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Equipped with a smartphone, a modern-day Amelia Earhart this weekend completed the journey that the pioneering aviatrix who inspired her name never did.
And yes, that's her real name.
Earhart, 31, isn't related to the female pilot who disappeared more than seven decades ago, but she was given the famous moniker at birth and an around-the-world flight has been an aspiration of hers since childhood. She set off on her global voyage from Denver on June 25, where she returned Saturday as the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe in a single-engine plane.
"I feel like it’s a part of me. It’s what I was born to do. And now, we did it. We finished the flight around the world,” Earhart told NBC’s Nightly News.
She coined her excursion “The Amelia Earhart Project” and chronicled the 17 stops and 24,300 nautical miles for Americans tracking her travels with photos and videos shared on social media. Earhart is also the President of the Fly With Amelia Foundation, which provides education and scholarship opportunities to young women interested in aviation.
It was a tech-savvy voyage that surpassed the primitive tools available to communicate with the original Earhart last century. The tag #flywithAmelia enabled those rooting for the pilot to follow the journey in real-time on several social media platforms, and on-board WiFi kept the flier connected to her audience.
As a tribute to the late Earhart, the modern-day pilot got her private license in 2010 and hopes her conquest will inspire more girls to get excited about aviation. Women make up about 6.6 percent of pilots in the United States, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
“She thought — maybe I can fly around the world — wouldn’t that be awesome?” Earhart’s mother Deborah Dale told Nightly News.
It took about a year and a half for the experienced television and radio reporter to plan out the nuts and bolts of her trip: visa permits, fuel planning, route decisions, immunizations and more. It also involved some practice, as she flew from Switzerland to Colorado earlier this year.
On the day of takeoff, Earhart blew a kiss to onlookers in Denver as she boarded the plane bound for Oakland, California, the city where her ambitious namesake began her fatal adventure. She shared the cockpit for the trip with friend and copilot Shane Jordan.
"When I think about the feelings of opening up the hanger door on the morning of the flight and seeing the same view as Amelia saw — it's really special to me," she told Nightly News before takeoff.
The 17-day odyssey brought Earhart to 17 cities in 14 countries including Brazil, Singapore and Tanzania where she captured photos of the sunrise as she'd planned. She also flew over the Pacific Ocean's Howland Island, the site associated with the 1937 death of her predecessor.
"I was trembling as we flew over. I’m fumbling with my cameras, trying to capture the moment. And I finally set everything down and just looked," Earhart told Nightly News. “I feel like we brought her home."