Amelia Earhart learns to fly

“By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly,” said Amelia Earhart of her first flying experience.

Black and white photograph of Amelia Earhart, circa 1932, seated with a slight, confident smile. She is dressed in a buttoned-up shirt, a tie, and a leather flight jacket. Her short, wavy hair frames her face, highlighting her determined expression. She rests her arms on a wooden table, exuding a sense of poised readiness and adventure.
Amelia Earhart, circa 1932

While Amelia fell in love with flying at that first ride, flying had been an interest of hers since her late teenage years. Shortly after high school, amidst the tumult of World War I, Amelia began working at a Canadian military hospital. Among the wounded but spirited aviators, it was there that her fascination with aviation took flight.

Soon, however, Amelia was a college student at Columbia, intending to go to medical school. Despite doing well in her classes, she spent a lot of her time adventuring. “I was familiar with all the forbidden underground passageways which connected the different buildings of the University. I think I explored every nook and cranny possible. I have sat in the lap of the gilded statue which decorates the library steps, and I was probably the most frequent visitor on the top of the library dome. I mean the top,” she said.

She didn’t stay long at Columbia. Shortly after, she dropped out to join her parents, who had moved to California.

Later that year came the day when Amelia got her first taste of flying. At an airfield in Long Beach, with her father providing the $10 fee (about $127 today), Amelia climbed into the airplane for a ten-minute flight that would change her life.

She was now determined to become a pilot. She transformed herself for the sky — chopping her locks short, acquiring a leather jacket and breaking it in over three sleepless nights, then journeying miles, first by bus, then by foot, all to reach the grounds of the flight school.

The flight school was run by Anita “Neta” Snook, a pioneer female aviator who was the first woman to run her own aviation business. When Amelia arrived for her first flying lesson, she had just one question for Neta, “I want to fly. Will you teach me?”

Neta took Amelia on as a student. “I’ll never forget the day she and her father came to the field. I liked her on sight,” Neta would later say of her first time meeting Amelia.

With her family’s help, Amelia purchased her first plane six months after that first lesson. And within a couple of years, she set the world altitude record for women at 14,000 feet.

“Amelia Earhart learns to fly” sources:


If you enjoyed “Amelia Earhart learns to fly”, please consider supporting Historical Snapshots with a donation. Visit our Patreon page to donate. Thank you for your support.

For another snapshot biography of an aviator, please click here to read the story of Bessie Coleman.

To cite: “Amelia Earhart learns to fly.” Published by Historical Snapshots,