Amelia Rose can fly through the clouds now. It takes a special skill to do that, to be blind to everything, to trust only what’s in the cockpit, to give a bit of yourself over to something that’s beyond your control.
Flying still scares her, she admits. She gets a jolt of nervous energy right before takeoff. She says it keeps her focused, doesn’t allow her mind to wander.
She departs east along Centennial Airport’s runway one-zero on an afternoon in late September. It’s clear and blue outside, the kind of perfect day pilots dream about. As she climbs, Earhart looks to her left, to the concrete and asphalt below, to the suburban cul-de-sacs that soon fade into dirt roads and mottled stands of pine trees stamped into the earth. She levels out and brown grasses stretch toward the horizon. Earhart lolls left, eases the plane along a curve. She pulls right and makes wide circles in the sky. Minutes feel like seconds up here.
But the people down there are still pulling at her. There’s an event to emcee tonight, someone to call, another photo she needs to post. Her cellular phone registers a missed call. It’s the television station. She sighs.
Earhart eventually makes another wide turn and swings the plane back to the west, back over the fields and the trees and the roads and the waves of asphalt. She can see the runway in the distance. No clouds, no rain, no wind—everything’s clear. She eases the plane down. She’s got this.
11/11/13 Correction: This article originally stated that Amelia Earhart's pilot's license has her photo on it. In fact, pilot's licenses do not contain photos. We regret the error.