Charles Lindbergh was the first person to fly an airplane solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Who was the second?
And the answer: Amelia Earhart.
In 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman, and second person, to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. On May 20, she left Newfoundland, Canada, and arrived a day later, landing in a cow pasture in Northern Ireland.
American aviatrix Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897. From a young age, Earhart was rambunctious and active – so much so, that her mother would often voice her concerns about Earhart's "un-ladylike" tendencies. However, that hardly slowed the soon-to-be pilot, and later in life it was her mother that financed much of the beginning of her flight career.
Interestingly, diaries that were posthumously published reveal that Earhart's first encounter with flight left her unimpressed. At the Iowa State Fair in 1908, Earhart describes the experience of looking at a plane as "a thing of rusty wire and wood."
It wasn't for many more years that Earhart discovered her passion for flying. However, within six months of taking her first lesson, Earhart had purchased her first plane: a used yellow Kinner Airster biplane she named The Canary. Earhart took lessons from another pioneering female pilot named Neta Snook, who was the first woman to run her own aviation business and commercial airfield.
Earhart was a social worker at Denison House in Boston when she was invited to fly across the Atlantic for the first time as a passenger in 1928. While she was thrilled to receive the invitation from promoter George Putnam, Earhart walked away from the experience feeling unaccomplished – even going so far as to refer to herself as a "sack of potatoes" for her little contribution to the flight.
However, when she returned home from her groundbreaking ride across the Atlantic, she was hailed as "Queen of the Air." She became an editor at Cosmopolitan, and earned a number of celebrity endorsements. She soon began to push for her own flying achievements, and in 1928 Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent and back. In 1931, she set a world altitude record of 18,415 feet. On May 20, 1932, Earhart set off on the trip that would later become her greatest achievement: a solo flight across the Atlantic.
Earhart's final big flight was a doozy: a trip around the world. However, it was during this endeavor that the pilot met her famous end. In a loss of communication near her destination, Earhart's plane disappeared. It has never been recovered. In a letter written to her husband to be read in the case of her death, Earhart writes:
Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.
Learn more about the pioneering pilot here.