Amelia Earhart profiled on “American Experience”

Amelia Earhart - Oakland to Honolulu flightIt’s unfortunate that Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) is best remembered for the  mystery surrounding her final ill-fated flight, because she lived an  extraordinary life, full of accomplishment.. On Monday, February 22nd at 9:00  pm, PBS examines the story of America’s most celebrated female aviator on “American Experience: Amelia Earhart.” The 2009 documentary is written and  directed by Nancy Porter, and narrated by Academy Award winning actress Kathy  Bates.

While attending an air show in 1920, 23 year-old Amelia paid five dollars  for a ride on a biplane, an experience that convinced her that she had found her  life’s passion. Earhart started taking flying lessons at a Los Angeles airfield  and, after gaining her pilots license in December of 1921, worked a wide variety  of jobs to raise the funds to purchase her first plane, “The Canary.” She first  attracted national attention in 1928 when she was selected by publicist George  Putnam to join a crew on a cross Atlantic flight as a passenger, probably chosen  as much for her all-American looks and persona as for her experience as a flyer.  The success of the flight made Amelia world renown as the “first woman to fly  the Atlantic,” and Putnam, who became her manager as well as her husband,  promoted her as the “Lady Lindy,” an inevitable comparison to Charles Lindberg.  In May of 1932, Earhart completed her own solo Atlantic crossing, flying from  Newfoundland to Ireland, the first female to do so.

The next five years were busy ones for Amelia, as she became a popular  lecturer, a writer of books, and a avid advocate for commercial air travel while  continuing to set flying records, and aviation firsts, including a Oakland to  Honolulu solo trip that set a mark for speed. Throughout the middle 1930’s  Earhart was a familiar figure to movie-goers, as her photogenic looks and  engaging personality made her a favorite of the newsreels of the day. In 1937,  she embarked on her greatest challenge, attempting to fly around the world at  the equator, starting her west to east journey from Florida. Earhart, along with  her navigator Fred Noonan, completed 22,000 of the 29,000 mile journey, making  it to New Guinea, but on July 2, 1937, all radio contact with the pair was lost,  and Amelia Earhart was gone without a trace.

To this day, questions, speculations and even some urban legends continue to  surround Earhart’s disappearance, and although the real truth of her fate may  never be learned, her legacy as a promoter of commercial aviation and the  advancement of women is a lasting one.