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It’s been 77 years since the famed female aviator Amelia Earhart attempted to circumnavigate the globe. Her plane mysteriously disappeared over the Pacific Ocean.
Tomorrow, a 31-year-old woman with the same first and last name will make the same journey in attempt to “close her flight plan.”
Amelia Rose Earhart, who recently found out that she is not related to the late aviator, will begin her journey from Oakland, California, circling the globe around the equator.
Although they are not related, Amelia says she is inspired by her name to make this expedition. She talks about her chance to become the youngest woman to circumnavigate a single-engine aircraft with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.
On learning that she was not related to Amelia Earhart
“A really good friend of mine who is a big supporter of the whole concept of the flight around the world had a really good point. He said to me, ‘Just because your name is Amelia Earhart, the FAA didn’t walk up to you and hand you a pilot’s license.’ He said, ‘You’ve still put the same amount of hard work into this process, you still understand the aircraft, and you’re still passionate about flight. So, absolutely, you’ve got to fly around the world.’ And that really sealed it for me.”
On her choice of a single engine aircraft to make the journey
“The reliability of a single engine aircraft today in 2014 is vastly different than it was back in the 1930s. So, while there is still a component of adventure with any flight over water, I felt most connected to the Pilatus. It’s a beautiful aircraft. The cockpit is absolutely state-of-the-art — we’ve got synthetic vision, we’ve got dual GPS. So, it’s very safe, but, I also had an interesting opportunity, in that if I completed this flight, I could be the youngest woman to ever fly a single engine airplane all the way around the globe.”
On being given the name Amelia Earhart
“Essentially, my parents say they felt that they had a great opportunity with my dad’s last name being Earhart. They said, listen, we could name our daughter something really strong with a great tie to history. We can give her a great role model and inspiration, but at the same time, we can also give her a name that literally no one she meets will ever forget. And that certainly is the case. It definitely leaves an impression.”
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
AMELIA EARHART: Contemplated course covers about 27,000 miles. It will be the first flight, if successful, which approximates the equator. Indeed, I cross the equator four times. I hope to fly from Oakland to Honolulu.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
That's Amelia Earhart back in 1936 announcing the route of her 1937 flight to circumnavigate the globe. She never completed that trip, of course her plane disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean and she was never seen again. Well, tomorrow, 77 years later, another woman by the name of Amelia Rose Earhart will try to complete the journey of her namesake. She is 31 and lives in Denver. We caught up with her in her car while she was doing some last minute prep for her expedition. And I started by asking her why she decided to re-create this flight.
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: You know, I've been flying for about 10 years now and having the name of Amelia Earhart has obviously been a big inspiration for me but when it came down to everything that I have in mind aviation wise, goal wise, it made the most sense for me to plan a grand adventure in an around the world flight. And really to symbolically complete the flight that Amelia couldn't finish on her own and close her flight plan. That's how I like to think of it. So we have that opportunity this summer.
HOBSON: And we should say you are not actually related to a Amelia Earhart although you thought you were for a long time.
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: I did. In fact, for the first 30 years of my life that's what I thought. And it was always oral tradition in my family that we somehow shared a distant common ancestry with Amelia. And when I was in college I hired a genealogist to do the research for me and help me to find that connection to history. And the woman that I hired said, you know, that distant common ancestry can be traced back to Pennsylvania but in order to find the real connection between the two of you, we'd need to go into the European records. which at the time was a little bit out of my budget as a college student. It would have been several thousand dollars. And so for me the distant common ancestry was enough. But last year about this time when I made the announcement that I wanted to fly around the world we got a lot of pressure from people and rightfully so to find the exact connection between myself and Amelia. So I hired a second genealogist, a real professional, who went back and tried to find the connection but unfortunately he couldn't. So it left me with a lot of questions, you know. Do I continue the flight? Do I continue my flight training process? And after a little bit of a struggle, you know, the answer was yes. And I feel like I got a closer connection to Amelia after losing that connection to her.
HOBSON: And why was the answer yes after you found out you weren't related?
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: You know, a really good friend of mine who's a big supporter of the whole concept of the flight around the world had a really good point. He said to me, you know, because your name is Amelia Earhart the FAA didn't walk up to you and hand you a pilot's license. He said, you've still put the same amount of hard work into this process, you still understand the aircraft and you're still passionate about flight, he said, so absolutely you've got to fly around the world. And that really sealed it for me.
HOBSON: What kind of training have you been doing to prepare for this?
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: Well, we've gone through training for the specific aircraft, the Pilatus PC-12 NG, which is a single engine turboprop aircraft that has a Pratt & Whitney PT-6 engine which is one of the most reliable airplanes and engines in the world. And the reason that we chose it was because flying around the world, you know, you need that reliability over this route. Eighty percent of the flight is over water with just one engine. So we went through aircraft training, we also went through open water survival course training - which is basically a simulation of an engine failure over the water. So you learn how to deal with the conditions, inflate a life raft safely and also use your survival gear. And we also went through dunker training. So you get dunked into a pool, flipped upside down in part of a fuselage of an airplane and you're taught how to exit the aircraft safely in case of a water emergency.
HOBSON: But in all of that, what's the longest distance you've flown? Nothing like what you're going to be flying in this trip.
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: Not quite. The longest flight I've ever made was a trip from Switzerland back to Denver, Colorado, when I ferried the aircraft back from the factory where it was made. And I picked up the aircraft and we basically crossed the North Atlantic by way of Prestwick, Scotland, Reykjavik, Iceland, Callowick, Canada then through Thunder Bay. And we went through some pretty intense conditions. It was 23 hours of flight and the temperature outside into Callowick was 40 below zero, actual air temperature. So it was cold and it was far. But this trip will more be hot temperatures around the equator and quite a bit longer. The entire trip is going to be about 24,300 nautical miles long.
HOBSON: And why did you decide on single engine aircraft unlike Amelia Earhart who was flying on a two engine plane?
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: Well, the reliability of single-engine aircraft today in 2014 is vastly different than it was back in the 1930s. So while there is still a component of adventure with any flight over water, I felt most connected to the Pilatus. You know, it's a beautiful aircraft. The cockpit is absolutely state-of-the-art. We've got synthetic vision, we've got dual GPS, so it's very safe but I also had an interesting opportunity in that that if I completed this flight I could be the youngest woman to ever fly a single engine airplane all the way around the globe.
HOBSON: But given the disaster that happened to the flight that you're re-creating wouldn't it be nice to have a second engine just in case?
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: It would. But at the same time we know we'll make it. We've seen so many single-engine airplanes make their way around the world and done so in a very safe manner. Honestly the safety of the flight really isn't a concern. We've trained and prepared for the worst but we won't have to go there.
HOBSON: So what are some of the stops that you're looking forward to on this trip?
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: So we've got an incredible route. We're going through 14 countries. We depart from Oakland, California, make our way across the U.S. and our first stop outside of the U.S. will be in Trinidad and Tobago. And from there we'll travel through Natal, Brazil, into Senegal and Sao Tome and one of the stops we're looking forward to the most is in Tanzania. We'll land at Kilimanjaro Airport and we'll have a view of Mount Kilimanjaro and also stay in a beautiful mud hut hotel which is going to be pretty exotic. And past that we'll have some beautiful scenes where we fly through the Sheshel Islands and then into the Maldives. But one of the areas that I'm looking forward to the most of course is flying over the South Pacific because that's where Amelia disappeared. After we depart out of Papua, New Guinea, we'll make our way towards Honolulu passing over Halland Island. And as we do so, that's really an exciting spot for me because we'll be out to hand out 10 flight scholarships to young women all across the U.S. that will learn that in honor of a Amelia Earhart and this flight around the world along with hers, they get to learn how to fly and get their private pilot's license.
HOBSON: And you're not at all afraid of that section of the South Pacific?
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: No. I mean, the fear there is counterbalanced by the safety and the reliability and the numbers behind the engines. I mean, I believe truly that we do have the perfect airplane for this flight.
HOBSON: Amelia Rose Earhart did you ever think of why your parents decided to name you that?
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: Absolutely. And I've asked them directly. We have conversations about it often, especially with the trip coming up. But essentially, my parents say, they felt that they had a great opportunity with my dad's last name being Earhart they said, listen - we could name our daughter something really strong with the great tide of history. We can give her a great role model and inspiration but at the same time we can also give her a name that literally no one she meets will ever forget and that certainly is the case it definitely leaves an impression.
HOBSON: Amelia Rose Earhart will be taking the flight around the world in an effort to become the youngest woman to fly around the world in a single engine aircraft and re-creating the flight that was taken many decades ago now, back in 1937 by the other Amelia Earhart. Amelia, thanks so much and best of luck.
AMELIA ROSE EARHART: Alright. Thank you so much.
HOBSON: And if you go to our website hereandnow.org you can find a map of exactly where Amelia Rose Earhart is going to fly. We've also got a link where you can see a live tracking page of the flight as it gets underway tomorrow - hereandnow.org. This is HERE AND NOW . Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.