Thursday 20 July 2017

Flashback: It’s been 85 years since Amelia Earhart landed (unexpectedly) in Derry

This week marks 85 years since Amelia Earhart, one of the world’s most famous aviators, made an unexpected landing in County Derry.

The historic flight broke three records as the intrepid aviator became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic alone and held the fastest flight time over the Ocean (15 hours), as well as being the only person to have flown the Atlantic twice.

Earhart’s destination was Paris and she left Harbour Grace, Newfoundland on May 20, 1932. About four hours into her journey petrol began leaking from the roof of her aircraft, a Lockheed Vega. A few hours after the leak began she spotted the Irish coastline.

She circled as she looked out for the Valencia wireless station and when she couldn’t see it, followed a railway track that eventually led her to Derry. She made a smooth landing in the field of the Gallagher family in Springfield.

The Irish Independent described her alighting from the aircraft with sparkling eyes as she asked simply for a glass of water. She was welcomed into the Gallagher home where she was given something to eat, having survived mostly on tomato juice for her journey, and after that she began speaking to the press who had quickly gathered at the house.

Mr Gallagher drove her into Derry city where she called her husband to let him know she was safe and then wired a message to New York to let them know her trip was successful, although cut slightly short. That day she received a reply from President Hoover in Washington:

“You have demonstrated not only your dauntless courage, but also the capacity of women to match the skill of men in performing the most difficult feats of high adventure.”

She stayed that night at the Gallagher family home, and departed the next day to London. Five years later she embarked on her most ambitious journey to date, a solo round-the-world flight that ended tragically with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart somewhere across the Pacific Ocean.

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