I was one of the lucky ones who saw a preview last night of “Amelia”, the new Hilary Swank/Richard Gere movie about the life (and death at age 39) of pilot Amelia Earhart.
In the audience were two rows of women pilots from the Tucson 99s, the local chapter of the International Organization of Women Pilots. Amelia Earhart was the founder and first President of this group, and was a leader in aviation education for women in America.
As for the movie, it is based on two biographies of the rise to fame of Ms. Earhart, the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. She was also the first person in 1935 to fly solo over the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to California. The movie also chronicles her marriage to publicist George Putnam and her extra-marital affair with pilot Gene Vidal, an aviation pioneer.
Of course, the movie ends tragicly with the personnel on the U.S. Coast Guard ship Itasca losing radio contact with her and navigator Fred Noonan on board her plane Electra, 100 miles off Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. She was trying to circumnavigate the globe.
I grew up on Hawaii Island where there is a beautiful banyan tree in Hilo (on Banyan Drive), planted by Ms. Earhart herself on January 6, 1935, before her disappearance on July 2, 1937. There have been stories circulating for years out in the Pacific about her demise, and today there are still reports of plane wreckage and possible possessions of hers being found on Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner Island).
I recommend this movie about this legendary, courageous woman pilot and feminist, who believed in following her dreams, whose passion was flying. She wrote about the peaceful freedom she gained from flying, way up above the world.
“Amelia” opens in movie theaters tomorrow.