Amelia Mary Earhart (1897 – disappeared, 1937) was a pioneer American aviator and author who made enormous contribution to the field of female aviation and created numerous records as a pilot. Her most famous achievement was her solo flight across the Atlantic in 1932 making her the second person and the first woman to achieve the feat. Among other things, she was the first woman to pilot an autogyro and the first woman to fly nonstop coast-to-coast across continental United States. Amelia Earhart was a passionate advocate of female pilots and was instrumental in the establishment of Ninety-Nines, an international organization devoted to female aviation. She was also a successful writer who wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences. Here are the 10 major accomplishments of Amelia Earhart including her records, the awards and honors she received, and her contribution to aviation.

 

#1 She worked as a nurse’s aide in a military hospital in Canada during WWI

In 1917, 20-year-old Amelia Earhart went to Toronto in Canada to visit her younger sister, who was studying there. World War I was going on and Amelia was affected by the sight of hundreds of wounded soldiers who returned from battle. She received training as a nurse’s aide from the Red Cross and worked at the Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto as part of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) program. Amelia was engaged in arduous nursing duties which included night shifts. She fell ill herself but recovered in about two months.

Amelia Earhart as a trainee nurse
Amelia Earhart as a trainee nurse

 

#2 She set a women’s altitude world record by flying to a height of 14,000 feet

Earhart began taking flying lessons in January 1921; and in six months she bought her first airplane, a second-hand Kinner Airster two-seater biplane, which she nicknamed “The Canary”. On October 22, 1922, Amelia Earhart flew The Canary to an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,300 m), setting a world record for female pilots. On May 15, 1923, she became the 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI; The World Air Sports Federation).

Amelia Earhart with her Kinner Airster
Amelia Earhart in front of her Kinner Airster nicknamed The Canary

 

#3 Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, albeit as a passenger

In 1927, American aviator Charles Lindbergh made headlines all over the world by making the first solo transatlantic flight. Amy Phipps Guest wanted to be the first woman to make the flight across the Atlantic but her family objected as the trip was considered to be too dangerous. She instead decided to sponsor the project. Earhart was invited to be the first women to fly across the Atlantic and she accepted the risk. The team departed from Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland, Canada on June 17, 1928, and reached Burry Port, Wales, UK approximately 21 hours later. Earhart traveled merely as a passenger and the aircraft Friendship was piloted by Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon. Nevertheless, she still became an international celebrity as three pilots had died within the year trying to be that first women to fly across the Atlantic.

The New York Times on Amelia Earhart's 1928 transatlantic flight
The New York Times report on Earhart becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in 1928

 

#4 She set an autogyro altitude record by taking it to unprecedented height of 18,415 ft

On 24th August 1928, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent and back. In August 1929, she took part in Women’s Air Derby, the first official women-only air race in the United States, and ended up in the third place. On June 25, 1930, Earhart set the women’s speed record for 100 kilometers with no load and with a load of 500 kilograms. 10 days later, she set the women’s world speed record of 181.18 mph over a 3-kilometer course. In 1931, she became the first woman to pilot an autogyro, a form of aircraft with freely rotating horizontal blades and a propeller. On April 8, 1931, Amelia Earhart set an altitude record for autogyros of 18,415 feet.

Amelia Earhart with an aurtogyro
Amelia Earhart with the Pitcairn PCA-2 aurtogyro

 

#5 She was instrumental in the establishment of Ninety-Nines and served as its first President

Ninety-Nines: International Organization of Women Pilots was founded on November 2, 1929 in New York for mutual support and advancement of women pilots. Amelia Earhart was a founding member of Ninety-Nines and she was the one who suggested naming the organization after the 99 licensed women pilots who were its charter members. In 1931, Earhart was elected the first President of the organization and she remained a leading supporter of women pilots through her life. Today, Ninety-Nines has thousands of members from 44 countries.

Amelia Earhart with Ninety-Nines' members
Amelia Earhart and other Ninety-Nines’ members pose in front of a plane

 

#6 Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic

On the afternoon of May 20, 1932, the fifth anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s solo transatlantic flight, Amelia Earhart set off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, Canada intending to land in Paris. After a flight lasting 14 hours, 56 minutes during which she contended with strong northerly winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems, Earhart landed in a pasture at Culmore, north of Derry, Northern Ireland. She thus became the first female aviator and the second person to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean. She also became the first person to fly the Atlantic twice.

Amelia Earhart after her solo transatlantic flight
Amelia Earhart arrives in Culmore, Northern Ireland after her solo flight across the Atlantic

 

#7 She broke a number of records during her illustrious aviation career

On August 24–25, 1932, Amelia Earhart flew from Los Angeles, California to Newark, New Jersey becoming the first woman to fly nonstop coast-to-coast across continental United States. She flew 2,447.8 miles in just 19 hrs 5 min setting the record for the fastest nonstop transcontinental flight by a woman. On July 7–8, 1933, Earhart broke her previous transcontinental speed record by making the same flight in 17hrs 7min. In 1935, on January 11–12, she became first person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California; on April 19–20, she became first person to fly solo from Los Angeles, California to Mexico City, Mexico; and on May 8, she became first person to fly solo nonstop from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey. On March 17, 1937, Earhart flew from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii in 15 hours and 47 minutes, setting a speed record for east-to-west flight. In 1937, Earhart also became the first person to fly solo from the Red Sea to Karachi in British India during her doomed circumnavigation of the earth in the course of which she disappeared and was never seen again.

Herbert Hoover presenting the National Geographic Society gold medal to Amelia Earhart
President Herbert Hoover presenting the National Geographic Society gold medal to Amelia Earhart

 

#8 Amelia Earhart was a best selling author

Amelia Earhart was a successful writer who wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences. Two books written by her were published during her lifetime: 20 Hrs., 40 Min. (1928), a journal of her experiences as a passenger in the Friendship, which made her the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air; and The Fun of It (1932), a memoir of her flying experiences and an essay on women in aviation. A third book titled Last Flight (1937) was complied and published by her husband George Putnam after her disappearance in July 1937. It contained journal entries she sent back to US during her world flight attempt. Earhart also wrote magazine articles, newspaper columns and essays; and was aviation editor for Cosmopolitan magazine from 1928 to 1930.

 

#9 She was the first woman to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross

Last Flight by Amelia Earhart
Book Cover of Last Flight (1937) by Amelia Earhart

In 1932, for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, the US Congress awarded Amelia Earhart the Distinguished Flying Cross “for heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight”. She was also awarded the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from President Herbert Hoover; and the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government. Earhart was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross and National Geographic Society’s Gold Medal. She was decorated with numerous other honors during her lifetime and after being declared dead in 1939. In 1968, she was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and in 1973, she became a Member of National Women’s Hall of Fame.

#10 She is regarded as a leading feminist icon

In 1929, Earhart was elected as an official for National Aeronautic Association, the oldest national aviation club in the United States. She encouraged the establishment of separate world altitude, speed and endurance records for women; and was instrumental in the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) accepting a similar international standard. Amelia Earhart was a passionate advocate of not only female pilots but of all women and their rights. Her life and accomplishments inspired a generation of female aviators; and served as a motivation for women to excel in their chosen profession. Amelia Earhart was an international celebrity during her lifetime and she is considered one of the leading feminist icons of the twentieth century.

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