MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly non-stop across the US in 1932. The American Pilot flew from Los Angeles to Newark in a Lockheed Vega 5B.

Apart from the distance milestone of 2,477 miles, Earhart also set a new time record, as the flight lasted 19 hrs and 5 min. Among other records, the pioneer set 12 speed and distance records between 1922 and 1935.

A favorite of record-breaking Pilots, the rugged, long-range Lockheed Vega 5B, AKA The Winnie Mae, is an American six-passenger high-wing monoplane airliner designed in 1927 by the Lockheed Corporation.

The Vega 5B featured a cantilever one-piece spruce wing and a spruce veneer monocoque fuselage that reduced its weight. Additionally, the type had a NACA engine cowling and wheel pants that reduced drag and provided its streamline style.

Amelia Earhart had previously become the first woman to fly in a Vega 5B across the Atlantic.

Amelia Earhart over a Pitcairn PCA-2 aircraft. Photo: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives.

Non-stop Transcontinental Flight Logbook

The feat came just three months after Earhart flew across the Atlantic, with the same red-painted Vega 5B for both records. The Pilot bought the aircraft in 1930. The model had gained popularity as a speed aircraft due to its design.

In the case of Earhart’s Little Red Bus, as she called the aircraft, the Pilot suffered an accident prior to breaking records. As a result, a modified fuselage, three types of compasses, a drift indicator, and a more powerful engine were installed.

During her first transcontinental US flight of 1932, the Pilot recorded an average speed of 128.27 miles per hour at an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Months later, Earhart again set a new transcontinental speed record by making the same flight. By that time, she had completed her Pilot logbook in 17 hrs and 7 min.

The Lockheed Vega 5B “Little Red Bus” (civil registration NC7952). This aircraft is on display at the U.S. National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Photo: U.S. Navy (Rear Admral Robert S. Quackenbush collection).

A Career of Milestones

Earhart flew for the first time in 1920. But once she earned her Pilot’s license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) in 1923, she started breaking records.

The female Pilot set her first record by flying at an altitude of 14,000 feet, becoming the first woman to do so. Then, in 1928, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.

For the trans-Atlantic flight, Earhart was just a passenger on a Fokker F7 piloted by Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon. However, the milestone served her to gain international popularity.

In 1930, Earhart set the women’s world flying speed record of 181.18 miles per hour. Then, two years later, she would become the first woman to make a solo, non-stop trans-Atlantic flight.

As a result, the Pilot earned the National Geographic Society’s Gold Medal, bestowed by President Herbert Hoover. Additionally, she received the Distinguished Flying Cross from the US Congress.

President Herbert Hoover and Amelia Earhart, at White House, Washington, D.C. Photo: Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division.

Featured image: On Saturday, May 21, 1932, Amelia Earhart was on her second Atlantic crossing when she was forced to land in a field near Derry (Londonderry, Ireland) in her “Little Red Bus”. Photo: National Library of Ireland on The Commons.