Amelia Earhart (1897–1937) earned her pilot’s wings in her early twenties and became the best-known female aviator of her time—probably of all time. During her two-decade career as a pilot, she set altitude records, speed records, and transcontinental flight records. She was the first person to solo the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to California, and to fly an autogiro (the predecessor to today’s helicopter) across the country. Earhart championed the efforts of women in aviation, inspiring women throughout the world to explore careers traditionally held by men.
In 1937, Earhart attempted to fly around the world at the Equator. Just days before her fortieth birthday, she vanished in the Pacific, together with navigator Fred Noonan, while en route to tiny Howland Island.
The circumstances of Earhart’s disappearance have yet to be unraveled but searches by independent individuals and groups continue, and the new technologies being employed may eventually solve the mystery.
A major new film, starring Hillary Swank as the famous aviator, and featuring Ewan McGregor and Richard Gere, is expected to be released in October 2009.