US pilots’ sky race mooted for Amelia Earhart 90th anniversary celebrations in Derry

Plans for the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the landing of Amelia Earhart in the Derry City and Strabane council area were given the seal of approval by Members of the council’s Business and Culture Committee.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 5:16 pm

The possibility of a sky race by female pilots of America to mark the occasion was also mooted by Councillor Sandra Duffy leading Alderman Derek Hussey to describe it as ‘very forward thinking’.

Amelia Earhart (34) became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic solo, landing in Ballyarnett on May 21,1932. 

She took off from Newfoundland in her Lockheed Vega hoping to land in Paris, but bad weather and technical problems altered her course and instead, after a flight lasting almost 15 hours, she landed near Derry in the Gallagher family’s field in Ballyarnett. Earhart’s historic flight and landing broke three records for the aviator as not only did she become the first female to fly across the Atlantic alone, she also held the fastest flight time over the ocean (15 hours) as well as being the only person to have flown the Atlantic twice.

Amelia Earhart landing in Derry in 1932. (2408C08)

May 21, 2022 will mark the 90th anniversary of this landing and the local Council’s Museum Service have a planned programme of activity which includes a temporary exhibition of objects and archives loaned and from the collection to go on display in the Learning Space of the Tower Museum, for the month of May 2022; a series of onsite/online lectures linked to females in aviation, Amelia’s story and objects linked to the history and a series of online/onsite educational workshops for school and families to include aviation themed activities.

The potential for a transatlantic race, landing in Derry at the time of the anniversary was brought forward by Sinn Fein Councillor Sandra Duffy.

“I have been in touch with a group called Amelia Sky Race who are based in America. They do a lot of humanitarian and educational work.  It’s a group of female pilots and they also do a lot of work around the legacy of Amelia Earhart and they are planning a sky race which they are intending to start around June 4.

“They have made contact with myself with regards to a transatlantic flight landing in Derry in or around the anniversary and if that could be explored by council officers that may be an exciting event we could also add to the programme of events. I am looking forward to what we have planned and I really look forward to seeing what the groups who have been working on Amelia Earhart events for a very long time and have that history and connection with it, to see what they bring forward in terms of their detailed programmes.”

SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack agreed that it is ‘only right and proper’ that plans are put in place to mark the 90th anniversary, adding that the ‘Amelia Earhart story has become synonymous with Derry’.

She added: “Her story is not only an inspiration to young Derry girls but women everywhere and it’s only right we mark her achievements and keep her legacy alive.

“She was a trailblazer for female empowerment and advancement and even though it was 90 years ago her message still comes through today for young women everywhere that if you set your mind to something you can achieve your goals.”

Welcoming the programme of events so far DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney offered his ‘congratulations to the local groups who keep the story going.’

UUP Alderman Derek Hussey thanked Councillor Duffy for her ‘forward thinking’, adding: “It is very exciting the thought of bringing in flyers from the United States at that particular time and hopefully it is something Councillor Duffy and council officers can follow up on.”

Council officers have a further meeting planned with interested community groups and cultural organisations/ individuals to get a sense of what other plans may be in place to mark this significant anniversary.


Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter