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Ric Gillespie

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Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum
« on: March 29, 2024, 02:54:09 PM »

A TIGHAR member recently asked me to review an article in the April issue of EAA Sport Aviation titled The History of a Fated Mystery - Museum Preserves An Aviation Pioneer. I was happy to oblige.

The first problem with the EAA article is the title. The author buys into The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum's underlying worship of Earhart as an “aviation pioneer.”  None of Earhart’s record setting flights pioneered anything or added to the advancement of aviation development.  The museum’s interactive exhibits sound excellent and admirable, but it is less a museum than an indoor educational theme park. As a venue for teaching history it fails miserably.

The first falsehood in the article is the statement that Earhart broke “the barrier for women in aviation.”  Earhart never had a flying job.  Other women broke the barrier of employment in aviation.  Elinor Smith worked as a demonstration pilot for Bellanca.  Louise Thaden did the same for Travel Air.  Helen Richey was the first woman hired as an airline pilot.  Earhart spoke out against employment discrimination, as did the other record-setting female pilots of the 1930s, but it was the civil rights legislation of the 1960s that ultimatley made it illegal.

Next:
“While teaching at Purdue University, she worked with the school to get the funds to purchase it. With dual Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior engines that were fairly new technology, the Electra 10-E was one of the fastest airplanes of the time.”
How many errors can you pack into two sentences? Earhart never taught at Purdue. She advised female students for a couple weeks in 1936, and she had nothing to do with conning Purdue into putting up the money for an airplane.  That was done entirely by her husband George Palmer Putnam.  The Model 10-E had R-1340s, not R-985s and there were many faster aircraft.

Next:
“The airplane’s exciting because there were 14 of those made, and this one was second off the line, and Amelia’s was about 10th or 12th off the line. But there are no more of these left.”
The museum’s airplane, cn 1042, was the 42nd Model 10 built and the second 10-E. There were 16 10-Es built.  Earhart’s was the 5th.
“All the guts in this plane are exactly like Amelia’s”
The interior is bare and the plane has full-feathering props.

Next:
“..learn how Amelia navigated the night sky with stars and constellations …”
Earhart never navigated the night sky with stars and constellations.

The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum is an example of how the myths and misconceptions about Earhart have gotten way out of hand.  I’m hoping my new book will provide some perspective and, for people who care about facts, permit a more nuanced and accurate understanding of who she was.

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