Amelia Earhart, the pioneering female pilot, achieved enduring fame with the many aviation records she set during the 1920s and ’30s. Early in her career she achieved an impressive feat when she became the first woman to receive a pilot’s license from the distinguished National Aeronautic Association, on May 16, 1923. In 1928 she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic by plane when she flew as part of the crew (her duty was to keep the flight log) with Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon.
That successful airplane flight obviously whetted her appetite for aviation, and four years later Earhart made a bold attempt to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo. This daring flight feat had only been accomplished once before, by Charles Lindbergh in 1927.
On 20 May 1932, the fifth anniversary of Lindberg’s famous flight, Earhart departed Newfoundland, Canada in her 600-horsepower Lockheed Vega to cross the vast ocean with 420 gallons of gasoline and a quart of chicken soup. Her goal destination was Paris, but after 14 hours and 56 minutes of fighting strong winds and some slight mechanical problems, she settled for landing her plane in Derry, Northern Ireland. She had done it—the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic! For this 15-hour feat of endurance and pluck she became the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the flight cemented her fame.
Earhart later told reporters, “I was never in Ireland before, but the sight of the thatched cottages and the marvelous green grass and trees left me no doubt that I had actually made the Emerald Isle. I was still surer when I heard the brogue of my friend Dan McCallion.”
After spending the day in Derry, Earhart traveled first to England and then to Paris, where the French Government awarded her with The Cross of the Legion of Honor. When she returned to America, President Hoover bestowed upon her the National Geographical Medal, and Congress awarded her the Flying Cross.
In 1937, Amelia Earhart set herself the challenge of being the first woman to fly around the world. This challenge, however, would prove too great and she disappeared after taking off from Lae New Guinea, bound for Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A rescue attempt lasted 17 days and scoured more than 250,000 square miles of ocean, but she was never found.
The aviator remains a household name in the U.S, and an airport in her home state of Kansas was named in her honor.