Amelia Earhart began her flying career at the age of 23, when she started taking flying lessons in Long Beach, Calif. She earned her pilot license at the age of 26. She was only the 16th woman to become a licensed pilot.
On June 17, 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to make a transatlantic flight. She was not a pilot, but a passenger who rode with Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon in their Fokker tri-motor airplane. This event won Earhart an immense amount of fame, including a ticker tape parade in New York City, and started her career as a major celebrity.
In 1932, Earhart flew solo across the Atlantic -- a first for a woman. She received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the gold medal of the National Geographic Society and the Cross of the Legion of Honor from France.
In 1935, Earhart became the first person ever to fly from Hawaii to California.
All of this led up to a 1937 flight to circumnavigate the globe. Earhart would complete the 29,000 in several legs. She would fly a Lockheed L-10E with help from pilot Harry Manning and navigator Fred Noonan.
The first attempt began in March of 1937, but it ended quickly in Hawaii on the first leg of the flight. A blown tire, and possibly pilot error, damaged the plane.
With the airplane repaired, Noonan and Earhart made a second attempt. They flew from California to Florida, down to South America, across to Africa, and then on to New Guinea -- a total of about 22,000 miles. From New Guinea the plan was to cross the Pacific Ocean in several hops and finish the trip. But on the first hop, something went wrong. Earhart's plane was scheduled to land on a small island, but instead it was never seen again. President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized an extensive search carried out by the Navy and Coast Guard, at an estimated cost of $4 million, but they found nothing.
The mystery that surrounded Earhart's loss made Amelia Earhart one of the world's most famous women. We will probably never know what actually happened to her.