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Amelia Earhart

First woman aviator to rise to an altitude of 14,000 feet,
FIRST WOMAN AVIATOR TO FLY ACROSS THE ATLANTIC, and the FIRST woman AVIATOR TO attempt to fly around the world

Amelia Earhart’s brave spirit is evidenced in a letter she wrote to her husband.  She said, “Please know that I am quite aware of the hazards.  I want to do it because I want to do it.  Women must try to do things as men have tried.  When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”  She also kept a scrapbook of newspaper articles about women who were successful in male-dominated fields such as law, advertising, filmmaking, management and mechanical engineering. Earhart’s convictions were strong enough to overcome prejudice and financial obstacles. 

Amelia Earhart took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921, and in six months she managed to save enough money working as a social worker to buy her first plane.  It was a bright yellow biplane, so she named it “Canary,” and set her first record in it by flying to an altitude of 14,000 feet.  Then a book publisher and publicist, who later became her husband, asked her if she would like to fly across the Atlantic , and she enthusiastically replied, “Yes!”  On May 20, 1932, five years after Charles Lindberg’s flight across the Atlantic, she flew her Lockheed Vega from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland , to Londonderry , Ireland .  She said that,  “After scaring most of the cows in the neighborhood, I pulled up in a farmer’s backyard.”   From then on she was continually breaking records.  In 1935, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu , to Oakland , California .  

Then on June 1st, 1937, as Earhart was nearing her fortieth birthday, she and her navigator, Frank Noonan, took off from Miami , Florida , in a Lockheed Electra and began a 29,000 mile journey around the world.  By July 2nd, she and Noonan were on the last and most dangerous leg of the trip.  They left Lae, in the mid-Pacific, toward their intended destination of tiny Howland Island , home to a Naval installation 2,556 miles away from their point of departure.  Unfortunately, they were unfamiliar with the long range radio equipment, and were unable to establish contact by radio.  After six hours of attempts to make contact with Naval communications at the Island and at sea, they were assumed lost.  A coordinated search by the Navy and Coast Guard went on for days but no evidence was ever found of the aircraft.  The official position of aviation’s historians is the plane ran out of fuel and the two perished at sea.  She was a very brave woman and brought attention to the fact that women are equal to men in the world of aviation and flight. 

Younger youth:  Amelia Earhart believed in herself and was determined to overcome any and all obstacles to further her pursuit of excellence.  She was courageous, steadfast in her convictions, and wise.  She was by all definitions a pioneer in the still-early days of flight, when much was yet to be learned about safe and long range flying, especially over oceans and wide expanses of water.  She knew what she wanted and she would not let anything — especially things like alcohol and drugs — to get in her way.  Instead, she kept her focus on her determination to achieve goals that were both significant and demanding, not just for a woman, but for anyone.   Even today, she serves as an excellent and inspiring example for all of that ideal.  She lived the motto:  Drug-Free- way to be! 

Older youth:  Amelia Earhart faced many long and dangerous flights during an era when flight technology was still relatively crude, especially by today’s standards.  Radio equipment was simple, limited in range and capability, and often unreliable.   Avionics- the standard and required equipment today’s pilots routinely rely on to track aircraft performance-- was crude or nonexistent, much of it still to be invented.  Flying under such conditions posed many hazards, as well as long, lonely hours in the cockpit.   Earhart could easily have resorted to use of use of alcohol to help “calm her nerves,” or the use of stimulant drugs to help keep her self awake on long flights.  But she did not --- which serves as a testament to her awareness of such risks, as well as her determination to avoid unwise and hazardous behaviors.  Amelia Earhart lived her beliefs.  She epitomized the idea that life was to be lived drug-free.  Way to be!


The Lockheed Vega that Ameila Flew Across the Atlantic Ocean. Image Courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum

This curriculum is sponsored by the Drug Demand Reduction
Program of the Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters
Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

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