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Amelia Earhart flies the Atlantic

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Phil Carradice Phil Carradice | 15:39 UK time, Thursday, 20 May 2010

Just after noon on 18 June 1928, inhabitants of the coastal town of Burry Port in Carmarthenshire caught the heavy drone of aircraft engines. Looking skywards they were soon able to pick out the graceful lines of a small orange aeroplane, making its way along the coast from the direction of Tenby and the far west.

The aircraft, soon identified as the seaplane Friendship, was flying low across the water. She circled the Loughor estuary and just after 12.40pm touched down on the choppy waters at Burry Port. Inside the aeroplane was Miss Amelia Earhart and by landing at this small south Wales port she had became the first woman ever to fly across the Atlantic ocean.

Amelia Earhart was not the only person on board. With her in the plane were pilot Wilmer Stultz and mechanic Lou Gordon. In fact, Amelia was rated only as assistant pilot for the trip - yet such was the novelty of a woman taking on the challenge of the Atlantic that Stultz and Gordon have now been all but forgotten.

After landing and mooring their aircraft to a buoy just off the town, the three flyers went ashore in a motorboat, braving the throngs of people who came racing to the area from Swansea, Cardiff and many places beyond. Before the day was out a seaplane and a traditional aeroplane landed at Swansea with parties of reporters, photographers and special correspondents.

They came to note a remarkable achievement, the Friendship having left Newfoundland only 20 hours before. Bill Stultz was well aware of what he and the others had achieved, commenting to a reporter from the Llanelli Mercury:

"We encountered fog almost all the way, and there was considerable rain as well. Most of the way I was flying blind because of the fog and rain. We had no idea where we were, as we had not seen Ireland. We landed here in south Wales because we were short of fuel."

Such was the enthusiasm of local people and the press that telephone lines were blocked and reporters who came hurrying to the area from London found it difficult get their stories away.

The flyers had intended to leave Burry Port that same night, heading on to Southampton, but bad weather forced them to postpone their departure and they were obliged to spend the night in the Ashburnham Hotel.

Amelia must have maintained a low profile as several dignitaries who came to congratulate her on her achievement, failed to locate the intrepid woman flyer. Among them was the aviator Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, then living in nearby Swansea. He had been the first man to fly the Atlantic, along with Sir John Alcock.

"When I arrived the crowds were so dense," he said, "that I could not get near the machine. I searched Burry Port for some considerable time but failed to find them. I know the wonder of their achievement and would have liked to have offered my personal congratulations."

One person who did manage to speak to Amelia Earhart was the reporter from the Llanelli Mercury. He managed to get his interview early on the morning after their arrival, before the three flyers took off again. According to him Amelia admitted that during the historic flight she ate only two oranges and six malted milk tablets:

"How lovely your country is," she said. "The stillness and the silence brings back again the almost awesome feeling which came to me as, hour after hour, we pushed forward through the thick clouds and fog. It was as if we were alone in the world. To think that 48 hours ago I was in America and now I am in Wales!"

Amelia Earhart did not take the controls of the Friendship during the transatlantic flight but she has gone down in history as the first woman ever to fly across the ocean. And she and her colleagues landed in south Wales, a remarkable end to a remarkable achievement.

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  • Comment number 1.

    This was an interesting article. I always thought Amelia Earhart flew the plane across the Atlantic but as the assistant pilot I wonder if she took the controls at all. She got a lot of fame and pubilicity out of the trip but, from reading the blog it sounds as if her achievement didn't deserve the attention it received. Amy Johnson certainly did a lot more!

  • Comment number 2.

    From what I have read in the Llanelli papers from the time Amelia did not take the controls, not even once, during the flight. Her fame came simply from the fact that she was the first woman to cross the Atlantic by plane. Of course, she later went on to greater things and, like Amy Johnson, was one of the great pioneers of early aviation history.


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