Throughout the 1920s and 30s, although forming a thirteenth of all aviators, many women played a significant role in flying. (Corn, p 72) Amelia Earhart was one of these women. She was a pioneer in women’s aviation. In 1928, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic alongside pilot Wilmer "Bill" Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis E. "Slim" Gordon. Four years later, she became the first woman to fly solo across the same ocean, replicating the record setting flight of Charles Lindbergh. During her life she set many women’s records: altitude records, solo American coast to coast flight records, and speed records. (Amelia Earhart, Achievements) She also came in at fifth place in the Bendix Trophy air race in 1936, of which women won three of the five top spots. (Corn, p 556)
In 1937, nearing her 40th birthday, Earhart was ready for her next challenge: being the first woman to fly around the world. Before departing she had said "I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system, and I hope this trip is it." She was joined by navigator Fred Noonan on the 29,000 mile journey. They started their journey off in Miami on June 1st. On June 29th, they landed in in New Guinea with 7,000 miles of their journey remaining. Inaccurate maps seemed to be making the navigation challenging for Noonan, and Howland Island was going to be the trickiest. All unessential items were removed from the plane, making space for extra fuel, which added approximately 274 extra miles. During the flight many radio messages were sent, some talking of a storm and some saying she was close to the island; however, these messages were faint or interrupted by static. ( Lauber, p 85-87) The United States immediately launched what was known as “the greatest rescue expedition in flying history.” (Gillespie, p xiii) On July 19th, the search was called off. (Amelia Earhart, Biography, p 1-2) Throughout the years, many theories about her disappearance have been developed.
Crash and Sank Theory
The “Crash and Sank” theory says that Amelia Earhart ran out of fuel before she could find her destination, Howland Island, and was forced to go down somewhere in the ocean. In an official report, the U.S. government reached the same conclusion. Earhart was declared dead on January 5, 1939, 18 months after her disappearance. (History)
Amelia faced many problems during her last flight. Four hours and eighteen minutes into the flight, they were already looking at stronger headwinds than expected. Due to this, she had to increase her optimum speed to 140 knots (161 mph). As a consequence, she would have to fly at a higher altitude to save fuel. However, the high temperatures of the area would reduce the density of the air. “Above the optimum altitude the temperature’s effect on air density is equivalent to approximately a 2000-foot increase in altitude and a corresponding increase in fuel consumption.” (Long, p 17) Either way, flying above or below...