Brisk life of the famed aviator who is more often taken to task for her sloppy technique than lauded for her bravery.
Pilot and aviation historian Winters (Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 2006, etc.) succinctly lays out the facts of Amelia Earhart’s remarkable story from “a pilot’s perspective,” underscoring how Earhart tended to skimp on the details of preparation for her difficult flights—e.g., on her last fatal flight around the world, she had not mastered the radio technology and resisted learning Morse code, which would have allowed the ship circling Howland Island in the Pacific to find her. Moreover, her handler turned husband George P. Putnam fashioned publicity events that forced her to adhere to unsound deadlines. Clues to Earhart’s personality emerge from her peripatetic upbringing, especially in terms of her disintegrating family due to her father’s drinking and loss of employment as a railroad lawyer. Her father’s devil-may-care attitude and her mother’s free spending fueled Earhart’s delight in adventure and risk-taking. She was a tomboy, athlete and feminist, her Midwestern edges polished at a Philadelphia finishing school and later at Columbia University, but she restlessly worked many jobs to pay for her initial flying lessons. Her life-changing opportunity came with a call from former Army Air Corps pilot Hilton H. Railey in April 1928; he and promoter Putnam were seeking a replacement pilot for a transatlantic flight (with a male flight crew) and were impressed by Earhart’s Lindy-like looks and poise. Criticism that she flew on the Friendship merely as “sheep in the cabin” prodded her to plan her own stunts, and by May 1931 she had made the solo transatlantic flight that established her reputation. In addition to examining Earhart, Winters includes the achievements of lesser-known women pilots such as Ruth Nichols.
The author’s knowledge of aviation history renders this a proficient chronicle of women in flight.