Forum logo Was Amelia Earhart a good pilot?


There are patterns discernible in Earhart’s flying career. With the exception of her early hesitancy to solo, Amelia’s appetite for new aviation laurels consistently outpaced her competence to achieve them and each move up to a new level was punctuated by accidents. Even in an era when aviation upsets and catastrophes were relatively commonplace, Earhart had far too many wrecks. Her mishaps, however, tended to be relatively minor and appear to be attributable primarily to a lack of physical skill rather than any wanton disregard for her own safety. She does not run into hills while trying to push through in bad weather. She doesn’t get hopelessly lost and wander around until she runs out of gas. She has no mid-air collisions or in-flight structural failures. She never has to use a parachute. And she doesn’t get hurt. The only injury she ever received was a cut on the scalp when she flipped her Vega onto its back in Norfolk.

After enough hours of flight time, and enough bent metal, she either learns how to handle the airplane (as she did the Vega and the Electra) or she walks away (as she did with the Pitcairn).

It might appear that whatever happened in the Central Pacific did not fit the pattern of Earhart’s previous problems, but perhaps it did. The fundamental cause of the flight’s failure to reach Howland seems to be Earhart’s failure to adequately understand the capabilities and limitations of her radio equipment. In other words, she got in over her head, except this time the consequences were not a bent prop and a bruised ego, and this time she couldn’t walk away.


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