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Smithsonian puts spotlight on pioneers of flight

By Brett Zongker / Associated Press


WASHINGTON » Amelia Earhart was, of course, a famous pilot and pioneer for women. Her time as a fashion designer, though, usually isn't something people remember about the woman who disappeared during a 1937 flight.

The National Air and Space Museum added such details about her life as it overhauled one of its original galleries on the "Pioneers of Flight" to go beyond the facts and figures about historic airplanes. The updated exhibit opened Friday.

Curators acknowledged the original hall, with planes flown by Earhart and Charles Lindbergh, was a bit "bare bones," created when the museum opened in 1976.


Flight pioneers Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh have ties to the islands:

» Amelia Earhart was the first person to fly solo between Hawaii and the mainland in her red Lockheed Vega airplane, and she crashed on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor during her first attempt to fly around the world. An exhibit showing Earhart's time in Hawaii is on display at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, courtesy the Matson Navigation Co.

» Charles Lindbergh lived in near isolation on Maui before his death in 1974 and is buried on the grounds of the Palapala Ho'omau Church in Kipahulu.

— Star-Advertiser staff

National Air and Space Museum


"Now we have a chance to bring out the personalities," curator Dorothy Cochrane said. "We knew we had other artifacts. We knew we had more information."

Now the gallery includes more than 1,000 objects from the museum's archives, including a jacket Earhart designed for female aviators, as well as Lindbergh's radio receiver, snow shoes and other emergency equipment he took on his daring flights with his wife, Anne.

The centerpiece is Earhart's bright red Lockheed Vega airplane — which carried her on her historic 1932 solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean — ringed by objects from her life. Earhart was the first woman to make that solo journey. She also made history in her "Little Red Bus," as she called the plane, by flying it nonstop across the United States later that year.

The plane was featured last year in the movie "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian."

Other sections feature milestones from military aviation and pioneering black aviators, including the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II. A version of the exhibit on those who broke the color barrier in flight will travel to museums nationally in 2011.

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