A First for Burry Port

A small plane landing unexpectedly brought Burry Port to the attention of the world on June 18 1928. Amelia Earhart had become the first woman to fly the Atlantic.

She had begun flying lessons on January 3, 1921 and bought her first plane in July. She had nursed during the war but was working as a social worker when she was asked to join pilot Wilmer Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis Gordon. She was there purely as a passenger, largely a PR stunt to get maximum publicity, having the official title of “commander” of the flight.

They left Trepassey harbor, Newfoundland, in a Fokker F7 named Friendship on June 17. Flying through dense fog for most of their journey, they landed at Burry Port, and not in Ireland as had been planned, approximately 21 hours later with little fuel remaining.

The landmark flight made headlines worldwide and when the crew returned to the United States they were greeted with a ticker-tape parade in New York and a reception held by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House. Amelia was distressed that Stultz and Gordon were ignored by reporters. It was “the girl” as they insisted on calling her, they had come to see.

By early 1932 nobody had successfully flown solo across the Atlantic since Lindbergh in 1927. Amelia was now ready to make the flight as the pilot rather than a passenger. At the time, several other women pilots were making preparations for such a flight and she and her husband and manager, book publisher and publicist George Putnam, knew that in order to keep her name in the headlines she would need to make the trip.

On May 20, 1932, Amelia’s Lockheed Vega began the journey from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to Paris. Strong north winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems plagued the flight and, somewhat off-course, she landed in an open field full of cows near Londonderry. She had broken several records on this flight...the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo and only person to fly it twice...the longest non-stop distance flown by a woman...and a record for crossing in the shortest time.

On June 1, 1937 Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan departed from Miami, bound for California by travelling around the world, trying for another record. They left New Guinea on July 2, having flown 22,000 miles and with 7,000 more to go...all over the Pacific. She cabled her last article to the Herald Tribune, but photographs show her looking very tired and ill. Twenty hours later all radio contact ceased after the chilling message “KHAQQ calling Itasca. We must be on you but cannot see you...gas is running low...” and no trace of plane or crew was ever found.

On June 21 1963 The Times published her account under the title

MISS EARHART ON HER ADVENTURE

Some day women will fly the Atlantic and think little of it because it is an ordinary thing to do. …Trepassey ought some day to be a great air port for transoceanic travel … Even with better aeroplanes … flying from New York to European points, Trepassey would be a natural stop for refuelling… I found in trying to work my little camera that it was difficult … because there was only one small window that opened. The adventure is unforgettable although it had only one moment … that could be called dramatic. Our gasoline was going. We had passed the place where we should have seen land. We had dropped messages in little bags weighted with oranges to the deck of a liner in an attempt to get her to “radio” her position. Although our “radio” couldn’t send messages, it could still receive. Our efforts failed.

I have been asked since arriving here why we didn’t then seek safety by the ship’s side. It is only since I have been asked the question that the event seems dramatic

Jill Davies

Reproduced from THE FRIEND February 2005

The memorial on Burry Port harbour

Apparently she did not drink coffee or tea but would keep awake by using smelling salts on long trips. However, she did have one vice!