|By Glenn Garvin, The Miami Herald|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"I'm not saying my flight will be as difficult as hers, or as much of an achievement," says
"But Amelia filed a flight plan 77 years ago, and because she didn't return, it's still open. I want to symbolically close it."
Earhart -- let's call her Modern Amelia, as opposed to Pioneer Amelia -- was scheduled to leave
It's the first hop of an aerial journey that will cover 28,000 miles in two-and-a-half weeks, with 17 stops in 14 countries. Modern Amelia began planning it 10 years when, after a lifetime of fighting off jibes about her name (yes, it's real, given to her by a mother who wanted to call her baby Amy but have something more sophisticated to fall back on as an adult) she decided to embrace it instead and learn to fly.
"My name is definitely a conversation-starter," she says, "and it certainly gave me the spark to try flying. But you don't stick with something 10 years just because of your name. When I tried flying, I loved it."
Her flight is part commercial enterprise, part media hype and part genuine homage to a feminist icon who was daringly insisting to the world that females could do most anything males could at a time when U.S. women had barely gotten the vote.
Certainly Modern Amelia is proving that women can rake in the corporate sponsorship dollars as effectively as any man. Her sponsors include such big aerospace guns as
What she's proving in the air is a different matter. The longest leg of her trip is nine hours, shorter than many airline flights from
Modern Amelia doesn't pretend for a minute that her flight is anywhere near as difficult or as dangerous as the 1937 trip that cost Pioneer Amelia her life when she and her navigator,
"No, no, no," Modern Amelia says. "I've got a lot of advantages she couldn't have dreamed of. "We're not using 1937 equipment or even replicas of 1937 equipment.... We're honoring her flight, but we're not duplicating it."
Modern Amelia is flying a Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12NG, a state-of-the-art turboprop plane so rugged and powerful that the
Pioneer Amelia flew with a navigator, Noonan, who charted their position by taking readings on the sun and stars. And her balky and confusing radio gear left her unable to contact her ground crew in the final moments of her doomed flight as she frantically searched for
Modern Amelia has dual GPSs, dual radios (including a high-frequency set that's especially effective over the ocean), satellite phones, two smart phones jammed full of navigation apps and a hand-held device that will allow her to live-Tweet the entire trip from her cockpit.
Perhaps most importantly, she's got a co-pilot,
Some of her critics say Jordan will more like a supervisor than a co-pilot.
"The Pilatus PC-12 is a lot of airplane, and there's no way in hell she should be flying it," says
"He can let her handle the controls, but he's always in command," he says. "She's essentially flying around the world as a passenger."
Certainly there's a grand tradition of round-the-world flights commemorating Pioneer Amelia by highly publicized female pilots with older, more experienced male co-pilots sitting in the shadows beside them; it was done in both 1967 (on the 30th anniversary of the fateful flight) and 1997 (the 60th.)
But a generous helping of hype may actually make Modern Amelia's flight closer in spirit to Pioneer Amelia's, Gillespie admits. Pioneer Amelia was an aviation celebrity who knew how to milk the media.
"Make no mistake about it, she was a brave woman and an important woman and she certainly did her own flying," he says. "But for all the breathless talk about flying around the world, her trip -- except for the last couple of legs, the ones she didn't complete -- was mostly broken into bite-sized chunks. She took four days to fly from
"The reason for that was that she had a deal with the
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