Whatever happened to Amelia Earhart? – She successfully flew around the wold in a Pilatus PC-12 NG! Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd
Earlier this summer, Amelia Rose Earhart (no relation to the original Amelia Mary Earhart) and her co-pilot, Shane Jordan, completed an around-the-world flight following the original 1937 flight plan of her namesake.
Accomplishing this remarkable feat was the direct result of the pioneering spirit of Pilatus employees and their dedication to achieving challenging goals that require creative solutions. By any measure, the flight was an outstanding example of what it means to be Pilatus Class!
An unusual request
In the spring of 2013, Amelia Rose Earhart contacted me to see if Pilatus would be interested in helping her accomplish a flight she had been planning for over a decade. Yes, Amelia Earhart is her real name, and with her famous namesake it was only natural that she grew up inspired to follow in her footsteps. We get many requests to sponsor unique flights, which are usually declined, as they can have very negative consequences if the flight does not succeed. In this instance, though, the opportunity appeared to have benefits that far outweighed the costs and risks. Ms. Earhart, already a pilot, was also a very popular television news reporter in Denver. This gave her access to an extensive broadcast media network willing to cover the flight. And, her famous name immediately captured people’s attention. The flight would also be used to raise funds to provide flight scholarships to young women pursuing careers in aviation.
At the time, Marketing was looking for an opportunity to extend the Pilatus brand name to prospective customers outside traditional aviation markets, and increase awareness of the PC-12’s capabilities. The successful completion of this flight would showcase the performance, reliability and safety of the PC-12 NG. If the risks could be minimized, the flight would create tremendous positive media exposure.
Going the distance
To accomplish the final and longest leg of the journey (Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California) the standard PC-12 NG’s range would have to be extended by almost 50 percent! PilBAL engineers Jeremy Vigil and Jim Saxon, and Product Marketing Manager Aaron DeBuhr, began with a “back of the napkin” sketch to calculate how much fuel would be required for the longest legs of the flight. They evaluated the risks, benefits, and costs of many different designs, and ultimately settled on an auxiliary fuel system that was simple and reliable. Like many complex projects, unexpected challenges arise along the way, and it is necessary to work together to come up with creative paths around the obstacles. Through a great team effort across all of Pilatus, FAA approval for unrestricted flight was received just days before Amelia’s planned departure from Oakland, California.
A complex flight plan
During the year-long planning for the flight, there were many operational considerations to be resolved. Aaron DeBuhr led a multi-company team with flight planning sponsor Jeppesen, fuel sponsor Signature, and eighteen additional sponsors necessary to make the flight possible.
The flight planning team continuously monitored political conditions around the world to ensure safe and reliable fuel stops could be made. Some of the stops on the original 1937 flight were simply off limits today for US-registered aircraft. The final route was locked in just three weeks before the flight.
During this time, Amelia completed her initial PC-12 NG flight training and water survival training, gathered essential provisions, calculated numerous weight and balance scenarios, and honed her flight skills in the actual aircraft and the simulator.
It's time to fly
All efforts came together on the morning of June 26th, when N58NG was towed out of the same hangar where the original Amelia Earhart stored her Lockheed Electra in 1937. Amelia and Shane lifted off from Oakland International Airport just before sunrise to begin their long journey. The flight covered a total of 24,300 nautical miles in 16 legs over 108.6 flight hours, and went off exactly as planned. Boring maybe, but 100 percent successful!
Earhart stated, “The PC-12 NG was the perfect aircraft in which to conduct this flight. Its renown reliability and performance removed much of the inherent risk associated with a flight of this nature. I am delighted to report that the aircraft performed flawlessly throughout the entire journey. We did not incur a single issue to interrupt our flight plan.”
While circling over tiny Howland Island, the destination of the fateful 1937 flight, Amelia awarded flight scholarships to ten young women through her Fly With Amelia Foundation. Completing her circumnavigation in Oakland on July 11th, the flight plan of the original Amelia Earhart was successfully closed. In doing so, Amelia became the youngest woman to fly around the world in a singleengine aircraft, and drew a great deal of attention to her foundation and the PC-12 NG.
Amelia’s flight was tracked in real-time on her website, and she employed social media throughout the trip to keep followers apprised of the experience. At the conclusion of the flight, Amelia had more than 30,000 Twitter followers, and nearly as many on Facebook and Instagram.
For Pilatus’ effort, the media coverage greatly exceeded our expectations. Amelia, her flight, and the PC-12 NG were covered by all major news networks in the United States and along her flight route. The flight was reported in 550 print and online features, 2166 broadcast segments, and made over 2 billion audience impressions across all media.