“(Flying) may not be all plain sailing … But the fun of it is worth the price.” (Putnam, The Fun Of It)
Five hundred enjoyed Mrs Putnam’s free lecture through the University Extension Service, University of Hawaiʻi – titled, ‘Flying for Fun.”
It was an interesting subject back then, only a few short years after Charles Lindberg first flew solo over the Atlantic. (She repeated the feat on the fifth anniversary of Lindbergh’s solo flight.)
‘Flying for fun’ (sport aviation) is basically flying for some purpose other than transportation or business (relaxation, hobby, competition, racing or thrill.) (CAP)
“I attempted to fly across the Atlantic ocean for my own person satisfaction. My flight added nothing to aviation. Literally hundreds of persons have crossed the Atlantic by aircraft, and one flight adds little to the starting sum total.”
“If my flight interested women to learn to fly as pilots or to fly as passengers on air lines, or to let their husbands and children fly as passengers, or to let their children embark on careers aeronautical engineers, then I think that my flight was worth while.” (Mrs Putnam, Rockford Morning Star, 02-15-1935; Genealogy Trails)
“A charming personality combined with a graciousness and ability in speaking to an audience as well as to the individual are paradoxically the qualities that the pioneering American woman flyer … possesses. In addition to these, her love for beauty is so real that she believes the lure of flying is the lure of beauty.”
She “described vividly and picturesquely her flight over the Pacific ocean, adding to her gift for pantomime a power of description and a true sense of humor that struck an immediate response in her audience.”
She insists “that the only reason for the flights was her own wish to fly. In this connection she said, ‘Women must often do for themselves what men have already done, and I look for the day to come when individual aptitude instead of sex will be the criterion for holding any job.’” (Daily Illini, March 22, 1935)
“I have long been interested in the comparative skills between the sexes. I have watched the flawless coordination of women champion drivers and I have watched the control and precision of women factory hands as they do work no man does (whether this should be ‘can do’ or not, I do not know)…”
“… and I wonder why the creatures who can with training perform these diverse tasks, and a hundred others, so excellently, should be balked by a contraption with an engine and four wheels or one with an engine and a couple of wings.” (Putnam to Wiggam, 1932)
She was rarely out of public view. In the many images of her after 1928, she appears as the epitome of grace and poise. During the years that America was in the grip of the Great Depression, she provided the nation with a sense of hope and optimism about its future.
After discovering the joy of flying, she came to see the airplane as her one true home. There she could escape, challenge herself, break records, and inspire others who longed to lead independent lives.
Although she was a vocal advocate for women’s rights and the future of aviation, she preferred being in the cockpit of a plane to anywhere else. She seemed to be happiest when flying an airplane. (Smithsonian)
At 4:44 pm, January 11, 1935, Putnam took off from Wheeler Field on Oʻahu for Oakland, California on a trans-Pacific flight never made solo before.
It was just one year prior that Commander M. Ginnis led his flight of six seaplanes from the West Coast to Hawaii. Now a woman was doing it in reverse, flying in one airplane, with one engine, and no other person aboard. (hawaii-gov)
A crowd of less than 1,000 was on hand to see the take-off. “Mr. Putnam was worried and perspiring as the plane got into the air. ‘I would rather have a baby,’ he said.”
“Despite the bad weather in the Schofield Barracks area, which included a drizzling rain and a muddy field, (Putnam) decided that conditions for her 2,400-mile cruise which she had planned ever since her arrival here two weeks ago, were right.”
“Everything fine; weather fair,” she radioed to Honolulu. (NYTimes, January 11, 1935)
The scene at Oakland Airport was a contrast to the Wheeler point of departure, as 5,000 people lined the field to offer a tumultuous reception for the first human to fly solo and non-stop over one ocean and 2,000 miles over another.
The West Coast appeared to the pilot twice in error, each time turning out to be cloud shadows on the water’s surface. The third time, however, was land.
Then she sighted the landing field and the hundreds of honking cars. The time was 12:50 pm, January 12, 1935. Some 2,090 nautical miles from Wheeler Field – 18 hours and 15 minutes later – she settled into a perfect landing in the California airport.
A brilliant success, the flight was accomplished by a flyer whose only motivation was the love of flying, and a desire to contribute trail-blazing marks to the world. (hawaii-gov)
Oh … we generally refer to Mrs George Palmer Putnam as Amelia Earhart. Today is the anniversary of her historic solo flight from Hawaiʻi to the continent, the first person, man or woman, to do so.