Amelia Earhart’s Layover in Utah

Amelia Earhart (1897 — missing July 2, 1937 — declared legally dead January 5, 1939)

by CRYSTAL MIETCHEN

Amelia Mary Earhart is known for her aviation expertise, being a bestselling author writing several best sellers, and many other acclaimed talents. Amelia Earhart’s passion for flying led her to write of her own experiences and to share with those interested in her exploits what she had witnessed and conquered. 

Amelia Earhart, born in Atchison, Kansas, was not your typical little girl with ribbons and bows; she enjoyed being outside and playing rough. Earhart was only a child when she saw her first airplane at the Iowa State Fair. She wasn’t very interested in what she saw, so she turned away from the opportunity to go on an airplane ride offered to her and decided to go back to other activities taking place at the fair.

Despite what Earhart thought about airplanes as a young girl, she grew up to become one of the most well-known female pilots of all time. She was the first female passenger to travel the Atlantic; she eventually started flying her own airplane solo. Earhart said, The woman who can create her own job is the woman who will win fame and fortune.” (Roesler) Earhart decided she wanted to travel the world and was excited to accomplish such a goal. (Roesler)

In her travels, Earhart paid an unexpected visit to Utah. She was on her way from Glendale, California, to the East Coast when she had to land in an open farmer’s field near Eureka, Utah. It was September 30, 1928, and the plane was experiencing problems that led her to make a force landing of the plane. Due to the unexpected occurrence, the plane landed in the soft ground, breaking the propeller. With the knowledge that her plane would most likely take a couple of days to repair, and while waiting to receive a new propeller from New York City, she visited Salt Lake City.

Earhart had a tremendous amount of influence on Utah residents with the little time she spent in Utah. Reporter Annie Feidt, of the Alaska Public Radio network, recounted the story of Earhart’s unexpected layover and her brief stay with Feidt’s great-great-grandfather and her mother, Mon Hillsdale. Resident Jim Maxwell was the first to arrive at the scene and after the plane was on the ground he witnessed Earhart jump out of the plane and ask, “Where am I?” Because her sources were unpolished maps and she was simply following the railroad line, she was not exactly sure of her location. Earhart stayed with the family for a total of three days and left a wonderful impression on every member of the family. Feidt recalled that Earhart sent a two-page letter to Hillsdale to thank her for her hospitality in Eureka.  She wrote: “I shall always think myself fortunate in tumbling into Tintic [Mining District, Eureka], and you don’t know how deep an impression was made.” (Feidt) The story of Feidt’s family history with Amelia Earhart is amazing to listen to and will always have an impact on the family, people of Eureka, and Utah. (Feidt)

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on October 1, 1928, that Earhart said, “The little motor in my plane was not working very well, due to the high altitude, and I just simply had to come down quickly.” During her layover she toured the area, gave speeches, visited schools such as West High School, and visited Bingham Canyon Mine. The famous female pilot was very social with Utah residents and may have even astonished some of the Utah conservatives. The Tribune reprinted an interview she gave to the Deseret News in which she discussed the Relief Society, the official women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Earhart said she was glad to hear about women organizing themselves and “trying out their wings.” (1928)

The times were changing with society witnessing what women were capable of. It may have been changing slowly but with influences like Amelia Earhart, it was sure to change and for the better. Earhart was so empowering in a time where most women were not able to have their own opinion, yet she in her time gave her opinion without doubt. Earhart was not the typical stereotype of what was expected of females, especially in Utah in the 1920s. The female pilot wore a leather aviator’s cap, flight pants, and an overcoat. It was unheard of and very unlikely for a female in the 1920s to wear anything other than a skirt or dress; she was a female ahead of her time and was respected greatly. The independence she held and the ability to believe in her without letting anyone sway her in a wrong or different direction is what initially proved her legacy. Earhart eventually had a repaired plane and was able to carry on with the trip that was initially planned. (Clark)

Earhart is significant and has made an amazing impact in culture, society, and history. She was a leader in her time and continues to lead and has encouraged individuals from the past, present and this encouragement will continue into the future. There has been an elementary school and street in Utah named after the female pilot.  Amelia Earhart Elementary is located in Provo, Utah, and uses the motto-“Flying with Pride,” and Amelia Earhart Drive is located in Salt Lake City. There is proof of ambition and courage when something has been named after a certain individual; it is even more unique to have a school and street named after an individual and in the same state.

After flying across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, Earhart decided she was going take flight around the world. The voyage that will never be forgotten started with her departure from Los Angeles, California, on May 21, 1937. On July 2, the following transmission was sent from the Electra at maximum strength: “KAHQQ calling Itasca, We must be on you but cannot see you … gas is running low ….” (Earhart) The pilot went missing on July 2, 1937; it has since been determined that her plane went down between 35 and 100 miles off the Coast of Howland Island. The legendary pilot went missing without a trace and the disappearance remains one of the most known unsolved mysteries of all time. (Earhart, 1937)

Amelia Earhart will not only be remembered internationally, but the residents of Utah will always remember her unexpected visit to Utah. Earhart was the first and most famous female aviator of her time and remains to hold that title today. The recognition she continually receives is respected and honored by all, including both men and women. The influence she has provided women is not only guidance, but gives meaning to why people have rights and reasons to believe they can achieve anything.

Crystal Mietchen is a junior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in communication with an emphasis in strategic communication. She will be graduating from the University in December 2010 and is excited to start a career in public relations and continue writing.

Sources

Cody Clark, “Aviation pioneer, film subject made little-remembered Utah visit,” Daily Herald, October 21, 2009.

Amelia Earhart. 20 Hrs., 40 Min,: Our Flight in the Friendship. New York: Harcourt Trade Publishers, 1928.

Amelia Earhart. The Fun of It: Random Records of My Own Flying and of Women in Aviation. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1932.

Amelia Earhart. Last Flight by Amelia Earhart. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1937.

Annie Feidt. “Remembering Amelia Earhart’s Stop In Utah Town.” National Public Radio, November 5, 2009.

Rodger L. Hardy, “Forgotten Earhart link to Utah found,” The Deseret News, October 22, 2009.

The Last Flight.” Ellen’s Place.

D. Cochrane and P. Ramirez, “Amelia Earhart.” Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Mark Roesler. The Official Web site of Amelia Earhart.

Christopher Smart, “Amelia Earhart had unexpected layover in Utah,” The Salt Lake Tribune, October 19, 2009.

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