OAKLAND, California — With her parents among the crowd of supporters present, globe-trotting pilot Amelia Rose Earhart fulfilled the significance of her name when she landed at the Oakland Airport on Friday evening.
“I feel like we’ve brought Amelia Earhart home to Oakland,” she said at the completion of her 24,300-mile journey. “She brought me all this way, and I got to carry her forward.”
In honor of her namesake, she symbolically finished the 1937 global flight the famed aviatrix tragically failed to complete.
When her plane descended from the clear sky, her mother Deborah Dale was waiting on tiptoes and at the brink of tears. Once Earhart got off the plane, she bypassed the swarming media to hug her mother and her father, Glen Earhart.
“I have goose bumps. The hairs are standing up on my arm,” Dale said. “I am so proud of her.”
Earhart has come a long way from the days when the famous name her mother gave her used to embarrass her, so she went by Amy instead. People would always ask if she was a pilot. She would answer no, until she thought, “Why not?”
She earned her license at 21 after juggling multiple jobs and her studies at the University of Colorado Boulder to pay for flight lessons.
Now the 31-year-old lives in Denver and runs a nonprofit, the Fly With Amelia Foundation, which sends girls aged 16 to 18 to flight school. She hopes her story and around-the-world flight will inspire girls to fly.
“Who knew she was going to do the obvious and fly,” Dale said. “She did this because she has something to give.”
Her journey could be followed through her web site and by using the Twitter hashtag #flywithamelia.
“We just circled Howland Island. I’ve always respected AE and her bravery, but seeing this tiny island takes it to a whole new level,” Earhart tweeted July 9.
Her hands shook not from feeling fear, she said, but from forging a deeper connection with her namesake while flying over the atoll in the central Pacific Ocean where the original Earhart disappeared.
“As we left, I thought this is no longer Amelia’s flight,” she said. “This is my flight. We’re carrying it forward from Howland Island from where she left off. And so from that moment on it kind of had this new surge of adventure.”
Her predecessor and navigator Fred Noonan used the stars, maps and Morse code — antiquated compared with Earhart and her co-pilot Shane Jordan’s GPS, laptop and other modern equipment.
She began her journey just 18 days earlier on June 26. Several folks who watched her Pilatus PC-12 lift into the sky that day returned to welcome her back.
Elwood A. Ballard was 7 years old when he watched Amelia Mary Earhart take off from Oakland. Now at 84, he watched Amelia Rose Earhart take off last month and touch down Friday. Upon her return, he presented her with a bouquet of roses.
“I’ve been waiting 77 years for this,” Ballard said. “After all these years, never thought that I would see the day.”
Seven-year-old twins Natalie and Addison Boland of Thousand Oaks jumped up and screamed, “Amelia!” when she landed. They gave her cards, drawings and a paper airplane.
“She’s really cool because she believed in herself that she could fly around the world,” Sadie York, 6, of Los Gatos, said. She did a report on the original Amelia and wants to be a pilot.
The Oakland homecoming was the final stop on a trip that included stops in 14 countries. The local Civil Air Patrol welcomed Earhart with flags from each country she visited.
“There were special little moments during the trip, like the controllers all the way between Honolulu to (Oakland) were wishing us luck and were saying this is great what you’re doing for young women,” Earhart said. “It felt like we really did honor Amelia.”
Earhart, a former traffic and weather reporter, has more on her bucket list. In addition to running her foundation, she plans to tour, write aviation books and get her commercial pilot’s license, but she is open to other opportunities.
She keeps a jar for loose change labeled “Space Jar.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services