Exactly 90 years after Amelia Earhart became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo, a group of female pilots celebrated her legacy in the Newfoundland and Labrador community where she began this journey.
Kim Winsor is Governor of the Eastern Canada Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an organization of more than 4,000 female pilots worldwide.
“If it wasn’t for Amelia Earhart, she kind of paved the way…I don’t think we’d be where we are today,” Winsor said Friday.
Earhart served as the first president of the Ninety-Nines and was instrumental in its formation. More than 50 pilots from the organization gathered at Harbor Grace on Friday to pay their respects.
Winsor, a commercial pilot who lives in Toronto but is originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, said she cares about Harbor Grace.
On May 20, 1932, Earhart took off from the airstrip at Harbor Grace and arrived in Derry, Northern Ireland, after a flight of 14 hours and 56 minutes. On Friday, the two cities held celebrations in honor of the anniversary; at Harbor Grace, events included a reenactment, flyover and the reopening of the Conception Bay Museum Aviation Hall.
Harbor Grace Mayor Don Coombs said Earhart was part of the town’s history.
“She’s a trailblazer. She definitely made a difference in our world,” he said.
The event also included Dr Don Wyatt, one of the last – perhaps the very last – living spectators who was present at Harbor Grace that day in 1932.
“It makes you realize how old you have become,” he said.
Big tousled hair, high cheekbones and all the business – that’s how he remembers Earhart the day she took off from Harbor Grace, when he was just six years old.
“I don’t think she was overwhelmed with the fact that she was a woman doing this. I think it just came naturally to her,” he said.
Wyatt said he didn’t understand the significance of the moment at the time.
“I was just a little boy, so it didn’t have the same meaning as it does today. It was just a bit of adventure. Something was going on in Newfoundland, you know?” Wyatt said.
In the 1940s Wyatt became a pilot himself – and continued to fly until the late 80s.
“It was time for me to quit then,” he explained.
The Ninety-Nines promote aviation for young women through education, scholarships and mentorship, Winsor said.
“It’s definitely an option for them and a fantastic career.”
Judy Cameron, a retired pilot, is a trailblazer herself — she was Air Canada’s first female pilot, hired in 1978.
“It’s important for me to be here today because I think we need to encourage other women to get into this field,” she said.
Cameron said Earhart was always a role model for women in aviation.
“She was a pioneer, she was a brave woman who took on something that very few people, male or female, would have done at the time.”
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