Smithsonian National Air and Space MuseumPioneers of Flight

Civilian Aviation

First Woman to Solo Across the Atlantic

Amelia Earhart, Lockheed Model 5B Vega

Earhart arrives in Culmore, Northern Ireland, after her solo flight across the Atlantic. She fought fatigue, a leaky fuel tank, and a cracked manifold that spewed flames out the side of the engine. Ice formed on the plane's wings and caused an unstoppable 914-meter (3,000-foot) descent to just above the waves.

Earhart Solos the Atlantic Then Crosses America
On May 20-21, 1932, Earhart became the first woman—and the only person since Charles Lindbergh—to fly nonstop and alone across the Atlantic. Flying a red Lockheed Vega, she left Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, Canada, and landed 15 hours later near Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The feat made Earhart an instant worldwide sensation and proved she was a courageous and able pilot.

Later that year, Earhart flew the Vega to another record. On August 24—25, she made the first solo, nonstop flight by a woman across the United States, from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, in about 19 hours.

Amelia Earhart

No other female aviator has had Amelia Earhart's instant worldwide fame. Committed to aviation, she promoted "airmindedness" at a time when most people were skeptical about airplanes as a form of transportation. Her confident personal and media presence reached millions in the 1920s and 1930s and still resonate today.

Who Was Amelia Earhart?
One of the most famous flyers of her day, she was a record-setting pilot, a promoter of aviation, a media star, and celebrity. She was an inspiring role model for women, and the tragic legend at the center of an enduring mystery.

The Lockheed 5B Vega
In this airplane, Amelia Earhart set two of her many aviation records. In 1932 she flew it alone across the Atlantic, then flew it nonstop across the United States—both firsts for a woman.

The Vega was the first design produced by Lockheed Aircraft, which went on to become one of America's great aircraft companies. Sturdy, roomy, streamlined, and fast, the innovative Vega became favored by pilots seeking to set speed and distance records. Earhart owned this bright red Vega from 1930 to 1933.

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega

Look Inside Lockheed Vega Cockpit


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QuickTime VR panorama created from actual cockpit photography.

Look Inside Lockheed Vega Cabin


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QuickTime VR panorama created from actual cockpit photography.

Wingspan: 12.5 m (41 ft)
Length: 8.4 m (27 ft 6 in)
Height: 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)
Weight, empty: 1,199 kg (2,634 lb)
Weight, gross: 2,495 kg (5,500 lb)
Top speed: 298 km/h (185 mph)
Engine: Pratt & Whitney Wasp CB, #3812, 500 hp
Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corp., Burbank, Calif., 1928

More about the Lockheed Vega 5B
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