The broken wings of Amélia Earhart, aviation pioneer with a tragic fate

The broken wings of Amélia Earhart, aviation pioneer with a tragic fate

May 21, 1932, somewhere in the sky west of the British Isles. Flames erupt from the engines of his Lockhead Vega, a monoplane. Gasoline leaks in the cabin of the plane piloted by Amélia Earhart. It has been flying across the Atlantic for more than ten hours. Despite the tiredness, the aviation pioneer remains clear-eyed. She gets distracted and ends up safely in a field in Ireland. The trick resounds. Part of Newfoundland, Canada, and if Paris was originally targeted, the 35-year-old American has just completed a solo North Atlantic crossing.

“I am proud of my gender”

“She smiles when she recounts her adventures, she even smiles when she talks about the danger she faced, she smiles when she remembers how close she came to crashing her burning plane into the sea . She always smiles, because in this body with a fragile and delicate appearance hides a strong soul.” On May 31, 1932, the match reporter had no words to commend the achievement of Amélia Earhart.

Five years after Charles Lindbergh, young aviator Amélia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. The young woman, born in Kansas in 1897, fascinates in a man’s world. “I’m not a feminist in the political sense,” she explains to her interlocutor, “but I’m proud of my gender.”

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Amélia Earhart, who was quickly nicknamed “Lady Lindy” in reference to her male counterpart (Charles Lindbergh), with whom she shared certain physical traits according to the press of the time, appears to be playing with fire; However, she is not a hothead. She took flight lessons in 1921 before crossing the thresholds step by step. First at high altitude, with a flight at 4,300 meters – already a first for women – then a crewed transatlantic flight and a solo crossing of the Americas in 1928 – another first for women – four years before her flight that made her New in One of drove the newspapers to which she has been accustomed for ten years and her first record.

Her insatiable character drives her to constantly face new challenges. Especially since the audience is at the meeting point. For the pilot, who is married to a publisher, also writes successful books: 20 hr 40 min: Our Flight in the Friendship, published in 1928, recounting his manned Atlantic crossing, then The fun of it, 1932, a more personal essay.

Commercial issues for passenger transport

From 1936 she began to push ahead with an ambitious project: circumnavigating the world via the equator, which she initially wanted to accomplish alone. “An achievement of wholly commercial utility” and “the most extraordinary adventure an aviator has ever risked,” notes L’Excelsior of June 21, 1936. The era is then set to conquer the skies for passenger transport still largely dominated by rail and ocean liners . For this new mission, the native of Kansas has also acquired a Lockheed L-10 Electra, dubbed the “Flying Laboratory” by the pilot, “a transport aircraft that is roughly similar to all those that operate on American lines,” emphasizes Amélia Earhart journalists.

She departed westbound from Miami on June 1, 1937. After 32,800 kilometers and stations in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Suriname (then Dutch Guiana), Brazil, Senegal, Eritrea, India and Burma, then Java, Australia and New Guinea, the young woman completed three quarters of the course. Probably the most complicated part is yet to come: crossing the Pacific Ocean and a leg of more than 4,000 kilometers that will take her to the island of Howland, a tiny point in the expanse of the ocean.

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On the evening of July 2, Amélia Earhart, accompanied by the American pilot Fred Noonan, meets her fate. A tragic fate. The aviation pioneer and her pilot disappear with their body and property forever. The next day, the press is ecstatic and burns at this disappearance. Paris-Soir abounds in the July 4 issue of Le Matin, entitled “Amelia Earhart and her navigator have not yet been found,” always on the front page “Amelia Earhart Lost in the Pacific.” Subtitled with an emergency message that would have been intercepted: “I don’t see the country and only have half an hour of gas”. “It was yesterday (7:12 p.m. UTC), then nothing,” the daily concludes, developing this information on page 5 alongside an entire page devoted to the rise of Nazism and the rearmament of Germany.

Significant search resources were employed in the days that followed. It is believed for a time to have been taken in by an English ship and then taken refuge on an atoll in the Phoenix Islands. Her husband finances expeditions until October before realizing them. Proof that we were still hoping for a long time that the pilot was not officially declared dead until a year and a half later.

Research until 2019

In August 2019, Robert Duane Ballard, an American marine scientist, also from Kansas, to whom we owe the discovery of the wreck of the Titanic, took up the challenge of finding the Lockheed L-10 Electra. Without success. Many theories still circulate today, particularly about bones found on Nikumaroro Island. More likely, however, is that the ocean will keep its secret forever.

Amélia Earhart, she left a piece of history for humanity. “Adventure in itself is a rewarding cause,” she wrote. I leave you with another of these quotes: [Les femmes] receive more fame than men for similar achievements. But women, too, become better known when she spits herself.” Finally, leaving the conclusion to Walter J. Boyne, US Air Force pilot and book author: “Amelia Earhart was undoubtedly ahead of her time”. If she was way ahead, let’s say she didn’t lose it.