April 2, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
Denver television reporter and private pilot Amelia Rose Earhart has announced plans to create the Fly with Amelia Foundation, a Colorado nonprofit organization that will provide aviation opportunities, free aviation-based educational curriculum to grades K-12, and scholarships to fund flight training for young women.
The foundation will work in partnership with the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum to engage the community in flight-based educational activities and promote the future of general aviation through the re-creation and symbolic completion of Amelia Earhart’s 1937 flight around the world in 2014, said Earhart.
“Being a namesake of Amelia Earhart has given me so many unique aviation opportunities, from flying in an F-16 at Buckley Air Force Base, to spending over 4,000 hours in a helicopter working as an aerial television reporter, to flying everything from the Extra 330 to the Cirrus SR22Turbo,” said Earhart. “I wanted to find a way to help others gain access to aviation. Flying makes me feel alive and giving others the opportunity to feel that same joy is something that I have always wanted to do.”
Small children are told they can be anything they want to be—doctors, lawyers, fighter pilots, and scientists, said Earhart. “As we develop and mature through our school years, we are more and more [led] toward careers that will simply pay the bills and get the job done,” she said. “Aviation is a career that can inspire our deepest longings to pursue new heights, experience amazing views, and travel the world, but it can also fulfill career goals and allow one to make a great living. Especially with the upcoming pilot shortage, aviation needs to be an option that students are prepared for and inspired by at a young age.”
Earhart said that the fact that she still gets surprised looks when people hear she is a pilot is a problem. “Female aviators are still a novelty, yet we possess the same skill, knowledge, competency as male aviators,” she said. “The first Amelia Earhart said, ‘my ambition is to have this wonderful gift produce practical results for the future of commercial flying and for the women who want to fly tomorrow's planes.’”
Each flight training scholarship will be approximately $8,000, to cover the cost of streamlined private pilot training, said Earhart. Textbooks and training materials will be donated from pilots who no longer have use for them, she added.
As a reporter at the Denver NBC affiliate KUSA, Earhart was asked years ago to emcee the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum "Spreading Wings" Gala, where aerobatic pilot Patty Wagstaff; NASA astronaut Eileen Collins; and Emily Howell Warner, the first woman hired as a permanent pilot by a major U.S. airline, were honored.
“Being in the presence of female aviation greatness really impacted my ideas of what I am capable of. I had been to the museum several times as a visitor and aviation enthusiast, but this night changed my relationship completely,” said Earhart. “I decided to start volunteering with the educational programs at the museum and was soon named as the "Ambassador to Youth." I am very proud to say that I am also now a member of the Wings Over the Rockies board of directors. We have dozens of events in the next year that will inspire, engage, and make aviation more accessible.
Wings Over the Rockies will also be the home base for the Fly With Amelia Foundation. “Group events will be held at the museum and we are planning an interactive exhibit about my upcoming flight around the world,” said Earhart.
Earhart’s top priorities for the foundation are providing inspiration, adventure, and accessibility. “Aviation is not just for the rich and the daring. Aviation and aerospace is the way of the future. It connects us to all parts of the world and beyond,” she said. “We need the next generation of aviation-minded individuals to understand and respect the history of aviation while gaining an understanding that they will make the decisions in terms of where we go next.”
Earhart is working with organizations and donors, including Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, to help get the foundation off the ground. “Over the years, I have developed an amazing social media following that always comes through when there is an opportunity to give,” she said. “I am right now developing an option to ‘text to donate,’ with donations as small as $1. Every penny given is a dose of inspiration for the young lady that is given the opportunity to take to the sky.”
In a year, Earhart said she hopes the foundation is an inspirational, bountiful resource for all. “While I want to provide direct scholarships to young women, there will be lots of opportunities for men, women, and kids, or anyone who is drawn to flight. I want to report back to AOPA about inspired, engaged activities that get us in the cockpit,” she said. “I am working to create a social media aviation explosion that gets people's hearts pumping about flight. As pilots, we have to lead by example and be active in our local aviation communities.”
AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor Benét J. Wilson joined AOPA in 2011. She is working on her private pilot certificate.
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