81st Anniversary Of Amelia Earhart's Transatlantic Flight Observed
May 22, 2013

81st Anniversary Of Amelia Earhart’s Transatlantic Flight Observed

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

While May 20th may have come and gone just like any other day this year, the day stands out as a landmark date in aviation history for not one, but two events, both occurring exactly five years apart.

It was 86 years ago this week that Michigan-native Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic — from New York to Paris — in his Spirit of St. Louis aircraft in 33.5 hours. Lindbergh officially became the first person to fly nonstop on a transatlantic flight on May 21, 1927 after landing in Paris, France safely.

Five years later, on exactly the same date (May 20, 1932), Kansas-native Amelia Earhart became the first women to fly solo across the Atlantic, paying tribute to the anniversary of Lindbergh´s successful flight. Earhart took off from Newfoundland on May 20 and landed the next day in Ireland. While she was forced to land short of Paris due to bad weather, her accomplishments were no small feat, flying more than 2,000 miles nonstop.

Earhart, labeled as America´s ℠Queen of the Air,´ landed her state-of-the-art airplane in a small field just outside Londonderry. The people of Derry — many of whom had not even the luxury of owning cars at the time — flocked to the scene to see the aviation pioneer, according to a BBC News report.

The anniversary of Earhart´s transatlantic flight is celebrated annually in Derry as part of the UK´s City of Culture Festival.

Perhaps, Earhart´s 1932 tribute flight would not have come to pass if it were not for a set of events that put the plan in motion.

Shortly after Lindbergh´s novel flight, Amy Phipps Guest (1873-1959) expressed interest in becoming the first woman to fly (or be flown) across the Atlantic Ocean. However, after it was deemed to perilous of a mission for her to undertake at the time, she decided to sponsor the project, suggesting “another girl with the right image” be selected for the task.

Captain Hilton H. Railey, tasked with finding a suitable replacement, looked to Earhart in April 1928, asking her if she would “like to fly the Atlantic?”

Publisher and publicist George P. Putnam, along with other project coordinators, interviewed Earhart and asked her to accompany pilot William Stultz and copilot Louis Gordon on the flight. She was nominally appointed as a passenger, but was also in control of the flight log. The trio left Newfoundland on June 17, 1928 and landed nearly 21 hours later in Wales, UK.

After landing in Wales, Earhart told reporters that she had not assisted with any flying, as she had not been trained on the particular instrumentation implemented. She did, however, express interest that she would like to someday take the flight alone.

She got that chance on May 20, 1932.

Earhart intended to fly her single engine Lockheed Vega 5B from Newfoundland to Paris, emulating Lindbergh´s flight five years earlier, but was forced to land nearly 500 miles short of her destination due to inclement weather. The flight lasted 14 hours and 56 minutes. She noted later that she was faced with strong northerly winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems throughout the flight.

Despite landing short of the scheduled distance, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic nonstop. For her achievement she was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French government and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society (NatGeo) from then-President Herbert Hoover.

Earhart would later go on to attempt to be the first women to fly around the world. Her dreams were lost when she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, crashed somewhere in the Pacific on July 2, 1937.