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Triumphant Finch completes Earhart's unfinished trip


May 28, 1997
Web posted at: 12:48 p.m. EDT (1648 GMT)

In this story:

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Linda Finch landed safely at an Oakland, California, airport Wednesday, completing the final, longest and most dangerous leg of the 26,000-mile globe-circling journey Amelia Earhart never finished.

Linda Finch Lands in Oakland
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She began the 2,400-mile trip back to her starting point Tuesday with supporters yelling "Aloha" as she took off from a Honolulu airport. Her twin-engine Lockheed Electra 10-E aircraft, the same model that aviation pioneer Earhart flew, carried extra fuel so she wouldn't be left short if she ran into head winds.

In Finch's tiny plane, the cockpit is cramped, the vibration is pounding and there is no air conditioning.

Finch's plane movie icon

The start of Linda Finch's journey two months ago

(813 K / 27 sec. / 160x120 QuickTime movie)

Smooth flying for Texas businesswoman

Other than that, it was smooth flying for the Texas businesswoman and pilot as she recreated Earhart's unsuccessful 1937 flight around the world.

Animation of route of flight
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(416K/10 sec. small frame QuickTime movie)

During the last two months, Finch has made 30 stops in 20 countries, where she has often been welcomed as a hero.

Earhart wanted to circumnavigate the globe at its widest point, along the equator. In what is being called "World Flight 97," Finch has faithfully followed Earhart's intended flight path with millions of folks following along on a site on the World Wide Web.

The educational program "You Can Soar" invited students throughout the United States to participate in her flight. And on the U.S. leg of her trip, Finch chatted with students about the excursion.

"It's wonderful," said one of the students who met her. "I just can't believe that Linda Finch could retrack the voyage of Amelia Earhart. She's just great."

In Brazil last month, Finch's comments proved to be an accurate forecast of the trip to come. "The trip so far has been really easy, a few showers but nothing difficult," she said.

Finch's uniform

More problems with e-mail than aircraft

The $4 million restoration of the Lockheed 10-E is an exact replica of Earhart's plane, including the Pratt & Whitney engines, but with modern navigation and communications equipment. So far, she's had more problems trying to figure out how to send e-mail than with the aircraft itself.

By contrast, when Earhart flew, the plane's radio was so primitive even weather reports were tough to get and communication was, at best, spotty.

Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared 60 years ago while flying near Howland Island in the South Pacific. Last week, Finch took a moment to pay tribute to Earhart by dropping memorial wreaths near the island in her memory.

For Finch, Earhart's life has been an inspiration.

"I think Amelia's message, that anyone can have their dreams and you don't have to set small limits for yourself, is everybody's dream," she said.

Correspondent Rusty Dornin contributed to this report.


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