To Soar Like Earhart

Linda Finch can't help but relish all the attention and publicity she has gotten and likely will continue to get for "World Flight 1997" - her attempt to fly the same kind of plane and closely follow the route Amelia Earhart took around the equator in 1937, when she vanished along with her plane and her navigator, Fred Noonan.

When Ms. Finch departed from the Oakland, Calif., airport March 17 (the same day, and from the same location, that Ms. Earhart took off 60 years earlier), she did so to great fanfare. TV reporters and thousands of spectators came out to see the rare Lockheed Electra 10E take to the skies.

But it's evident that publicity isn't all Finch is after - for herself or for her sponsor, Pratt & Whitney, the company that designed the Wasp engines used in Earhart's Electra. That's what makes her endeavor particularly noteworthy. Her objective, she says, is to introduce schoolchildren to Amelia Earhart, whom she calls "courageous, gracious, and determined," and prove to them, as Earhart professed, that the limitations people put on themselves are more perceived than real. Those limitations can be overcome.

Earhart's 1937 flight remains a mystery; Finch wants hers to be anything but. "World Flight 1997" has designed an interactive education program called "You Can Soar," which includes a teacher's package and a Web site that allows students (and others) to follow the flight in real time, to access the weather forecasts that Finch is using, and to read her pilot log messages. In each of the touchdown cities she meets with children to talk to them about Earhart, about the Electra 10E, and about flying.

Finch left Miami, her last US stop, last week for Puerto Rico. She plans to touch down in Brazil, Spain, Tunisia, and Indonesia, to name just a few. At each port there are sure to be reporters and well-wishers. It will be a well-publicized trip. It also will be a wonderful history (and science, and math, and geography) lesson for all who are following. We wish her well.

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