight by a private owner, sits parked outside the Million Air FBO. Nflightcam, the company that modifies the popular Contour helmet camera for aviation use, is donating some of the fuel costs, and instructor Post is donating his time, while thousands of people are following along via Earhart's blog, www.flywithamelia.wordpress.com.
Earhart is philosophical about her flight and its adventures. On leaving Burbank Airport, she wrote on her blog, "I would say I feel lucky, but that would be a lie. I feel in control, smart and focused on completing this goal, enjoying each and every takeoff, landing, heading change and altimeter setting." By the time she lands in Miami, Earhart will have done several photo shoots, live television, celebration dinners and long flight legs in the SR22.
me to have a positive woman role model in my life,
says Earhart about her moniker. She and the legendary
Earhart share common ancestry on her father's
side back in the 1700s.
More than just motivation, Earhart sees this flight—and the ones to come—as having a huge educational component. "I see students being able to participate in my flights," she muses, "tracking us live online, following weather, tracking physiology, even looking in on the cockpit."
Sitting quietly on the overstuffed couch in the FBO lobby, Amelia Rose Earhart looks away when I ask her what she hopes to gain from this first flight. I can see her sifting words through her mind as she answers. "Maybe somebody will get inspired to get current," she says, "or maybe someone will want to follow a dream—whether it's flying or not." We end our conversation with today's Earhart quoting yesterday's: "Adventure is worthwhile in itself."
|The Original Amelia|
The original Amelia Mary Earhart was born July 27, 1897, in Atchison, Kan. Her family relocated to Long Beach, Calif., where she began flying lessons in 1921. Considered somewhat of a tomboy, Earhart crossed the Atlantic in 1928 as a passenger, becoming the first woman to do so and launching her notoriety. In 1932, she flew the route solo in her Lockheed Vega in 14 hours and 56 minutes, setting the solo record.
Earhart befriended Hollywood stunt pilot Paul Mantz, who became her technical advisor while she continued to set record after record. She was elected president of the Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots, and accepted an appointment from Purdue University to help finance her dream of becoming the first woman to fly around the world across the equator.
On May 20, 1937, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan set out from Oakland, Calif., to Miami, Fla., in a Lockheed Model 10E Electra and announced their around-the-world attempt. After mechanical delays, the two finally launched from Miami on June 1, 1937, bound for Puerto Rico. After flying 29 days and 22,000 miles, they landed in Lae, New Guinea.
On July 1, Earhart and Noonan left Lae for the most dangerous leg of the trip, a 2,556-mile gauntlet to the tiny Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. After much radio confusion and a storm, Earhart made her last radio transmission at 8:43 a.m. on July 2, 1937. It was received by a Coast Guard cutter, Itasca. The flight disappeared shortly afterward, and was never heard from again. No wreckage was ever found.