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Earhart becomes first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California

This Day in World History

January 11, 1935

Earhart becomes first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California

Taking off from Wheeler Field, on Oahu, Hawaii, on January 11, 1935, and reaching Oakland, California, the next day, Amelia Earhart achieved a milestone. She was the first person to fly solo between Hawaii and the continental United States.

Amelia Earhart flew for the first time in 1920, at age 23. “As soon as I left the ground,” she later wrote, “I knew I myself had to fly.” She quickly began flying lessons, earned her pilot’s license, and bought a plane.

In 1928, she became a celebrity by riding as a passenger in a transatlantic flight, making her the first woman to cross the Atlantic by plane. But Earhart wanted to earn the accolades by flying—and to advance the cause of women pilots. In 1932, she did both by becoming only the second person, after Charles Lindbergh, to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, which she did in less than half the 33.5 hours his flight took. Later that same year, she flew across the United States in a then–female record of 19 hours and 5 minutes.

The Hawaii to California flight became Earhart’s next project. The flight was about 400 miles longer than the transatlantic flight, but it was risky. The danger was underscored when pilot Charles Ulm and two crew members disappeared into the ocean near Hawaii in early December of 1934 attempting the same flight.

Earhart remained determined, however. Her plane’s passenger seat was replaced by extra fuel tanks, and an expensive two-way radio system was installed. Earhart took off in a drizzle and flew throughout the night, listening to a symphony concert broadcast for some of the trip. When she landed in Oakland, thousands poured on the runway to greet her. Soon after, an admiring First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited her to stay at the White House.

Just two years later, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan departed on their ill-fated trans-Pacific flight and disappeared somewhere near Howland Island.

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