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Amelia Earhart's legacy lives on in South Florida

Amelia Earhart's connection to South Florida
Amelia Earhart's connection to South Florida 03:31

MIAMI - She was the darling of the early aviation era as the first woman to fly as a flight team member across the Atlantic, later accomplishing the feat solo.

Amelia Earhart was constantly in the news. Her image was carefully crafted by her husband, the powerful publisher George Putnam.

In March 1927, Earhart garnered worldwide attention when she began a round-the-world flight attempt that departed from California and headed west. After reaching Hawaii and attempting to resume the flight her Lockheed Electra ground looped and was severely damaged.

So she tried again, and that's what brought her to Miami in a layover that may have foreshadowed things to come.

Standing next to a historical marker dedicated to her on the grounds of the Hialeah police station, Miami historian Dr. Paul George said, "this is where she began her last fateful flight."

In Earhart's day, there were three airports in what is now Hialeah and Opa-locka. The historical maker notes Miami Municipal Airport was located near Amelia Earhart Park which is dedicated to her legacy.

Indeed Earhart did leave a legacy, according to Dr. George, " a leading feminist advocating that women should be treated as pilots just as men were treated, have the same opportunities as men."

It was in Miami where she announced her around-the-world flight, now flying east.

Ric Gillespie knows plenty about Earhart's May 24th, 1937 arrival and stay in Miami.

Gillespie, the Executive Director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), has searched the Pacific attempting to solve the mystery of Earhat's disappearance.

Flying into Miami, Gillespie said "she miss identified the Eastern Airlines 36th Street Airport as Miami Municipal, landed there, realized she was at the wrong airport and took off immediately and arrived at Miami Municipal kind flustered and blew the landing badly, stalled it high, dropped it in. Newspaper accounts said you could hear the metal screech all over the airport."

What followed was a week spent on maintenance. The major problem was with the critical radios and radio direction finder which would guide her around the world and to a remote Pacific island refueling location. Those radios and direction finder were what Pan Am technicians were trying to fix when she was in Miami. The issue was never resolved.

"The radios were not working right, she didn't know how to use the ones that were working," said Gillespie.

She departed anyway.

According to Gillespie, the radio failure dogged the flight right up to Earhart's disappearance somewhere south and west of Hawaii.

Another Miami connection centers on a repair to the Lockheed Electra. A rear window was patched over before she departed on her around-the-world flight attempt.

On one of Gillespie's trips to the Pacific Island where Earhart was headed, a piece of weathered aluminum was discovered. According to Gillespie, it resembles the patch that was riveted on Earhart's plane.

Is it a key clue in solving the mystery of the famous aviatrix's disappearance? Gillespie said yes.

Earhart's arrival and stay in Miami did not go well. But as she departed, she flew into history along with her contribution to the beginning of the advancement of women in the aviation industry.

January 21st, 2020, the historical maker was dedicated by Miami-Dade and representatives of a number of local women's organizations. 

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