Amelia Earhart



Few women have captured the imagination of the American public as Amelia Earhart did. None have held on to it longer. More than half a century has passed since her disappearance in the South Pacific in July 1937, and each succeeding year brings forth new books on her and her probable fate. The speculation - or, for the true believer, the facts - about the dangerous last flight in her Lockheed Electra cover an extraordinary range. Some make dramatic claims that she was on a "cold-war reconnaissance" mission analagous to that of Gary Powers, another pilot in a later Lockheed. Others, less romantic, believe simply that she had attempted more than she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were capable of achieving.

Ultimately, as time passes and the circumstances surrounding her last flight become less sensitive for nations and for individuals, the actual events will be revealed. If there are secret records that conceal a gigantic government conspiracy in which she played a willing part, time will permit their disclosure. If, when all the possible files are opened, there is nothing to indicate government involvement, a conclusion can be drawn that she suffered the fate of so many flyers of her day: valiant submission to great odds.

It undoubtedly would be fitting to know what happened to her, and to recognize appropriately any contribution she made to our nation's security. Mere knowledge of her fate, however, would add little to her stature as the first American woman to be widely acknowledged as a pilot first and a woman second. She was preceded by such great women flyers as Harriet Quimby and Katherine Stinson and followed by others such as Jacqueline Cochran and Jena Yeager. But her status remains unique, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps least important of these was her almost familial resemblance to Charles Lindbergh. It was a gift of God to the press to have a famous, attractive, daring woman flyer who just happened to look like the greatest male aviation hero of the time. The fact that neither Earhart nor Lindbergh cared for the comparison mattered not at all.

More important was that the public understood that she and she alone, was doing the flying, in airplanes exactly like those that men were using. There could be no condescension to a woman setting records solo in a Lockheed Vega when praise was being heaped upon men like Wiley Post and Jimmy Mattern for their exploits in the same airplane. Her instincts were correct. Flying as a passenger in the Fokker Friendship had been a galling experience, and she immediately discounted the praise that was heaped upon her. In her subsequent flights - solo across the Atlantic, across the United States, and from Hawaii to California - she was determined to make the public see that in the ability to fly, a woman was fully equal to a man.

That she succeeded in this is attested to by the organizations, the International Forest of Friendship and the group she helped found, the International 99s, which actively continue to honor her. And this brings us to the last and greatest mystery about Amelia Earhart: the failure of the great movements for women's rights to make full use of her legend and her example. Amelia Earhart was in advance of her time by ten years in aviation and by two generations in promoting women's rights. Yet her contributions were all but overlooked by the most potent political elements of the time. This failure was a tremendous loss, for in Amelia Earhart women had a sensitive, powerful champion. She understood instinctively that the press and public must be relentlessly courted, yet that a distance had to be preserved and an image maintained. In the thousands of feet of motion picture film, in the millions of photographs of her, there comes across an intelligent, knowing woman, one who would have prospered mightily in the 1970s and 1980s as a symbol as potent as that of Joan of Arc in the crusade for women's rights.

Perhaps it does not matter. The real results of her legacy are all around us. The most obvious examples are in aviation. Airlines actively recruit women for positions as pilots (how she would have loved that), and there are many women serving as military crew members. Crews composed entirely of women - pilots, navigators, flight engineer, loadmaster and crew chief - routinely fly huge Air Force jet transports everywhere around the world. In the Netherlands, women have been accepted as combat pilots, and there are those who seek the same role for them in the United States' armed forces.

Amelia Earhart came perhaps before her time, but the image this Web site conveys so well, that of the smiling, confident, capable, yet compassionate human being, is one of which we can all be proud.


This is a story of "Last Flight." It was to have been called "World Flight," but fate willed otherwise. It is written almost entirely by Amelia Earhart herself. We have her narrative of the journey all the way around the world to New Guinea, as it came by cable and telephone. Many of those accounts she supplemented with further notes which arrived later by letter. Likewise she sent back the log-books of the journey, their pages filled with her own pencilling, scribbled in the cockpit as she flew over four continents.

there is too, her own commencement of "World flight." She had promised her publishers the manuscript promptly; that was one of the chores she accepted to make possible her ambition. So when she was turned back from Honolulu by the accident there in March, she did what she could to get the book well launched. To all that is added some material from others, who knew her and wrote about her. Weaving all this together, I have sought to make a simple record of A. E.'s last adventure for myself and for the many who loved her and found cheer in her gallant, friendly life.

When time has smoothed out somewhat the rough sorrows of the present, there will be another book - the full story of Amelia Earhart's life. That's a project for a tomorrow of retrospect. Through the rich years of our work and play together, there was often a cloud hanging overhead - he shadow of danger. It was not, mind you, always an ominous cloud, but rather one somehow lined with a gay silver of understanding. A.E. recognized its presence more frankly and I.

"Some day, she would say, "I'll get bumped off. there's so much to do, so much fun there, I don't want to go, but . . ."

In the preparation for her flights, she recognized the risks. But in the hazards of "living dangerously" she seemed more concerned for others than for herself. She often said that on her solo Atlantic flight her chances of success were "one in ten." And on the Honolulu-Oakland hop, "fifty-fifty." What percentage she reckoned on this world flight I do not know. I do know that always, where her flying brought cause for fear, I was the frightened one.

"The time to worry," she declared, "is three months before a flight. Decide then whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying. To worry is to add another hazard. It retards reactions, makes one unfit. Hamlet," she'd add with that infectious grin, "would have been a bad aviator. he worried too much."

This journey around the world was to be her last "record" flight. Before she left Oakland in March for Honolulu, A.E. confided to a friend what she had already told me. . . . Seemingly there will be no more flights for her, of any kind. All reasonable evidence now points to that. Yet, unreasonably, hope lingers that the Providence which guarded her so often may still deliver her back in some miraculous manner. Among many poignant memories, two stand out. At San Francisco we looked out, one evening, at the Pacific. Again, from our hotel window in Miami, we saw the sun rise on the Atlantic. Each time A.E. gazed silently for a time. And each time her words were almost the same.

"It's a very big ocean - so much water!" She spoke with a little sigh which promptly dissipated into a reassuring chuckle. I asked if she could not give up the project. Life held so much else. Her reply is clear in my mind:   

"Please don't be concerned. It just seems that I must try this flight. I've weighted it all carefully. With it behind me life will be fuller and richer. I can be content. Afterward it will be fun to grow old."

I think, somehow, she knew. Whatever came to pass, the contentment she sought was assured.

"When I go," she often said, "I'd like best to go in my plane. Quickly."

So this is not a chronicle of regret, but of high and happy adventure. That is as she would have her book. May its pages convey some measure of the pervading charm and magic character of Amelia Earhart, whose explorings were as much of the mind and spirit as of the air.

G. P. P.

Amelia Earhart and George Putnam, an unusual husband-and-wife team!
A Pilot Grows Up
Pilots are always dreaming dreams. My dream, of owning a multi-motor plane, probably first took form in May 1935. I was flying nonstop from Mexico cit to New York. The straight line course, from Tampico to New Orleans, took me over about seven hundred miles of the Gulf of Mexico. There weren't many clouds, so for once what lay below was quite visible. It did seem a good deal of water.
Previously I'd been by air twice across the North Atlantic, and once from Hawaii to California. All three voyages were flown chiefly at night, with heavy clouds during most o the daylight hours. Son in the combined six thousand miles or more of previous over-ocean flying it happened I'd seen next to nothing of ocean. Given daylight and good visibility, the Gulf of Mexico looked lage. And wet. One's imagination toyed with the thought of what would happen if the single engine of the Lockheed Vega should conk. Not that my faithful Wasp ever had failed me, or indeed, even protested mildly. But, at that, the very finest machinery could develop indigestion.
So, on that sunny morning out of sight of land, I promised my lovely red Vega I'd fly her across nor more water. And I promised myself that any further over-ocean flying would be attempted in a plane with more than one motor, capable of keeping aloft with a single engine. Just in case. Which, in a way, was for me the beginning of the world flight project. Where to find the tree on which costly airplanes grow, I did not know. But I did know the kind I wanted - an Electra Lockheed,  big brother of my Vegas, with, of course, Wasp engines. Such is the trusting simplicity of a pilot's mind, it seemed ordained that somehow the dream would materialize. Once the prize was in hand, obviously there was one flight which I most wanted to attempt - a circumnavigation of the globe as near its waistline as could be.
Before writing about the preparation for that flight, and of the journey itself, it seems well to set down briefly the career, such as it is, of a girl who grew up to love flying - the who, when and why of this particular pilot.
The Fokker Friendship, in which Amelia rode to fame as the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air.
She rebelled at being merely a passenger and determined to repeat the trip flying solo.
At the age of ten I saw my first airplane. It was sitting in a slightly enclosed area at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. It was a thing of rusty were and wood and looked not at all interesting. One of the grown-ups who happened to be around pointed it out to me and said: "Look, dear, it flies." I looked as directed but confess I was much more interested in an absurd hat made of an inverted peach-basket which I had just purchased for fifteen cents. What psychoanalysts would make of this incident, in the light of subsequent behavior, I do not know. Today I loathe hats for more than a few minutes on the head and am sure I should pass by the niftiest creation if an airplane were anywhere around.
The next airplane which impinged upon my consciousness was about the time of the armistice. Again I fond myself at a Fair, this time the great exposition held at Toronto in Canada. A young woman friend and I had gone to the Fair grounds to see an exhibition of stunt flying by one of the aces returned from the war. These men were the heroes of the hour. They were in demand at social teas, and to entertain crowds by giving stunting exhibitions. The airplanes they rode so gallantly to fame were as singular as they. For aviation in those days was very limited. About all a pilot could do was to joy-hop. that is (1) taking a few hardy passengers for short rides; (2) teaching even hardier students to fly; and (3) giving exhibitions. The idea that airplanes could be transportation as today entered nobody's noggin.
My friend and I, in order to see the show, planted ourselves in the middle of a clearing. We watched a small plane turn and twist in the air, black against the sky excepting when the afternoon sun caught the scarlet of its wings. After fifteen or twenty minutes of stunting, the pilot began to dive at the crowd. Looking back as a pilot I think I understand why. He was bored. he had looped and rolled and spun and finished his little bag of tricks, and there was nothing left to do but watch the people on the ground running as he swooped close to them.
Amelia in Burbank, California, with the Lockheed brain trust
(left to right), Allen Loughead, Carl Squier, and Lloyd Stearman.
Pilots, in 1918, to relieve the monotony of never going anywhere, rolled their wheels on the top of moving freight trains; flew so low over boats that the terrified occupants lay flat on the deck; or they dived at crowds on the beach or at picnics. Today of course the Department of Commerce would ground a pilot for such antics. I am sure the sight of two young women alone made a tempting target for the pilot. I am sure he said to himself, "Watch me make them scamper."
After a few attempts one did but the other stood her ground. I remember the mingled fear and pleasure which surged over me as i watched that small plane at the top of its earthward swoop. Common sense told me if something went wrong with the mechanism, or if the pilot lost control, he, the airplane and I would be rolled up in a ball together. I did not understand it at the time but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by. I worked in a hospital during the war. From that experience I decided that medicine interested me most. Whether or not medicine needed me I did not question. So i enrolled at Columbia University in New York and started in to do the peculiar things they do who would be physicians. I fed orange juice to mice and dissected cockroaches. I have never seen a cockroach since but I remember that the creature has an extraordinarily large brain.
However, I could not forget airplanes.
I went to California for a summer vacation and found air meets, as distinct from wartime exhibitions, just beginning. I went to every one and finally one day came a chance to ride. Frank hawks took me on the first hop. he was then a barnstorming pilot on the west coast, unknown to the fame he later acquired. By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground I knew I had to fly. I think my mother realized before I did how much airplanes were beginning to mean to me, for she helped me buy the first one. It was second-hand, painted bright yellow, and one of the first light airplanes developed in this country. The motor was so rough that my feet went to sleep after more than a few minutes on the rudder bar. I had a system of lending the plane for demonstration so as not to be charged storage. Hangar rental would have annihilated my salary.
Amelia in Oakland, triumphant after the Hawaii-to-California flight.
After a year my longest hop was from Long Beach to Pasadena, about 40 miles. Still I all but set off to cross the continent by air. The fact that I couldn't buy gasoline myself forced me to compromise and rive a car with Mother along. I am sure i wouldn't be here to tell the tale if I had carried out the original plan. I did what flying I could afford in the next few years and then the "Friendship" came along. I was working in Denison House in Boston, one of America's oldest social settlements.
"Phone for you, Miss Earhart."
"Tell 'em I'm busy." At the moment I was the center of an eager swarm of Chinese and Syrian neighborhood children, piling in for games and classes.  
"Says it's important."
So I excused myself and went to listen to a man's voice asking me whether I was interested in doing something dangerous in the air. At first I thought the conversation was a joke and said so. Several times before I had been approached by bootleggers who promised such reward and no danger - "Absolutely no danger to you, Leddy."
The frank admission of risk stirred my curiosity. References were demanded and supplied. Good references. An appointment was arranged for that evening.
"Would you like to fly the Atlantic?"
My reply was a prompt Yes" - provided the equipment was all right and the crew capable. Nine years ago flying oceans was less commonplace than today, and my own experience as a pilot was limited to a few hundred hours in small planes which work and finances permitted. So I went to New York and met the man entrusted with the quaint commission of finding a woman willing to fly the Atlantic. The candidate, I gathered, should be a flyer herself, with social graces, education, charm and, perchance, pulchritude. His appraisal left me discomforted. somehow this seeker for feminine perfection seemed unimpressed. Anyway, I showed my pilot's license (it happened to be the first granted an American woman by the F.A.I.) and inwardly prepared to start back for Boston.
But he felt that, having come so far, I might as well meet the representatives of Mrs. Frederick Guest, whose generosity was making the flight possible, and at whose insistence a woman was to be taken along. Those representatives were David T. Layman, Jr., and John S. Phipps, before which masculine jury I made my next appearance. It should have been slightly embarrassing, for if i were found wanting in too many ways i would be counted out. On the other hand, if i were just too fascinating, the gallant gentlemen might be loath to risk drowning me. Anyone could see the meeting was a crisis. A few days later the verdict came. the flight actually would be made and i could go if i wished. Naturally I couldn't say "No." Who would refuse an invitation to such a shining adventure?
Amelia made good on her promise, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
Landing in an Irish cow pasture, she arrived to a warm welcome.
Followed, in due course, after weeks of mechanical preparation, efforts to et the monoplane "Friendship" off from the gray waters of Boston Harbor. There were chill before-dawn gettings-up, with breakfasts snatched and thermos bottles filled at an all-night lunch counter. Brief voyages on the tugboat Sadie Ross to the anchored plane, followed by the sputter of the motors awakening to Mechanic. Lou Gordon's coaxing and their later full-throated roar when Pilot "Bill Stulz gave them the gun - and I crouched on the fuselage floor hoping we were really off. Thrice we failed, dragging back to Boston for more long days of waiting. Waiting is apt to be so much harder than going, with the excitement of movement, of getting off, of adventure-around-the-corner.
Finally one morning the "Friendship" took off successfully, and Stultz, Gordon, and I transferred ourselves to Newfoundland. After thirteen days of weary waiting at Trepassey (how well i remember the alternating diet of mutton and rabbits!) the Atlantic flight started. Twenty hours and forty minutes later we tied up to a buoy off Burryport, Wales. I recall desperately waving a towel; one friendly soul ashore pulled off his coat and waved back. But beyond that for an hour nothing happened. It took persistence to arouse interest in an itinerant trans-Atlantic plane. I myself did no piloting on that trip. But I gained experience. In London I was introduced to Lady Mary Heath, the then very active Irish woman flyer. She had just made a record flight from London to Cape Town and I purchased the small plane she had used. It wore on its chest a number of medals given her at various stops she made on the long route.
After the pleasant accident of being the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air, I was launched into a life full of interest. Aviation offered such fun as crossing the continent in planes large and small, trying the whirling rotors of an autogiro, making record flights. With these activities came opportunity to know women everywhere who shared my conviction that there is so much women can do in the modern world and should be permitted to do irrespective of their sex. Probably my greatest satisfaction was to indicate by example now and then, that women can sometimes do things themselves if given the chance.
Autographed photograph of Amelia and her crew before taking off from Oakland, California, for Honolulu.
(Left to right) Paul Mantz, Amelia Earhart, Harry Manning, and Fred Noonan.
 Manning would take leave of the crew after the accident in Hawaii.
Here I should add that the "Friendship" flight brought me some thing even dearer than such opportunities. That Man-who-was-to-find-a-girl-to-fly-the-Atlantic, who found me and then managed the flight, was George Palmer Putnam. In 1931 we married. Mostly, my flying, has been solo, but the preparation for it wasn't. Without my husband's help and encouragement I could not have attempted what I have. Ours has been a contented and reasonable partnership, he with his solo jobs and I with mine. But always with work and play together, conducted under a satisfactory system of dual control. I was hardly home when i started off to fly the continent - my 1924 ambition four years late. Lady Heath's plane was very small. It had folding wings so that it actually could fit in a garage. I cranked the motor by standing behind the propeller and pulling it down with one hand. The plane was so light I could pick it up by the tail and drag it easily around the field.
At that time I was full of missionary zeal for the cause of aviation. I refused to wear the high-bred aviation togs of the moment. Instead i simply wore a dress or suit. I carried no chute and instead of a helmet used a close-fitting hat. I stepped into the airplane with as much nonchalance as i could muster, hoping that onlookers would be persuaded that flying was nothing more than an everyday occurrence. I refused even to wear goggles, obviously. However, I put them on as I taxied to the end of the field and wore them while flying, being sure to take them off shortly after I landed. That was thoroughly informal flying. Pilots landed in pastures, race course, even golf links where they wee still enough of a novelty to be welcome. In those days domestic animals scurried to the fancied protection of trees and bans when the flying monsters roared above them. Now along the airways there's not enough curiosity left for a self-respecting cow even to lift her head to see what goes on in the sky. She's just bored. Stories of that happy-go-lucky period should be put together in a saga to regale the scientific, precision flyers of tomorrow.
Nineteen-twenty-nine was the year of the women's derby from California to Cleveland, the first time a cross-country race had ever been sponsored for women alone. I felt I needed a new plane for this extraordinary sporting event. So I traded in the faithful little Avion for my first Lockheed Vega. It was a third-hand clunk but to me a heavenly chariot. I crossed the continent gain from New York to California to stop at the Lockheed factory. I thought possibly there might be a few adjustments necessary before I entered the race. There I met the great Wiley Post for the first time. Wiley Pot had not then had his vision of stratosphere flying, and was simply a routine check pilot in the employ of the Lockheed company.
It fell to him to take my airplane up for test. Having circled the field once, he came down and proceeded to tell everyone within earshot that my lovely airplane was the foulest he had ever flown. Of course the worse he made the plane, the better pilot I became. The fact that I should have been able to herd such a hopeless piece of mechanism across the continent successfully was the one bright spot in the ensuing half hour. Finally Lodkheed officials were to impressed by my  prowess (o so sorry for me) that they traded me a brand new plane. The clunk was never flown again. The Derby produced one of the gems which belong in the folklore of aviation. Something went wrong with her motor and Ruth Elder made a forced landing in a field thickly inhabited by cattle. The bovine population crowded around her plane and proceeded to lick the paint off the wings - there seemed to be something in the "doped" finish that appealed to them. Meanwhile, Ruth snuggled down in the safety of the cockpit. "You see," she explained, "I didn't know much about such things and was uncertain as to the sex of the visitors. My plane was red - very red. And I'd always heard what bulls did to that." . . . Apparently the cows were cows.
Three classics: Lockheed Electra, Cord Cabriolet, and Amelia Earhart.
After the "Friendship" flight I did not immediately plan to fly the Atlantic alone. But later as i gained in experience and looked back over the years I decided that I had had enough to try to make it solo. Lockheed #2 was then about three years old. It had been completely reconditioned and a new and larger engine put in. By the spring of 1932 plane and pilot were ready. Oddly, one of my clearest memories of the Atlantic solo concerns not the flight itself but my departure from home. On May 19th the weather outlook was so unpromising we had abandoned hope of getting off that day. So I had driven in to New York from our home in Westchester. Just before noon an urgent message caught up with me immediately to get in touch with Mr. Putnam at the Weather Bureau.
Our phone conversation was brief.
"It looks like the break we've waited for," he said. "Doc Kimball says this afternoon is fine to get to Newfoundland - St. john's anyway. And by tomorrow the Atlantic looks as good as you're likely to get it for some time." I asked a few questions. A threatening "low" on the first lg of the route had dissipated to the southeast; a "high" seemed to be moving in promisingly beyond Newfoundland.
"Okeh! We'll start," I said. Mr Putnam agreed he would corral Bernt Balchen, my technical adviser who was to go with me to Newfoundland to be sure that everything was as right as could be before I hopped off. I explained I would have to rush back to Rye to get my flying clothes and maps. We arranged to meet at two o'clock at the city end of the George Washington Bridge, which leads across the Hudson toward Teterboro Airport in New jersey, where my plane waited.
The press seized upon Amelia's almost eerie resemblance to Charles Lindberg,
a likeness that not even her tousled hair could mask, and that flying gear made all the more distinct.
At last as i dared - traffic cops being what they are - I drove the twenty-five miles to Rye. Five minutes was enough to pick up my things. Plus a lingering few more to drink in the beauty of a lovely treasured sight. Beside and below our bedroom windows were dog-wood trees, their blossoms in luxuriant full flower, unbelievable bouquets of white and pink flecked with the sunshine of spring. Those sweet blooms smiled at me a radiant farewell . . . That is a memory I have never forgotten. Looking back, there are less cheering recollections of that night over the Atlantic. Of seeing, for instance, the flames lick through the exhaust collector ring and wondering, in a detached way, whether one would prefer drowning to incineration. Of the five hours of storm, during black midnight, when I kept right side up by instruments alone, buffeted about as i never was before. Of much beside, not the least the feeling of fine loneliness and of realization that the machine I rode was doing its best and required from me the best I had.
And one further fact of the flight, which I've not set down in words before. I carried a barograph an instrument which records on a disc the course of the plane, its rate of ascent and descent, its levels of flight all co-ordinated with clocked time. My tell-tale disc could tell a tale. At one point it recorded an almost vertical drop of three thousand feet. It started at an altitude of something over 3,000 feet, and ended - well, something above the water. That happened when the plane suddenly "iced up" and went into a spin. How long we spun I do not know. I do know that I tr4ied my best to do exactly what one should do with a spinning plane, and regained flying control as the warmth of the lower altitude melted the ice. As we righted and held level again, through the blackness below i could see the white-caps too close for comfort.
Marshall Islands First Day Cover, depicting the loss of Amelia Earhart
All that was five full years ago, a long time to recall little things. So I wonder if Bernt Balchen remembers as I do the three words he said to me as I left harbor Grace. They were "Okeh. So-long. Good luck." 
*          *          *
First Pacific flight
While this is to be a record of the round-the-world voyage, now that I've referred to the Atlantic flights I would like to tell here also the story of the trip from Hawaii to California. Contrasted to the Atlantic crossing, that was a journey of stars, not storms, of tropic loveliness instead of ice. While I sued the same type airplane on the Pacific flight as on the Atlantic, and the identical Wasp motor (bless its heart!), still I had improved equipment for the latter trip.
For instance, my plumbing system, by which I mean the metal fuel lines, was entirely encased in rubber tubing - double insurance against possible leak of precious fuel. then i had a controllable pitch propeller. The controllable pitch propeller works as does the gear shift in your car. A flyer takes off in low, climbs to the altitude at which he wishes to fly, shifts into high, and away he goes. The propeller facilitates taking off with heavy loads, and gives greater speed in the air. Of course speed is a very definite safety factor when flying over dangerous areas, or over long stretches of water in a land plane.
Your little geographies told you that the northeast trade winds blow steadily in the mid-Pacific region. they do, excepting on the day I planned to take off. Then the winds switched around to the south and southwest and blew steadily from that direction. Early on the morning of January 11, 1935, the clouds began to gather over Honolulu and by eleven a tropical downpour was in full force. I was assured it was very unusual weather. the military airport from which I planned to take off has no hard-surface runways and i knew that if I left that afternoon, as planned, I should have to lift my heavy load from very soggy ground. Wheeler Field then was about six thousand feet long, laid out in the direction of the prevailing winds, which refused to prevail.
The Army had very kindly mowed a pathway for me in the long grass and planted little white flags along both edges to facilitate my taking off in a straight line. So effective was that planting of white flags that i used the same system later in the take-off from Mexico City where we fashioned a home-made runway on the baked surface of a dry lake-bed. At one o'clock conditions wee no better, nor at two, nor at three. Following luncheon at an Army officer's home we kept our noses flattened against the windowpane, watching the weather. At 3.30 the rain definitely slackened and it looked as if the clouds might lift. So I lied me down to the hangar, in which my plane was housed, to look the situation over. I found the field soaked; and the spirits of the faithful few who were standing by, very damp indeed. However, i asked the men to get the plane out, to put in the few remaining gallons of gas the tanks would hold, to stow all m equipment (i8ncluding a prized rubber boat) and to warm up the motor. I felt a take-off later in the day was possible and i wished the plane ready in every detail.   
I must say something about the plane which has been my companion aloft for so many flying hours. It was a raft to delight the ey, its wings and fuselage painted red with gold stripes down the side. Possibly it may have seemed a trifle gaudy on the ground but I am sure it looked lovely against one of those white clouds. It was a closed plane. I drive a closed car and fly a closed plane. i don't like to be mussed up. further, the added comfort of a closed plane very definitely lessens fatigue, and fatigue must be considered when one is preparing for a long flight. The Vega normally carries six passengers and the pilot, the passengers in the rear, the pilot in front perched in a cockpit overlooking the motor with is 500 horse. The six passenger seats had been replaced by large fuel tanks capable of carrying 520 gallons of gasoline. thee are no service stations between Honolulu and the united States! 
Posing with more assurance than she felt,
Amelia assumes the classic "hands-on-prop" pose.
My cockpit was a very cozy little cubbyhole. I sat on a cushion just large enough for me. On the right-hand side of the seat was a large black box, the radio, with the dials on top so I could reach them easily. On the left was a large compass and two pump handles, pumps which enabled me to change fuel from one set of tanks to the other. Some of the fuel was carried in the wing, which is he normal position in commercial craft, and some in the cabin tanks. In case my motor-driven pump should fail i could still keep going by using that hand system. I have had to pump as long as six hours on occasion, which is pretty tiring. But it is well worth having that emergency system.
In a little cupboard in the wing, to the right, I carried provisions. I don't drink tea or coffee so I had none with me. On the Atlantic flight i had a thermos bottle of hot soup, but it did not work out very well, so from Honolulu I carried a thermos bottle of hot chocolate. Then I had malted milk tablets, sweet chocolate, tomato juice, and water. one of the Arm officer's wives thought i was starting out on a 2,400-mile journey with entirely too little to eat so she asked if she couldn't put up a picnic lunch for me. I told her that for some reason or other it was always difficult for me on a long flight to eat much food, but if she packed a lunch i would take it with me. So I had that too.
On the left side there was another little cabinet in which were stored my tools, I don't use hairpins so I have to carry regular tools! Also, there were extra fuses, extra flashlight, pad and pencils, rags, string, odds and ends that might come in handy. After i asked the men to warm up the motor, i went over to the Weather Bureau for a final check and found that if I did not leave that afternoon, despite local conditions, I would be held indefinitely by storms coming in over the Pacific. So about 4.30 I returned to the plane, which was sitting out on the concrete apron. The motor purred sweetly. I crawled into the cockpit and tested it myself. I sounded perfect. So I told the men to take away the blocks in front of the wheels.
I turned the plane and headed for the take-off pathway, my mechanic running along beside it. i could see him out of the cockpit window and observed that with every step he took the mud squashed up to his shoe tops, so soft was the ground. My mechanic was very gloomy, his cigarette hanging out of the corner of his moth, his face as white as his coveralls. I wanted to call, "Cheer up, Ernie! It will soon be over." But of course I couldn't make him hear over the sound of the motor. Glancing to the left, I noticed the fire-engines drawn up in front of the hangars, and one ambulance. The Arm to a man seemed to have those little squirt fire extinguishers, and the women present had their handkerchiefs out, obviously ready for any emergency. the take-off with an excessive fuel load is the most hazardous moment, if such could be determined, because of the possibility of fire if anything goes amiss. But please do not compare such a take-off with those of ordinary everyday flying. It is nor more fair to compare the two than it is to compare automobile racing and safe automobile driving - if such there be!
A complex aircraft for its day, the twin-engine Lockheed had to fly from one primitive airport to another.
When my mechanic had pried loose a great ball of mud and grass that had caked up on the tail skid, I put the plane in take-off position, looked down the long pathway ahead of me, and beyond to the sugarcane fields stretching to the crest of the mountains which cross the island diagonally. Those mountains usually are sharp in outline but that day they were softened by low-hanging gray clouds. From the little flags hanging limply on their sticks I saw that what wind I had was with me. That was a disadvantage. you realize a plane takes off against the wind, not with it, just as a small boy flies his  kite. he doesn't run with the wind to get his kite into the air, but runs against it. Of course an airplane is simply a kite with a motor instead of the small boy.
I pushed the throttle ahead. The Vega started to move and gather speed. i felt the tail come up. The plane got lighter and lighter on the wheels. After rolling about two thousand feet a large bump on the surface of the field threw the plane completely off the ground. I pushed the throttle ahead to the farthest notch, and gave her all the power I had. The plane started to settle, then caught - and we were off. I have often been asked what i think about at the moment of take-off. Of course no pilot sits and feels his pulse as he flies. He had to be part of the machine. if he thinks of anything but the task in hand then trouble is probably just around the corner. Although I had plenty to do immediately after that take-off, some impressions of the moments that followed remain vivid in my memory.
I realized that at one time i was flyi8ng over a forbidden area at a forbidden altitude. the islands are dotted with military reservations over which civilian aircraft may not fly under a certain altitude, and as i was climbing lowly with my heavy load i was definitely under the prescribed limit. I wondered in a third-person kind of way whether the navy (it was a Naval reservation) would begin taking pot-shots at me, or whether they would have me arrested when I arrived, wherever I arrived, if I arrived.
My course lay over the edge of Honolulu. As I flew by that lovely city and realized it was just about the close of the business day, the thought flashed through my mind that everyone was going home to supper - but me. It was just five o'clock as I passed over Makapuu Point, the last island outpost on my course. shortly afterward I let down my radio antenna and sent my first message, something like this "Flying 6,000 feet, through scattered clouds, temperature outside 50 degrees. Everything okeh."
I was tuned in at the time to a musical program on KGU, the commercial broadcast station in Honolulu. I wasn't listening to the music as such, but simply keeping the station tuned in so that when word came for me, as arranged beforehand, I could increase the volume and understand what was said. Suddenly I heard the music stop and the announcer's voice say, "We are interrupting our musical program with an important news flash. Amelia Earhart has just taken off from Honolulu on an attempted flight to Oakland."
Telling me!
Then the announcer's voice continued: "Mr. Putnam will try to communicate with his wife." Then I heard my husband's voice as if he were in the next room saying: "A. El, the noise of your motor interferes with your broadcast. Will you please try to speak a little louder so we can hear you." It was thrilling to have his voice come in so clear to me, sitting out there over the Pacific. It was really one of the high points of the flight. Clouds were all about me from the start. I had to climb 6,000 feet to get over the first layers of filmy white. I could look down and see the water, dark blue and then darker blue, then black, as night came on. It was a night of stars. Stars hung outside my cockpit window near enough to touch. I have never seen so many or such large ones. I shall never forget the contrast of the white clouds and the moonlight and starlight against the black of the sea. It is interesting that I have flown over thousands of miles of water but have seen only hundreds of miles. I have been over clouds, between two layers, or actually in the formation for hours on end, and have seen no shops excepting very near land. However, on the Pacific flight I took along a chart showing the position of every ship on the course that night. The possibility of one little airplane and on little ship passing near enough to see each other in that rather large ocean seemed ridiculous.
I had been flying off the islands for about six hours when I became aware of a pink light to my right - pink in contrast to the stars. I realized i was actually seeing a ship. I couldn't see it as a ship, of course. It appeared only as a revolving pinkish light. All the vessels had agreed to keep their searchlights on in case I was anywhere around. I flashed my landing lights, which are pretty bright, three times. Then again, until I got an answering signal from that little thing 8,000 feet below. I was tuned in on KFI in Los Angeles. Whatever the program was, suddenly it was blocked out by code cracking like buckshot in my ears and I knew that ship was sending word to shore it had sighted me overhead. At that time I was nine hundred miles on my course, as correctly as could be.
After this friendly exchange with the ship, the clouds came together below me, blocking all sight of water. Meanwhile I could see the tops of those clouds and as I looked ahead the stars around the horizon were dim. It was as if a veil hung between mine and them. The veil cre0pt higher and higher up the horizon until it enveloped my plane and I could see nothing outside of the cockpit. Fine rain-drops were on the glass and as suddenly as I had gotten into the rain squall, for such it was, I came out again into the moonlight and starlight. I continued to run through little rain squalls for possibly two hours. At no time during the flight did the outside temperature register below forty degrees. however, I had the cockpit window open a bit and the cold rain beat in on me until I became thoroughly chilled. I thought it would be rather pleasant to have a cup of hot chocolate. So I did, and it was. Indeed that was the most interesting cup of chocolate I have ever had, sitting up eight thousand feet over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, quite alone.
Irony. Amelia examines the loop of the Radio Direction finder unit.
Properly installed and properly used, it could have saved her life.
After midnight the moon set and I was alone with the stars. I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the aesthetic appeal of flying. On the Atlantic trip I thought the most beautiful thing I should ever see would be dawn over the ocean. but then I did not see dawn as it was obstructed by clouds. This time I was more fortunate. A shadow of light played around the horizon and suddenly the stars wee gone. Dawn is a fearful thing to see from the air. Only by wearing dark glasses can a pilot face the rising sun for any  length of time because of the brilliance of the light. In addition to enjoying its beauty, that dawn over the Pacific was disconcerting. For the sun made its appearance well to the right of the course I was following. It seemed to me I should be flying much more in its direction than I was. For a brief moment I wondered if all night long I had been headed for Alaska! I checked my charts and I checked my compass and everything seemed to be as it should - so I could only conclude that the sun was wrong and I was right!
After it became light enough to see, I found myself over a closely packed white cloud bank, which seemed to extend to the ends of the earth and looked extraordinarily like stiffly beaten whites of eggs. I don't know if thee is anything in the power of suggestion, but about that time I ate a hard-boiled egg the only solid food I had during the flight. My radio frequency was not particularly efficient after sun-up. However, I kept on broadcasting periodically, knowing that listening shore stations would at least get my signal and thus know I was still afloat. Being fairly sure they could understand little of what I said, I became slightly careless with words. I commented on the scenery, which wasn't much, and made other remarks. After flying over this monotonous fog  you have no idea how wearying it can be - for one hour, for two hours, for three hours, I remember saying into my little hand microphone: "I am getting tired of this fog." My message was picked up "I'm getting tired." So a nurse and physician were dispatched to the airport at Oakland to revive the exhausted flyer when and if she arrived. Of course I wasn't tired at all. No one should undertake a long flight who becomes fatigued after staying up just one night under normal flying conditions. 
About the fifteenth hour out the fog bank began to break up (as it often does near land) and holes appeared through which I could look down and see the water once again. this time it was blue in the morning sun, ruffled with little crinkles. I glanced casually down through a cloud window and thee was another boat. I cocked the wing of my plane up and went down through that hole faster, I think, than I ever flew before, from 8,000 feet to two hundred. A large dollar sign on the steamer funnel established it as the Dollar Liner President Pierce coming from San Francisco. it was going in the right direction, too, and just where it should be, according to my chart. And so as I. I circled the ship several times, wanting the Captain to be sure to notice me. then I lined myself up with the wake of the vessel, which I could see form more than a mile behind it, and found that the course i had been flying coincided exactly with the track made by the ship, which was a very good check on direction. i could not talk directly with the steamer, so i radioed San Francisco asking for its position and within fifteen minutes received word that I was then three hundred miles off the coast of California, exactly on my course.
There is no doubt that the last hour of any flight is the hardest. If there are any clouds about to make shadows one is likely to see much imaginary land. I saw considerable territory in the Pacific which California should annex! When I actually first sighted land I was flying about 1,800 feet off the surface of the water, considerably below the summits of the coastal hills. As i approached shore I strained my eyes to see something recognizable, and there was nothing. However, I noticed a low place in the hills, and I thought, like the bear, I would go over the mountains to see what I could see. Drawing nearer, I pulled the nose of the plane up, eagerly peering ahead as we floated gently over those hospitable hills. And thee lay San Francisco Bay in front of me. All I had to do was to go across and sit down. The landing at Oakland contrasted with that in Ireland in 1932. Neat Londonderry, after scaring most of the cows in the neighborhood, I pulled up in a farmer's back yard. Three people came out to sew what was in the airplane. I pushed the hatch back and stuck out my head. Not knowing the proper phrase for the situation i simply said, "I'm from America." It made no impression whatsoever on the reception committee.
At Oakland I did not have to explain whence i came.
Front-page news in 1937, the disappearance of America's
first lady of the air still generates countless theories, but as yet no proof.
Mexican Flight
There were three factors which determined me to try a flight to Mexico. one, I had a plane in perfect condition for a long distance effort. Two, i had been officially invited by the Mexican Government. (I had never been invited before. I just went to Ireland.) three, Wiley Post. I remember telling Wiley Post of my plans. he walked across the room, looked at a globe standing on the table, and asked me what route I intended to use from Mexico City to new York. I told him I planned to fly in as straight a line as possible.
"Are you cutting across the Gulf?" he asked.
I said I was. he measured it with his fingers.
"That's about 700 miles. Almost half an Atlantic. How much time do you lose if you go around by the shore?"
I told him I saved probably one hour, or a little more, by following the straight line.
Wiley said: "Amelia, don't do it. It's too dangerous."
I couldn't believe my ears. Did Wiley Post, the man who had braved every sort of hazard in his stratosphere flying, really regard a simple little flight from Mexico city to New York across the Gulf as too hazardous? If so, i could scarcely wait to be on my way. On April 19, 1935, NR 965Y (my Vega) and I started from Burbank, California, for Mexico City. Slightly over thirteen hours later we landed at Valbuena Airport, 1,700 miles southward. From a pilot's standpoint that was an interesting journey. The start made before midnight was lit by a generous moon which gilded the hills gloriously, but by the time I had reached the arid stretches of the Gulf of California there crept up a white haze which made it difficult to tell what was water and what was sand ahead. only when I could catch a glimpse of the moonlight on the water or see the black shadows of crinkled sand directly below, could I tell which was which. Even the mechanical difficulties which beset the early hours of the flight - chiefly an engine which overheated because of a faulty propeller setting - could not mar the rare loveliness of the might and of the far-flung countryside which slumbered beneath.
Slightly below Mazatlan, on the Mexican coast, a thousand miles or so from the starting point, the chart directed me to turn easterly toward Mexico City, six hundred miles away. here were ruffles of mountains sloping upward into the high tableland of central Mexico. I was flying by compass and successfully located the towns of Tepic and Guadalajara, and thought perhaps I would escape the fate that had been promised me, that of straying on the final stretch of the journey. But I suddenly realized there was a railroad beneath me which had no business being where it was if I were where I ought to be. I was flying at an altitude of more than 10,000 feet, with mountains and plains not far below me. I had counted on arriving before one o'clock Mexican time, but when that hour came I realized that, while probably near my destination, my exact location was uncertain. Just about then an insect, or possibly some infinitesimal speck of dirt, lodged in my eye. In addition to being extremely painful, that minute accident played havoc with my sight. So, with the maps, such as they were, blurred even to my "good eye," which at once went on strike in sympathy with its ailing mate, and having the feeling of being lost anyway, I decided to sit down and ask the way.
My landing place was a pasture not unreminiscent of another landing in Ireland, although here the cattle were stolidly indifferent to my arrival while their trans-Atlantic brethren (sistern?) raised a temperamental ruckus when my roaring motor disturbed their privacy. This field was decorated not with shamrock but by occasional cactus and prickly par. the near-by village, I found, was named Nopala, which means prickly pear. No sooner was i down, after brushing the field a couple of times to see if a landing was possible, than cowboys and villagers sprang up miraculously. They were helpful, polite and not at all astonished, even when their visitor turned out to be feminine. My picture was a dry lake-bed, not overly large, but level and reasonably free from dangerous obstructions. M Spanish does not exist, and none of the vaqueros spoke English. So our negotiations were mostly accomplished with signs and smiles, which sufficed well enough, particularly with a bright dark-skinned boy who established my location on the map, which turned out to be about fifty miles from Mexico City.
After taxing the ship to the end of the clear space, a couple of the more enthusiastic spectators rode to the middle of my "runway." confident they would be helpful there. To make it quite clear that such a location would be thoroughly unfortunate when my ship charged down on them for the take-off, it was necessary to climb out of the cockpit and plow afoot through the dust for further discussion. Once the point was well established, my friends withdrew to the sidelines and saw to it that the cattle, goats and children were herded to safety. Actually there was not much difficulty in getting into the air again and half an hour later I was given a more official welcome at the Capital.
The critical moment in the takeoff, when the tail wheel has just left the ground
and the rudders are just becoming effective. In Hawaii, the airplane got away from Amelia.
In ensuing days were a kaleidoscope of things done and seen, and hospitable people met. "Fun in Mexico" would be an appropriate title. President Lazaro Cardenas graciously extended official greetings and privileges. We barged through the flower-laden floating gardens of Xochimilco, a bucolic tropic Venice on the fringe of the Capital. We saw the Basque game, jai alai, a fast and furious glorified squash; and a charro fiesta, which is to say a cowboy exhibition, demonstrating that superb horsemanship is the same art the world over, needing, like music, no interpretation. Unfortunately opportunity lacked to discuss with women, as I would have liked to, their strivings and ambitions. What law and tradition permit them to do outside the home i am uncertain. While I met only sheltered women among the well-to-do, I saw many worn with the labor of farm life, and briefly touched a few groups of self-supporting city women workers. I saw enough of the spirit of the new Mexico, however, to want to know more of what reforms the new order holds for its women. I, for one, hope for the day when women will know no restrictions because of sex but will be individuals free to live their lives as men are free -irrespective of the continent or country where they happen to live. 
At a concert given in my honor I admired the cowboy regalia worn by the musicians. forthwith, to my embarrassment (and pleasure). I found that Secretary of State Portes Gil had ordained that I should have such a one for myself. this outfit is as traditional as the pink coat of the British huntsman or the kilts of the highlander. Mine, as delivered some days later, is a formal creation of blue and silver, topped by a picturesque sombrero, heavy with corresponding trimmings. How such a colorful costume may be adapted to flying is a sartorial problem I never mastered. Mine, alas, was a flying visit in both senses of the word. Scarcely had I slighted when the problems of departing pressed upon us. In Mexico City both the military and civilian airports are excellent. But at the mile-and-a-half altitude their runways, while ample for normal flying, were not as long as my overloaded plane required. So we explored the mud-caked flats which once had been the bottom of Lake Texcoco adjoining the metropolis and there on the lake-bed, aided by Mexican soldiers, who filled a ditch and shaved off hammocks, we contrived a home-made airport with a runway three miles in length.
I have often said the most potent letters in the alphabet of aviation are "w" and "p." In flyers' shorthand "wp" means "weather permitting." it's a wise pilot who prefaces announcem4nt of his plans with that proviso. For eight days in Mexico City "w" had not "p." Not until one o'clock in the morning of may ninth did I learn definitely that the elements had relented. Over the telephone from the Weather Bureau in New York Mr. Putnam gave me the final reports as prepared by our old friend Dr. James H. Kimball, dean of record flights. So I sent word out to the men at the plane to fill the ranks with the 470 gallons of gasoline required, while I curled up for a few hours' sleep. Then at four o'clock, Edmundo Rendon, our able interpreter, drove me to the home-made runway, staked out with flags for my guidance.
Earlier in the day Charles Baughan, a veteran Lockheed pilot who operates a sky-taxi service in Mexico City, had flown my plane from the Pan American hangar over to the level stretches of the lake-bed, whence the take-off was planned. The drums of gasoline already wee there, with soldiers, under the direction of Captain Casolando, to guard them and the plane, and to herd people, cows, horses and goats out of harm's way. Under the direction of Bauhan the "gassing up" was accomplished, while Casasolo, Pan American star mechanic, gave my Wasp motor its final check by the light of automobile headlights meagerly supplemented with the dim radiance of a very young moon.
That day I had breakfast in Mexico Cit and supper in New York - a very early breakfast, to be sure, and a decidedly late supper, for it was 10.30 when I landed at Newark, 2,185 miles to the north. It was a few minutes past six, Mexican time, when I took off. Although I used perhaps a full mile of the improvised runway the plane got into the air with surprising ease. My Vega was always doing that - surprising me with superb performance. Dire predictions had been made regarding that overload take-off in the rare air of an 8,000 foot altitude. But all i had to do was to keep the plane moving in a straight line and hold it on the ground until we'd built up a speed well over a hundred miles an hour - then it just flew itself into the air. Slowly I climbed to 10,000 feet, to skim over the mountains that hem in the high central valley where the city lies, separating it from the lands that slope down to the sea. majestic Popocatepetl raised its snowy head to the south, luminous in the rays of the rising sun. A fairyland of beauty lay below and about me - so lovely as almost to distract a pilot's attention from the task at hand, that of herding a heavy plane out of that great upland saucer and over the mountains that make its rim.
Seen from the air, all countries have characteristics peculiar to themselves. Ireland is recognizable by its green fields, white cottages, and thatched roofs. Like the ubiquitous baseball diamond of the United States, most Mexican towns have their unmistakable bull-ring sitting in the midst of adobe houses and walled gardens. these were vivid in my visual memories of that morning's flight. Once across the divide, clouds banked continuously below me, stretching down over the Gulf. I saw little but their fleecy contours with the exception of one brief glimpse of a group of oil tanks which I estimated to be close to Tampico. Thence I bore northeasterly in a straight line across the Gulf for New Orleans, a distance of about 799 miles. From New Orleans on, radio communication between my plane and airway stations below was constant. Indeed, our conversations were so continuous I felt as if I were more-or-less sliding home along a neighborly "party line."
All in all, the flight was marked by a delightful precision. Everything worked as it should. Its only exciting moments followed my landing at Newark when the crowd overflowed the field. In due course I was rescued from my plane by husky policemen, one of whom in the ensuing melee took possession of my right arm and another of my left leg. Their plan was to get me to the shelter of a near-by co-ordination. for the arm-older started to go one way while he who clasped my leg set out in the opposite direction. The result provided the victim with a fleeing taste of the tortures of the rack. but, at that, it was fine to be home again. 
Amelia Earhart - Part 2
Jane Resture's Oceania Page
Jane's Oceania Travel Page
Melanesia Origins
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