History : Jul-Aug 2019
Fateful Final Flight Earhart’s achievements in aviation had already made her an international house- hold name when, in 1937, she set out to become the first woman to fly around the world, a grueling 29,000-mile eastbound journey that roughly followed the Equator. A failed attempt in March damaged her plane, but after repairs, she and her nav- igator, Fred Noonan, departed from Oak- land, California, on May 21. After 22,000 miles, 40 days, and more than 20 stops, they arrived in Lae, on the eastern coast of Papua New Guinea. On the morning of July 2, Earhart and Noonan began what was expected to be the hard- est leg of their trip: to Howland Island, a 1.5-mile-long coral atoll in the central Pacific Ocean. More than 2,500 miles of ocean stretched between Lae and the re- mote spit of land that was their next stop to refuel. O n July 2, 1937, Amelia Ear- hart flew toward Howland Island, one of the last stops on her attempt to circum- navigate the globe. Nearing the tiny Pacific atoll, she radioed the Itas- ca, a United States Coast Guard cutter anchored off Howland’s coast, to ask it to guide her onto land with radio signals. “KHAQQ (the Lockheed Electra 10E’s call sign) calling Itasca: We must be on you but cannot see you ... gas is running low ... been unable to reach you by radio ... we are flying at 1,000 feet.” Earhart’s last confirmed message in- dicated that she was flying on a north- west-to-southeast navigational line that bisected the island, but she did not indi- cate in which direction she was heading. After that communication at 8:43 a.m., radio contact was lost, and no one knows what happened next. The Mystery of Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight The aviator was nearing the end of her round-the-world flight when her plane vanished over the Pacific in July 1937. More than eight decades later, the mystery of her disappearance—and the quest to solve it—still survive. RECORD-BREAKER DMTRI KESSEL/LIFE/GETTY IMAGES FLYING CROSS GRANTED TO AMELIA EARHART BY THE U.S . CONGRESS ENIGMAS AS WELL AS being the first woman to complete record-breaking solo flights, Earhart was also the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded to her in 1932 for “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” A co-founder of the all-female aviators’ club the Ninety-Nines, Earhart strove to open up aviation to as many women as possible.