Exactly 90 years after Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, a group of female pilots celebrated her legacy in the Newfoundland and Labrador community where she began that journey.
Kim Winsor is governor of the eastern Canada chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an organization of more than 4,000 women pilots around the world.
“If it wasn’t for Amelia Earhart, her kind of paving the way … I don’t think we would be where we are today,” Winsor said Friday.
Earhart was the first president of the the Ninety-Nines and was instrumental in its formation. More than 50 pilots from the organization gathered in Harbour Grace on Friday to pay tribute to her.
Winsor, a commercial pilot who lives in Toronto but hails from Newfoundland and Labrador, said she holds Harbour Grace near and dear to her heart.
On May 20, 1932, Earhart took off from the airstrip in Harbour Grace and arrived in Derry, Northern Ireland, after a flight lasting 14 hours and 56 minutes. On Friday, both towns held celebrations in honour of the anniversary; in Harbour Grace, events included a re-enactment, a flyby and the reopening of the aviation room at the Conception Bay Museum.
Harbour Grace Mayor Don Coombs said Earhart is a part of the town’s history.
“She’s a pioneer. She certainly made a difference in our world,” he said.
The event also included Dr. Don Wyatt, one of the last — possibly the very last — living spectators who was present in Harbour Grace on that day in 1932.
“Makes you realize how old you’ve become,” he said.
Tall, tousled hair, high cheekbones and all business — that’s how he remembers Earhart on the day she took off from Harbour 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 natural to her,” he said.
Wyatt said he didn’t understand the significance of the moment at the time.
“I was only a small boy, so it didn’t have that same significance as it does today. It was just a bit of adventure. Something happening in Newfoundland, you know?” said Wyatt.
In the 1940s Wyatt became a pilot himself — and continued flying until his 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, said Winsor.
“This definitely is an option for them and a fantastic career.”
Judy Cameron, a retired pilot, is something of a trailblazer herself — she was Air Canada’s first woman pilot, hired in 1978.
“It’s important for me to be here today because I think that we need to encourage other women to get into this field,” she said.
Cameron said Earhart is still a role model for women in aviation.
“She was a trailblazer, she was a brave woman who undertook something that very few people, male or female, would’ve done back in the day.”
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