Later this month, Amelia Rose Earhart will circumnavigate the globe to raise awareness for the Fly With Amelia foundation, which provides flight school scholarships to high school-aged girls. She talked to us about the challenges of flying around the world and what it's like to be a female pilot with a famous name.

Amelia took her first flight lesson in Boulder, Colorado on June 2, 2004 and earned her pilot's license in a Cessna 172. Now 10 years later, she has left her career as a news anchor for Denver's NBC affiliate to dedicate herself toward inspiring young people to pursue their goals, including becoming pilots.


I had the opportunity to sit down with Amelia in Denver, where she answered some questions for Flight Club. During our hour-long interview at Denver's Wings Over the Rockies Museum, she told me about her flight plans, what motivates her, how she inspires others, and her ties to the famous missing aviatrix.

When did it click for you, that you decided you wanted to follow Amelia's journey?

Through elementary, high school, the whole way, I went by Amy. My Grandma started calling me Amy, because she would take me places and people would be like "Oh, you're Amelia Earhart," and it was so much of a hassle to have to explain it every single time. She loved it but she kind of felt bad for me, I think. On the first day of school, for roll call they always call you by your full name, and as a kid, you don't want that attention. I just decided to start going by Amy. When I was 18, I was on the debate team in high school. We were at one of the bigger tournaments, and I was filling out my ballot, and I don't know what it was, but something got into me and I wrote Amelia Earhart. I gave it to the judges and they were all like, "What's this, is she joking?" And they started asking before the debate even began, "What's the story with your name?" I could see the other team was like "Oh, she's got this unfair advantage" because the judges were already interested in my story.


From that point on, I started gradually using my full name more. When I got into college, I wasn't Amy anymore. I was Amelia. I figured out the value of having a name that people remember. At that age, adults don't really care what you have to say, unless you have a story to tell. As I got older and was doing public speaking, and doing student senate, I was Amelia. But then, people started saying to me, "Your name's Amelia Earhart – are you a pilot?" I would say no, and would see this look of "oh." So I'm like wow, I'm letting people down all the time. They'd ask, "Well if you were a pilot, could you fly all the way around the world?" And I thought, I don't know. I've never flown an airplane.

My parents could never afford to send me to flight school, or even get me a flight lesson, period. It was just never talked about. I'm kind of glad that they didn't, because if they had handed it to me, I wouldn't appreciate it. They really wanted me to be into horses. That was their thing. So we were always out at the barn, doing equestrian stuff, and I was like I don't want to do it. I'm over it. So they let me find flying on my own. I saved up, working at golf courses and restaurants, doing odd jobs here and there. Saved up for my first discovery flight, and went out to Boulder Airport on June 2nd, 2004. I loved it, It was adventurous. The guy next to me was this crotchety old instructor who didn't care what my name was. The plane was this piece of junk old Cessna that had been sitting in the field forever. But none of that mattered. I landed and I was like, wow, this is cool!

I gradually started telling people about that, and that I wanted to go to flight school. I wasn't really tuned into AOPA or Women In Aviation at that point, because I didn't know about it. I saved and saved, and finally I finished. It took a couple of years. Got my private license. During that process, people were asking "Do you think you could fly around the world?" and I started saying "yes." Then, people really started paying attention.

I was working at this little restaurant in Boulder, and every Wednesday night this old couple would come in and always order the lobster. It was a pain in the butt, because it was so much work and they were this really needy couple. One day they said "tell us your story." Originally I was studying English Literature. I wanted to go into education and teach high school English. I told them I had recently taken my first flight lesson, and the interesting thing with my name being Amelia Earhart. The person in that booth said "Wow, someone should do a story on you." It turned out I was talking to the Dean of C.U. She was really helpful in terms of telling people about me, and what I was doing. That's how I got the job at NBC.

A press release was sent out to all the TV stations, so I was on Fox News and the Today Show, when I was about 21. I didn't really know what I was doing at that point, so I was just like, "Yeah, I'm learning how to fly. And maybe I'll fly around the world someday."

So that's how it started. As I progressed and realized I could be a good pilot, and had the resources, getting my instrument rating, it started to become a lot more realistic that I could actually pull this off. Not having any kids yet, not married, I realized this is the time to do this, because I wouldn't want to do that with so many other things to take care of at home.


It is annoying sometimes, having the same name. All the stupid jokes, like "don't get lost" or "don't repeat Amelia's flight exactly."

For much of her life, Amelia thought she shared a distant ancestral relation to the famous pilot, Amelia Earhart. But after further research, she discovered their families lived in adjacent communities in Pennsylvania.

How many hours do you have in the cockpit?

I think I'm coming up on 400 now, so not much at all. There's no way that I could qualify to fly the PC-12 around the world by myself yet. That's why having Shane (Shane Jordan, Pilatus insturctor) there is a huge part of this. He's got over 6,000 hours in the PC-12. He's a former Pilatus demo pilot. Now he does recurrent training and lives in Telluride.


By the end of this, I'll have another hundred hours in the logbook, which will be good. When you're trying to fly a non-commercial path, it's so hard to build hours. I am working on my commercial license right now, because I think it's important for a couple other goals I have. I want to do some flight instructing for my foundation eventually. When you're training, you're training to get your rating done. You don't just go and build hours or fly people around for fun. Every hour on my logbook has been some form of training so far. Not a lot of pleasure flying yet. I'm trying to get creative about how I can incorporate more flying into my life, and still make a living off of it. Once I get the commercial rating, I think some opportunities will open up.

Photo by John S. Miller

Why was the Pilatus PC-12NG chosen over a twin-engine?

At first when I dreamt this idea up, I thought I would do it in a Cirrus, and I would do the North Atlantic Crossing and take the much longer route, and make much much shorter legs and not have to necessarily add fuel tanks unless we were going to go between Honolulu and Oakland, but you can go up through the Aleutians in Alaska so that was the original plan. When I really started thinking about making this as symbolically meaningful in order to honor the first Amelia flight, I thought if I'm gonna do this, I'm only going to fly around the world once, most likely. So I should try to make it as close to Amelia's flight as I possibly could.


So I looked at her route and I mapped it out and said what kind of aircraft would this take, and there were two choices: the TBM 850 would be a good choice if I possibly wanted to break the speed record. But then I looked at the local connection in Denver – having Pilatus twenty minutes away at the airport where I flew out of for a lot of my training and also when I was in the news helicopter [for Denver's NBC affiliate] we were neighbors with Pilatus. Being on the Board of Directors here [at Wings Over The Rockies] we had some connections to Pilatus. When I brought the idea to their marketing team, they immediately thought it was a good idea. They still had to pitch it at their big board meetings, and to the chairman of Pilatus in Switzerland. But everybody was just in the right mindset. It felt like a good safety choice, obviously.

It's a very safe aircraft, technologically advanced, and the engine is wonderful. The range was almost there. I said to myself, do we wanna split the legs up, or do we wanna see if we can push it, and put some extra fuel on board? Pilatus at first was like, "No. We don't do that. We never drill through the airframe, ever." They decided to go for it, so this is the first time an auxiliary tank will ever be put on a PC-12. A lot of PC-12 owners are now looking at this, to see about extending the range for their planes. When I got approval there, it felt like a good choice.

I finished up my instrument rating at SimCom in Florida, with the PC-12, and they have the PC-12NG simulator there. [The PC-12NG is what she'll be flying].


When I came back, I had to go to ocean survival training up in Connecticut, which was incredible and really eye-opening. The water is 60 degrees. You can only survive about four minutes in water that cold. They take you out in a boat, push you off, and toss a raft to you. They drive the boat away. You've got to open the raft, upright it, and climb in. You don't know how long they're going to be gone, which is psychologically kind of scary. You can't see land. We had our iPhones with us and realized we could turn on the compass. Using resources like that, it makes you realize that if you ditch in an ocean, you're going to have your survival kit. You're going to have the waterproof flight case. There will be things on board, if everything goes as smoothly as it possibly can. If it's more chaotic than that, you probably won't have those tools. Even the bag of water, which comes in a foil pouch, can be used as a reflective piece of material. So everything had two or three uses to it, which was fun to learn.

The Pilatus PC-12NG which Amelia will fly around the world.

Is there any other planning left to do for your flight?

We've had to move our launch date. Originally it was June 1st, then it was June 23rd, and now it's June 26th. It can't go past June 26th. That is the latest date we can launch on. We're putting an extra 200 gallons on the PC-12. It's a hard tank, Air-Mods designed it, shipped it out here and the Pilatus engineer did the install. It's got two fuel pumps inside of it and then we'll switch to the main tanks once we run the interior tank down. That's added a little bit to the timeline. Another thing is the SatCom installation. Honeywell SatCom 1 and Inmarsat are the three components to the live streaming component of the flight. So we're got to install the antenna, but before we did that, we had to get the FAA approval, that it would work with the PC-12 and be safe, and work with the enunciator lights. We're waiting on the FAA approval. Everyone's saying that'll go through, it's just a matter of getting the FAA to come out and physically be there. They've done the ground test and the flight test.


We've recently changed our route a little bit. We were originally going to go into Kenya and land in Mombasa, but two weeks ago, there were some pretty bad attacks, where 70 people were injured, 10 people died. They basically evacuated all of the American tourists. I'd already gotten my visa done. That whole process was complete for myself and my copilot, Shane, but we decided to switch to Tanzania – which doesn't change our amount of days or our route by much. We'll fly to Kilimanjaro Airport instead, which is safer. It's where all of the climbers come in. They're really familiar with small aircraft. A lot of PC-12s have come in there.

I'm working on the museum display (at Denver's Wings Over the Rockies museum) designing the jackets and shirts, the stuff that we'll wear. Getting the nutritional side figured out. We don't want to eat things that are too exotic on a trip like this. We've got seventeen stops, fourteen countries, 24,000 nautical miles. Eighty percent of it's over water. Having one engine goes into the planning process of that. We're got worldwide engine support from Pratt & Whitney, so if anything goes wrong, they'll fly to meet us at any of our destinations, doing any repairs. For the most part, minor maintenance like fuel nozzle inspection, things like that, I've gone to maintenance school. My copilot knows all about the engine, so we should be able to take care of the little problems ourselves. Everything else that's big, we're going to have support on.

Photo courtesy of Amelia Rose Earhart

Besides getting your pilot's license, and the water survival, is there any specialized training you've had to complete?


Self-discipline. (Laughs) Target even came on board. Having the patience of working through the bureaucracy of do people want to support your mission.

Training myself to eat ­­during the process, because you want to maintain a really good balance that keeps your head in the right place. For me, if I eat like crap, I just feel foggy. I don't feel like I can focus very well. So I've been trying to be super healthy the last several months. I've been doing yoga every day. The physical side is important, because I want to be in the best shape of my life when I go on this trip. I'm not going to be able to exercise much for about seventeen days. There isn't a bathroom on the plane, so you can't just wake up and drink a ton of water and then go fly for nine hours.

*Amelia's tour will put her in Brazil during the World Cup. Brazilian airport authorities had originally given her permission to fly in on June 26th, but when the trip was delayed and made her arrival during the tournament, they originally told her it could not be done. One of her sponsors, Jeppesen, stepped in to arrange a 20-minute landing slot for her. If she doesn't make that, an alternate airport will have to be used.

How do plan to use social media during your trip?

That's one of my favorite parts, because that's how most people have learned about the flight – through Facebook, Twitter. We're going to use the hashtag #FlyWithAmelia through the whole thing. We have onboard WiFi through the Honeywell system on the plane. We'll have it on 100 percent of the time except during the critical phases of flight, take off and landing. We'll be answering tweets in flight. That's part of the reason having a copilot there will be helpful, just to manage the workload. The live streaming portion of the flight will also be available on the website, YouTube is going to capture the video and will have all of the videos from previous legs on the site, so people can go back and watch. A lot of the time it will be boring, and a lot of their time it won't. The pilot geeks and aviation buffs will want to see what the cockpit's like, what we're doing, how we're communication with each other. They'll be judging me as a pilot. We'll have that going for all 98.2 hours of the flight, so I'm really going to have to watch what I say.


Beyond that, we're going to give out scholarships along the way. I run a foundation that puts girls through flight school, so we'll give away at least ten private pilot training scholarships to high school aged girls throughout the country during the trip. If I can coordinate it right, I want to give them out as we pass over the latitude / longitude where Amelia disappeared. It's about 80 percent of the way around the world, so it'll be kind of towards the end, giving people something to look forward to. The girls applying for the scholarships are so socially engaged, they totally get it.

I'll be doing probably 90 percent of the flying, but some of the legs are eight, nine hours long. So there are times when you just need to get up and stretch your legs. Technically it's a single-pilot aircraft, so it could be done alone, but when you're looking at the workload of having the extra fuel tank, the sat com system, the social media, and going to these exotic locations where it's not necessarily average to see a woman coming off of an airplane like a PC-12. There will be logos on the plane so we'll be drawing attention to ourselves. Throughout Africa, we'll be wearing crew outfits. Black pants and white shirts. We're going to work as a crew, to hopefully breeze through as smoothly as possible. But outside of there, we'll be wearing our team shirts.

We're trying not to organize too much press outside of the U.S. When we land, there is a ground handler who will meet me and take me through Customs. They'll go through the whole plane, all of the insurance, who it belongs to, our immunizations, all of that. I'm hoping to have 3-4 hours evening to go and explore, to check the place out. The reason I didn't want to spend a couple of days in each location like Amelia did, is because I want people to stay engaged. We have this really opportunity to keep people for two and a half weeks, but if I'm in the same place for a couple of days, people are going to tune out. People will get excited about waking up to seeing us in a different location every day.

Map of Amelia's round-the-world route

Have you been in contact with Geraldine Mock, the first woman to fly around the world, or has she given you any advice?


I had heard of her and knew that she was kind of an unlikely person, being a housewife, someone who had just picked up and decided to start flying. I have been in touch with the people who take care of all of the artifacts from her flight and tell her story, but I haven't been able to get in touch with her directly, but I'd love to figure out how to do that.

A lot of people know Amelia as the famous one that tried to go around the world, but there are so many other people who have done this flight too, and it's funny that their stories are so untold and still so much of a mystery, because if you say [Geraldine Mock's] name, nobody is going to know who she is, but it is pretty fascinating. A lot of people criticize Amelia's planning beforehand, her flight experience, the way she went about the flight, and there were other people who just pulled it off so smoothly. It's interesting to see the contrast, but it's just that Amelia's got so much attention through the years.

What's the next step for you career-wise, after your flight?

I probably won't go back into TV. I'd like to stay within aviation, but probably not as a commercial pilot. I want to fly as much as possible and get a commercial rating, and be able to instruct for the girls in the foundation. But really beyond this [the flight] the speaking engagements are what's going to sustain me over the next couple of years. Doing university tours, going to a lot of lecture series, and writing a couple of books.


To have the resource and the time to be able to use the flight to go and inspire a lot of people is really important to me. I saved up for a long time to be able to do this. Not only to raise money for the flight, but to allow myself to go all-in and not spread myself too thin.

I have some slightly more entrepreneurial ideas around social media and aviation, because as you know, we're very much behind the trend of knowing what works socially and what doesn't. Some companies like Honeywell are really going a great job. They've got their own TV studio built into their facilities, to talk about aerospace. They're got one person specifically devoted to social media, which is a great start, but I think we could still go much much bigger.

The people who are going to fly the future aircraft being designed today are growing up with social media. They're not getting their news in the same traditional way. They're not getting their information or making their buying decisions in the same fashion they used to. I will stay busy, no matter which direction I go.

How did you decide to dedicate your foundation toward teenage girls?

Adults view them in two different ways, in my opinion. They can be seen as really annoying, or loud and obnoxious. But that also have this quality about them in their lives where they still see the world as full of possibility. They aren't restricted to where they have to be a doctor or a lawyer, finance or education. They still think anything's possible. So what I wanted to do is capture some of that excitement and possibility, put it into flight training, and then the stem curriculum that I built with the museum, for the classroom is for everyone. Kids latch onto that and realize that math & science doesn't have to be boring or difficult. It can be really engaging if you have a physical thing to do with it. Putting somebody in an airplane and showing them how fun it can be – even though it's all math and science based, it's great. It's kind of selfish of me, but I like being around them.


I also focused on them because when I was that age, we didn't have enough money to fly, so, if I couldn't do it in my early 20s and could barely do it in my late 20s and early 30s, how is someone that young going to get that opportunity if they don't go the military path?

They're the right demographic for me. We know we need more women pilots. Is my foundation going to change that number? Probably not, but it's the symbolic source of showing them what's possible, through social media and getting it out there in hopes of making a wider ripple effect from there.

Photo by John S. Miller

What advice do you give to kids, if they're interested in a career in aviation?

Start early. I always tell them when you have the idea, the spark of interest in anything – whether it's aviation, education, a particular job or even a hobby, don't say "I'll do it tomorrow." Start right then and there. Make a contact. Write an email. Follow someone on Twitter. Get yourself inspired and find the people that are out doing the things that you want to do. Align yourself with them. When people are asked to become a mentor for someone else, it's so rare that they say no. Most people are so willing to mentor, helping you with contacts and inviting you into the process.


When it comes to aviation, it's all about taking that first flight. We spend a lot of money on things that we don't necessarily need. For teenagers, that's expensive coffees, cell phone cases, silly little things. And they say, "Aww, I don't have the money to do this." I ask them if they have a part-time job, and they'll say they wait tables or work at a coffee shop or whatever. Eighty dollars will get you your first Discovery Flight. So for me, the excuse goes away. When you ask if they're willing to devote eight hours to go and do something that can excite you about your entire future in aviation. So when I do the smaller school visits, maybe one or two classes that come together, that usually makes a pretty big impact.

I'll show them the videos of the F-16 flight. I'll show them maps from the around-the-world flight and the whole plan, getting them really engaged. I always start with the same question every time we do a school visit – How many of you wanna be pilots? The kids are like "I don't know…" By the end of the talk, after the pictures and the videos, and the ideas of what it can lead to, then I say "Now who wants to be a pilot?" They all raise their hands. I know that you can make those small changes, but it really is the follow-through. Take that first step of action, which is getting in contact with somebody like me, through the foundation or AOPA, Women in Aviation, or whatever you're interested in – just find a person who already does it, because they've already gone through exactly what you did.

If I don't know something, I just find somebody who does, and ask for help. As long as you're kind and genuine, and there with the right intentions, I think that comes through.

Do you have a lucky charm that you fly with?

I have a couple of different things. One of them is this ring. It's a sapphire with diamonds around it. It was my first solo flight into Santa Barbara that I did, in LA. I was training out of Van Nuys at Whiteman Airport. It was a night flight, and I'd never been to that city before in a small airplane. The approach is really beautiful because you're looking out at the ocean, then coming in on final towards the runway. As I took off again, it was when I realized that if I kept going I'd be over the ocean. Stars were out and it was a sapphire-colored sky.


And so I went, and it was a strange process as a woman to buy a piece of jewelry for myself, but it was kind of liberating, and it was something I want to give to my daughter someday, something I'll have with me for a long time. I went to Tiffany's and picked it out for my right hand. The next time I flew, I had my hand on the throttle and heard the tap [that the ring's band made]. So now that's kind of my good luck thing that I do, right before I push the throttle forward, I tap my ring on it, and the sounds reminds me of that flight, and the first time I considered continuing on over the ocean. I never take it off.

I have a piece of the canvas skin from Amelia's Lockheed Vega, from when the plane was re-skinned before her final flight. I'm going to pin in inside my flight jacket, so it's right over my heart. I'm sure I'll talk about it during the flight and do some social fun around it, but that's a cool one.

Amelia Earhart disappeared during her around-the-world flight in 1937. [Getty Images]

Is there a plane you'd love to fly that you haven't gotten to fly yet?

I'd really love to go and do some Super Cub flying, up in Alaska. I'd love to get into helicopters. We flew an Astar B3 for years doing the news in Denver and Los Angeles. In LA, we had dual controls, so when we were done reporting, I would go up front and I was able to fly. The only place that we were able to really practice in Los Angeles, because you needed an open field in cause you had to auto-rotate, was over Dodger Stadium. So if we had a few minutes to kill, I'd take the controls and we were over the stadium. It was fun to get those little experiences here and there, but there isn't much I wouldn't fly at this point.


The technologically advanced stuff is really fun, and smart – especially for the world flight. I know it's going to keep me safe. But you can also go back to the really simple stuff and see what it's like to truly fly an airplane with just the bare bones of what you need.

What has been the favorite plane you've taken the controls of, so far?

Probably the Extra 330. That and the F-16. I got an a F-16 flight a couple years ago out of Buckley Air Force Base. They let me take the controls of that too, which is cool because it's a side stick, super-responsive. You just have to think… the slightest movement of your hand rolls it. Incredible. We pulled 9 Gs twice. Just insane. The G suit is squeezing you so hard to keep all of the blood up at your head. I started getting tunnel vision toward the end of that 9G turn, and then as he pulls out of it, it all starts to come back, and I was like "Let's do it again!" It was exhausting. I got out and I've never been so tired.


The recruitment lady comes and says, "Amelia, you handled that really well. Do you think this is something you'd be interested in doing?" I thought "Are you kidding me? Oh gosh, I'm like 28, kind of old." I think there's a cut-off age for going into it, but obviously there a shortage of women, just like every other area of flying.

Photo by John S. Miller

Is there a plane you'd love to fly that you haven't gotten to fly yet?

I'd really love to go and do some Super Cub flying, up in Alaska. I'd love to get into helicopters. We flew an Astar B3 for years doing the news in Denver and Los Angeles. In LA, we had dual controls, so when we were done reporting, I would go up front and I was able to fly. The only place that we were able to really practice in Los Angeles, because you needed an open field in cause you had to auto-rotate, was over Dodger Stadium. So if we had a few minutes to kill, I'd take the controls and we were over the stadium. It was fun to get those little experiences here and there, but there isn't much I wouldn't fly at this point.


The technologically advanced stuff is really fun, and smart – especially for the world flight. I know it's going to keep me safe. But you can also go back to the really simple stuff and see what it's like to truly fly an airplane with just the bare bones of what you need.

Would you ever consider flying as a commercial space tourist?

In my house, I have a big bowl of money with dollar bills and loose change in it, and it says "Amelia's Space Fund." I wanna be the first person to go to space on spare change. I posted a picture of it on Facebook and people offered to send me their loose change, and said "no, not really." I really do want to go up, but I'd never take their money for it.


Absolutely. To see the Earth from that perspective, and to get that shift in perception – something that we've only seen as kids, in history books or documentaries, that would be unbelievable.

On being underestimated as a female pilot:

At EBACE (European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition) we were out at the static display for the PC-12, I walk over to the plane and start opening the door, pull the steps down, and everybody's like, "Oh, what is she doing? Is she supposed to be touching that?" People were legitimately concerned. So I step up on the stairs and people are taking pictures. This guy walks up to me. He's German, with a thick accent, and he says "Hey little girl, do you want a pilot in your picture?" And I replied, "Well sir, there is a pilot in my picture." He looked confused and asked me again. I said, "There IS a pilot in this picture. I'm flying this thing around the world later this year!" He looked at me like I had four heads, and just turned around and walked away. It was awesome. (laughs) and he called me "little girl."


The perception in Europe was really different. People still find it strange that I fly airplanes here in the States, but you go to Europe and it's even more rare. There were a lot of women at the [EBACE] conference, but they were mostly at the leadership level, selling aircraft or selling parts.

Photo courtesy Amelia Rose Earhart

Is there anything else you'd like this predominately male audience to know?

Take your daughters to the airport! (laughs) There's a lot of interest out there from guys who just want to look at a woman in an airplane. Encouraging women to be well rounded. You can be beautiful, you can be adventurous, outgoing and really intelligent and introspective about your life. Those types of well rounded women are they types of women I'm trying to develop through this program.


For me, it seems like that's what those types of men are really attracted to, and also what they want their daughters to grow up and be. I feel like a woman who is a pilot and also focuses on her education is a good person all around. She's a fun woman to be around. Encouraging those types of values in other women is fun, because everybody benefits from it. Like that guy (at EBACE) who walked up to the plane and asked if I wanted a pilot in my picture, those are the types of guys that are out there. It's fun to be the last thing that people expect you to be.

Flight Club will feature updates of Amelia's flight, which is scheduled to begin on June 26th from Oakland, California. You can donate to the Fly With Amelia foundation on this website, or by texting "AMELIA" to 71777. The foundation also has a Facebook page and you can follow Amelia on Twitter @Amelia__Earhart.

Top photo by John S. Miller