Newsweek Rewind: When Amelia Earhart Disappeared

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Amelia Earhart in a photograph from 1928. At right, a vintage Lockheed Electra similar to the one she flew on her last flight. Library of Congress/Reuters, J./Reuters

On this day in 1937, Amelia Mary Earhart went missing midflight around the world. Today, a 31-year-old self-described "aviatrix" who shares Earhart's first and last name is attempting to re-create her flight path, hopefully with more success this time around.

Though she's not actually related to the Amelia Earhart, this Amelia—Amelia Rose—shares her love of flying and wants to encourage young women to explore careers in aviation. “Essentially, my parents say they felt that they had a great opportunity with my dad’s last name being Earhart," she explained to 90.9 WBUR. "They said, Listen, we could name our daughter something really strong with a great tie to history. We can give her a great role model and inspiration, but at the same time, we can also give her a name that literally no one she meets will ever forget. And that certainly is the case. It definitely leaves an impression."

On June 26, the present-day Earhart set off from Oakland, California, with co-pilot Shane Jordan in a Pilatus PC-12 NG, with the goal of becoming the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe in a single-engine aircraft. "By re-creating and symbolically completing Amelia Mary Earhart’s flight around the world, I hope to develop an even deeper connection to my namesake and also encourage the world to pursue their own adventures." Amelia Rose writes on The Amelia Project's website.

As she set off, we combed Newsweek's archive for mentions of the original Amelia Earhart. Newsweek—then News-Week—reported her plane's disappearance in a brief story in the July 17, 1937, issue. Around midnight GMT, her "flying laboratory" Electra plane, which also carried flight navigator Fred Noonan, took off from Lae, New Guinea, and headed to Howland Island. But Earhart and Noonan never made it to their destination—their last known location was near the Nukumanu Islands, around 800 miles into the 2,550-mile trip.

From "SEARCH: Warships and Planes Sweep Pacific for Lost Flyers":

Few on board the stubby Coast Guard cutter Itasca spent much time sleeping on the night of July 2. Ever since late April the ship had been under orders to be standing by at tiny Howland Island and guide Amelia Earhart's plane when, as, and if she should approach that speck on the Pacific. Now at last she was in flight towards Howland—on a 2,550-mile hop from Lae, New Guinea. Officers and men crowded around the Itasca's radio room.

Through the night it had been a dull show. Nothing at all until 2:45 A.M. and then a garbled message. An hour later the flyer had asked for directional broadcasts on 3,105 kilocycles—as though she didn't know the standard marine frequency was 500. The cutter's operations had gotten right after her to come in on 500 so he could take a bearing or two. But, no, she had kept right on with the 3,105 stuff. As nearly anyone could make out, though, she and Noonan would turn up at dawn.

The story then documents the realization that all hadn't gone according to plan, with a timeline of Earhart's final four messages. Her last known transmission came at 8:44 a.m.: "We are on the line position 157-337. Will repeat this message on 6,210 kilocycles. We are now running north and south." Search efforts began shortly thereafter. Naval officers cited in the story estimated their chances of being rescued as one in a million. Earhart's and Noonan's bodies, and their Electra, were never recovered.

Though Amelia Rose shares her namesake's passion for aviation, she's unlikely to encounter the same technical problems that downed the Electra. “The reliability of a single-engine aircraft today in 2014 is vastly different than it was back in the 1930s," she said. "So while there is still a component of adventure with any flight over water, I felt most connected to the Pilatus. It’s a beautiful aircraft. The cockpit is absolutely state of the art — we’ve got synthetic vision, we’ve got dual GPS. So it’s very safe."

Amelia Rose is scheduled to complete her flight on July 12. You can track her journey via the Amelia Project's itinerary, or tweet at @Amelia__Earhart with #flywithamelia. 

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