Amelia Earhart inspires passion for flight


Aviation was exciting and romantic in its early days. A pair of bicycle mechanic brothers put together the first modern flying machine and flew it at Kitty Hawk. The simplicity was overwhelming.

Ever since Leonardo Da Vinci first drew diagrams of what we would call airplanes, the public waited for someone to make those dreams a reality.

The Wright brothers did it, and the public imagination was hungry for the next adventure.

Charles Lindbergh provided it, flying solo and with his wife Anne, to remote and exotic locations. Next, Amelia Earhart grabbed the popular mind with her daring flights, ending all too soon in her disappearance with Fred Noonan on their round-the-world flying adventure.

Since the early and romantic days of flying, technology has soared and we have rocketed to the moon. Planes are huge, heavy and safe. Large airport hubs exist near all major cities and state capitals.

Flying today is so safe and so boring that nobody wants to learn how to do it. No longer does flying excite romantic notions of getting away, alone or with someone you love. It’s become like any other mode of transportation, a necessity, a chore to be gotten through.

Or has it? Why does the latest news of an Amelia Earhart discovery get into the news? A recent discovery in a New Zealand military office of a strip of negatives taken of a coral reef off Gardner’s Island, where Earhart and Noonan were believed to have crash landed, was reported around the world. Sonar images show what could be the spine of the plane she flew. A skeleton found on the reef was identified as that of a Caucasian female. Maybe the pair landed safely on the reef and then perished from starvation?

As if the findings of the original Earhart weren’t enough, a distantly related descendant similarly named Amelia Earhart is planning an around the world flight using the same flight plan. This Earhart redux story also got lots of press.

Few youngsters now get the opportunity to hang around airports, doing odd jobs, learning about planes.

Shane McMahon is an exception. He grew up surrounded by airplanes, most of them old, since his father founded Parker O’Malley Aviation Museum in Ghent, N.Y. A dozen or so aircraft are registered to the corporation. Starting with a 1929 Travel Air Biplane and going to the newer planes, a 1946 Piper, 1954 Harvard 4 and a 1965 Cessna, McMahon received a rare and special treat at his family’s small museum, named for the two boys’ middle names.

"My Dad is a licensed instructor, and I’ve been flying with him since I was six years old," McMahon said.

He didn’t need the big-time heroes to bond him forever to flying. He had his dad and his grandfather.

As for the Earhart discovery?

Shane said, "There are findings about Amelia Earhart a couple of times a year, right?"

If you go ...

What: Flight lessons and scenic tours at Great Barrington Airport

When: By appointment

Where: Walter J. Kolzada, Great Barrington

Admission: Scenic tours $185 per hour. On Saturday, there will be a fly-in; $25 per person for 15 min. Flight lessons vary depnding on plane and membership.

Information: (413) 528-1010 or

What: Glider flying at the Mohawk Soaring Club

When: Weekends

Where: Harriman and West Airport, 836 State Road, North Adams

Admission: $500 membership initiation fee, $500 pilot command fee, with a $46 fee per month

Information:; contact Seth Coulter for more information at (518) 429 5189

What: Team Flys flight lessons and scenic tours

When: 7 days a week, weather permitting

Where: Harriman and West Airport, 836 State Road, North Adams

Admission: $69 for 1 passenger for a standard scenic tour in a Piper Cub plane. $39 per passanger for two to three passengers in a Cessna 172 plane. For flight lessons, $150/month for a sport pilot course and $300/month for a private pilot course.

Information: or (413) 652-1274

What: Scenic tours and flight lessons from Lyon Aviation

When: By appointment

Where: Pittsfield Municipal Airport, 832 Tamarack Road, Pittsfield.

Admission: $161 for an hourlong scenic tour for up to three people, $80.50 for a half hour tour. Introductory flight lesson is $85 per hour. Additional lessons in a Cessna 152 are $129 per hour, and $161 per hour in a Cessna 172.

Information: or (914) 943-7705


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