By Joshua Simmers
The history of aviation is often associated with a love for the “Red, White, and Blue.” Every year, air shows, museums, and fly-ins showcase war-era planes with a little history and a lot of eye-candy. As Americans, we lay claim to the birthright of aviation, when the Wright brothers made their first successful heavier-than-air flight on the sandy dunes of North Carolina. It is an American tale of perseverance and success, carrying more than just our individual aspirations but also those of the American identity. This mentality brought Orville and Wilber to the skies and, just as importantly, made the U.S. a fertile place for aviation to boom. The American mindset, with ample resources and great expanses to traverse, gave us a head start and passion for this industry.
One of the greatest highlights of the 2020 Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium was the featured speaker and aviator, Dr. Carlene Mendieta. In September 2001, she embarked on a three-week trip from California to New York and back, landing in the same 23 cities as Amelia Earhart. Dr. Mendieta piloted a rare, fully restored 1927 Avro Avian airplane, exactly the same as the one Earhart flew.
During her presentation, she described the unique circumstances leading her to re-create Earhart’s historical transcontinental voyage. As Dr. Mendieta illustrated the era in which Earhart flew, such as the difficulty of the times finding suitable navigation aids, fuel, and improved landing areas, there was magic and awe in her voice. Dr. Mendieta, like Amelia Earhart, has a passion for the embodiment of the American Dream.
Most impactful to me was a comment from Dr. Mendieta, which came outside of her prepared narrative: The best part of her commemorative journey was looking out of the cockpit and seeing the wide, open, varied, and free spaces that make up this amazing country. As we all consider what is in store for us after Covid-19, for the future of aviation, or big and small matters, the heart of this true and deep patriotism is to be heeded and appreciated.
What a great nation!