Explorers Heroes

Amelia Earhart

by William from Maine

Amelia and her Lockheed Electra
Amelia and her Lockheed Electra

What is a hero? I consider a hero someone who has helped the world and left it better than it was when he or she started with it. They worked hard, and they achieved something extraordinary. This could mean many things. Did they inspire one person? Did they affect millions of people? Did they simply offer compliments, or did they save the world from war? The meaning of the word hero is open to consideration. A hero is in the eye of the beholder, which is why one person’s hero may not be everyone’s. There is a certain beauty to words like “hero”, in that they are open to thought and do not have a single, strict definition. There are very few of these words to be sure, so recognizing that beauty, and applying it to a person, is a critical part of what a hero is.

To me, Amelia Earhart is a hero because she overcame problems that would have defeated other people, and she always tried her hardest. She inspired a countless amount of people with her love for aviation. Amelia Earhart was charismatic, courageous, independent, and perseverant. She was a highly esteemed and loved aviatrix, one of the most famous people of her day. It was difficult for even male aviators to get such respect as she did during her life.

Earhart had a very interesting life, both public and personal. Her grandparents were esteemed citizens of Atchison, Kansas, the town that she was born in. She therefore had privileged early years, attending private schools and having an overall good time. But her life wasn’t all trouble-free. Her father was not as successful as her grandparents had hoped he would be. He had difficulties with his job and alcoholism (Biography). Amelia would also face and contend with prejudice and many other obstacles for her whole life.

Amelia saw her first airplane at the Iowa State fair at the age of 10. She was not attracted by it at all, saying, "It was a thing of rusty wire and wood and looked not at all interesting" (Official Website). It wasn’t until about a decade later that she actually became interested in flying. She was visiting an air show and one of the pilots of the planes saw her watching with her friends from a remote clearing, so he dove at them, probably trying to impress or scare them. Amelia stood her ground. It was at this time that the door was opened and she realized the aviator inside of her. "I did not understand it at the time," she said, "but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by" (Wikipedia). Amelia was hooked. She had several odd jobs so that she could pay for flying lessons. She was well on her way to what she was destined to become from the beginning.

In 1928, she received a phone call from a man named H. H. Railey. He asked her "How would you like to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic?" to which she enthusiastically responded, “Yes!” (Official Website). During an interview with the project’s coordinators, one of which, George P. Putnam, would be her future husband, they asked her if she would like to fly across the Atlantic Ocean with Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon. She gratefully accepted. During the flight, however, the only thing that she got to do was keep the flight log. She later said, “I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes.” She was frustrated that she did not actually get to fly and believed that she was only on the flight for publicity (Greenwood, 73). However, she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, even if she was only a passenger. Amelia had now achieved celebrity status in America, advertising clothing, luggage, and many other products.

After her flight, she was touring the United States, publicizing her new book and celebrating the achievement of conquering the Atlantic. George Putnam often accompanied her on these trips, organizing and planning her appearances, and they became close friends. Eventually, Putnam got a divorce from his wife. He then proposed to Amelia, however, it wasn’t until the sixth time that Amelia actually accepted to marry him, and even then, she was hesitant. She was afraid that she would lose her freedom to her husband. However, Putnam was a perfect match for her, and loved her until the end.

By 1932, no one since Charles Lindberg had flown solo across the Atlantic Ocean by plane. Amelia wanted to change this. On the 5th anniversary of Lindbergh’s flight, she took off from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, and hours later, plagued by weather, mechanical difficulties, and a host of other problems, landed near Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Upon landing and climbing out of her plane, she asked the astonished farmhand on site where she was. The man replied, "In Gallegher's pasture...have you come far?” She replied, "From America."(Biography), (Official Website).

In 1937, Amelia wanted to have one last big flight, a flight around the world. This flight was to become one of the most controversial tragedies in U.S history. For this all-important event, she chose acclaimed aviation navigator Fred Noonan and Hollywood stunt pilot Paul Mantz as her accomplices. On their first attempt, they were flying from east to west, starting in Oakland, California. However, in Hawaii, her plane crashed on takeoff after refueling. Amelia however, was not discouraged. She attempted the flight a second time, but now flying from west to east, starting in May and with only Noonan aboard. They arrived at Lea, New Guinea after flying for 22,000 miles. They were now ready to begin the final 7,000-mile leg of the journey across the Pacific Ocean. Earhart and Noonan were scheduled to land on Howland Island, a small, obscure little island that is 1 ½ miles long and ½ a mile wide, to refuel. The U.S Coast Guard ship Itasca and several other ships were to be stationed on her flight route and around the island, helping guide the plane in to land. However, Earhart and Noonan encountered communications difficulties and clouds on their approach. The Itasca could hear Earhart clearly, but she was not receiving any of the messages sent to her. Earhart was reported to have said, "We must be on you, but cannot see you—but gas is running low. Have been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet." Amelia’s last known transmission was "We are running on line north and south" (Wikipedia). After this, nothing else was heard from the plane. The search efforts for Earhart and Noonan were begun immediately, and they were the most intensive in U.S history. None of them were successful. Even up to this very day, after many more searches and expeditions, it is still a mystery as to what happened to Earhart and Noonan, and it will mostly likely remain that way for the foreseeable future.

As you have seen, Amelia Earhart was definitely worthy to be the subject of this essay. She will inspire many generations to come with her magnetic, captivating personality and perseverance. She was an aviation pioneer, and without her, many people’s lives would not have been what they are. She was inspiring, she was loved, and she was a hero.

Page created on 12/9/2009 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 12/9/2009 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Extra Info

"Amelia Earhart -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 18 Oct. 2009.

The Official Website of Amelia Earhart. CMG Worldwide. Web. 18 Oct. 2009.

"Amelia Earhart - biography." Ellen's Place - art, photography, biographies, travel, history. Web. 18 Oct. 2009.

Greenwood, John T., ed. Milestones of Aviation. Newly Expanded ed. Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 1995. Print.