Taking the Long Way
One great challenge remained for all flyers, men and women: Hying around the world at its greatest distance—the equator. In 1937, backed, and some say prodded, by her publicity-savvy publisher husband George Putnam, Earhart took off on a journey westward from Oakland, California. Putnam was already prepared to cash in on his wife’s flight. His plans included a lucrative lecture circuit after her return, book and magazine deals, and hundreds of “First Day Covers” on board her flight to be sold to avid stamp collectors later. But this attempt ended in a crash when Amelia botched a takeoff from Honolulu on the second leg of the journey. The flight began again later that year, this time heading eastward from Miami.
On board for her world-circling flight was navigator Fred Noonan. Noonan was a former sailor and one-time navigation instructor for Pan American Airways, an airline that flew long international routes every day, including some of the very same hops that Earhart would fly. Few could outnavigate Fred Noonan, but few could outdrink him, either. His reputation as a drunk nearly cost him the job as Amelia’s navigator and has been invoked frequently in the conjecture over what led to their disappearance.
When Amelia and Noonan made their around-the-world flying attempt, they flew a Lockheed Eicctra 10-E equipped with radioi that were primitive by today’s standards. In 1997, 60 years after Earhart’s doomed flight, pilot Linda Finch successfully retraced the flight, this time equipped with modern navigation equipment and larger fuel tanks.
Amelia Earhart had conquered the Atlantic Ocean, but one challenge remained for woman pilots—circling the globe. She captured the imagination of the world with her daring, then sparked decades of speculation when she vanished.