'This is what I must do'

Namesake pursues Amelia Earhart's dream

December 29, 2011

A Denver TV news reporter with a distinctly aeronautical name is reaching for a future in aviation modeled on an ancestor’s historic past.

KUSA-TV 9News reporter Amelia Rose Earhart says she “knew” after taking a first flight lesson in 2004 that she and her famous ancestor had more than a name in common. Now a private pilot training for an instrument rating, Earhart launched Dec. 26 on the first legs of a flight designed to recreate some of the milestones that led up to Amelia Mary Earhart’s 1937 attempt to encircle the globe.

Piloting a glass-cockpit Cirrus SR22, and accompanied by her instrument flight instructor, John Post, Earhart departed from Denver’s Centennial Airport for Oakland, Calif. From there the plan was to proceed—step by step—to Miami, Fla., where, after a similar flight in 1937, the legendary Earhart announced her grand plan to fly a twin-engine Lockheed Electra Model 10 airplane around the globe.

As you would expect from a pilot who works in mass media and has covered every kind of news from the crime beat to weather in aircraft—including six years reporting news from helicopters—Earhart makes it a snap to follow her exploits through a flight-journal blog with photos, wing-mounted video, and Skype reports. KUSA was carrying daily updates of her progress.

“This will be the first of many planned long-distance flights for Amelia, all in preparation for her own attempt to circumnavigate the globe in a single-engine aircraft,” said the announcement of Earhart’s flying.

In a phone interview, Earhart told AOPA that in addition to her work as a broadcast journalist, and her long-range plans in aviation, she is also working on a degree in broadcast meteorology through Mississippi State University—surely a plus for the kind of flying she has in mind.

For Earhart, the Oakland-to-Miami flight legs provided an opportunity to bite off a large chunk of cross-country experience toward her instrument rating while re-creating aviation history. Her appetite was already whetted for the instrument project by a pre-Christmas flight from Washington, D.C., to Denver, during which she got a first taste of piloting the Cirrus in instrument meteorological conditions, logging 3.5 hours of IMC in the care of CFII Post, of Independence Aviation.

If Earhart can stay on schedule, the plan is to finish her IFR training and take the checkride in January, she said. Having “blasted through” her private pilot training in about a month, she recognized that she needs more hours and some real-world experience which the current flying project should provide. More experience-building projects will follow (check that blog for details).

As for that ultimate goal of embarking on a world-circling flight, she’s not rushing things. A target date of 2016 works for now, she said.

Meanwhile, instrument-pilot training definitely appeals.

“It’s more enjoyable than even private pilot training was,” she said. “I like the precision of it. There’s a place you are supposed to be at all times.”

Studying meteorology and being able to inspect the weather firsthand helps her “feel a lot smarter as a pilot,” she added.

The bows to history began as soon as the post-Christmas flight launched, with the re-creation of an “iconic” Earhart image aloft above the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and then a hop to Burbank, where her ancestor did much of her flight training in the 1930s.

“The town is filled with Amelia photos,” she said.

There, Amelia Rose Earhart also had a visit from her mother, who drove from San Diego to share a meal and inspect the SR22 in which her daughter was undertaking her grand adventure.

Once Miami-bound, Earhart planned to pay homage to her forebear in Tucson, Ariz., where she would also get her first glimpse of a Lockheed Electra at the Pima Air and Space Museum.

Next it would be on to Austin, Texas, for an air-to-air photography session—and for some aeronautical variety, a ride in a P-51 Mustang.

After that: New Orleans. Earhart was especially focused on the leg that would follow that arrival—an overflight of the Gulf of Mexico en route to Florida and a first taste of lengthy overwater flight in a single-engine airplane.

On Friday, Dec. 30, in Miami, Earhart announced her next flight goal on the road to accomplishing the ultimate objective of circling the globe: a Washington, D.C.-to-Paris flight to take place some time in 2012. Then, on returning to Denver, she talked about her just-completed flight, and her plans, with colleagues at KUSA.

Asked about her ties to Amelia Mary Earhart, the young pilot described the relationship as “distant,” forged by common ancestry and a shared surname.

More important, perhaps, is that Amelia Mary Earhart stands out as “a positive female role model” and the inspiration to follow a dream. 

Amelia Rose Earhart and her mother

Amelia Rose Earhart and her mother. Photo courtesy of Amelia Rose Earhart.

The exhortation to follow the dream is strong in Amelia’s exuberant accounts of flights newly completed and those that await. That she revels in all things aeronautical is inescapable, whether via a quick phone chat, or a visit to her website—but it comes through especially poignantly in the Day Two installment of her flight journal as she described her mother’s inspection of the SR22.

“As she crawled in the plane, she asked lots of safety-related Mom questions, but she also told me that she loves seeing me happy, adventurous and spending lots of time in the plane,” Earhart wrote.

“She beamed as we went over GPS buttons, auto-pilot settings, the PFD and the headsets. My mom gets what I mean when I tell her that this is what I must do. Thank you, Mom, for instilling in me a desire to soar.”

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.