Amelia II flying into action

Amelia Rose Earhart. (3012BM01)
Amelia Rose Earhart. (3012BM01)

Continuing his countdown to City of Culture 2013, Garbhan Downey shines the spotlight on the modern Amelian Earhart...

A US-based reporter called Amelia Rose Earhart is spending the holidays recreating the American leg of her legendary namesake’s round-the-world flight.

The modern Earhart is distantly related to the aviatrix who completed the first solo transatlantic flight into Derry. And she will be spending this week flying from California to Florida in a Cirrus SR22 plane.

All being well, she should land in Miami today, after logging more than 30 hours in the air – not bad for a trainee.

Ms Earhart who, besides presenting the news on Denver 9 TV, also works as a lifestyle photographer, said she had been inspired by Amelia the First’s ‘adventurous’ spirit.

She told Huffpost Miami: “Amelia was bold, strong, but also feminine, and I want to be a similar role model for young girls who want to get into aviation.”

The young pilot won’t, however, be travelling any further afield than Miami – at least for the time being.

Her ancestor disappeared in the Pacific while completing the last leg of her round-the-way voyage in 1937. And Amelia II, who is still in the early stages of gaining her wings, has no plans to circumnavigate the globe until 2016 at the earliest.

It does beg the question, though, as to whether she might be open to attempting the transatlantic trip from Newfoundland into Derry as part of our City of Culture celebrations.

The eightieth anniversary of what is possibly the most famous flight of all time will be marked in May 2012 with festivals on both sides of the Atlantic – including here in the city.

But surely such a momentous, world-changing event – one which is taught in schools and commemorated in films, museums and town-halls all over the globe – deserves a little more fuss?

Already, a large number proposals have been mooted for Earhart-related projects here in 2012/13.

Next year, the Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA) group intend to host a three-day carnival of music, film, dance and drama from May 19-23. This will include an exhibition of memorabilia and of recently-discovered photographs of the pilot’s departure from Derry back to the US. GSCA are also exploring the possibility of setting up an artistic/interpretative centre at the Ballyarnett landing site.

Culture Company, meanwhile, have made inquiries about temporarily borrowing the Earhart plane ‘Old Bessie’, which stands inside the door of the Smithsonian in Washington. Another suggestion is to have a sponsor make a new, replica Lockheed Vega 5b which would be located in Derry permanently.

There is a lobby who wish to see a full landing-strip developed at Gallagher’s Field, where Earhart first touched down. This could, in turn, allow Ms Earhart’s descendant to recreate the flight, should she wish.

And there have also been proposals to rebrand City of Derry Airport in some way, to establish an immediate connection with our international tourism market.

When Culture Company reps travel outside Derry, they invariably find that there is far more excitement generated when we talk about our Earhart legacy than when Belfast start banging on about the Titanic.

As Eddie Kerr once famously pointed out, at least our craft made it across the ocean safely...

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