Amelia’s plane is returning home to Kansas – sort of.
The fuselage of a 1935 Lockheed Electra L-10E, outfitted exactly like the one Atchison-born Amelia Earhart flew on her ill-fated attempt to fly around the world, will begin a five-day journey on Monday from California to Kansas.
Its final stop will be Earhart’s birthplace of Atchison, where the Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation will put the airplane on permanent display in a hangar the foundation plans to build as a museum commemorating the female aviator’s last flight. The fuselage follows the late July delivery of the Electra’s wings – which span nearly 60 feet – and other parts.
Earhart, navigator Fred Noonan and their Electra disappeared in July 1937 while flying from New Guinea to Howland Island in the South Pacific in her around-the-world attempt.
“This has kind of been something that has come to fruition 20 years later,” said Karen Seaberg, director of the foundation, which acquired the airplane from Grace Mcguire, a pilot who owned and had been restoring the aircraft for more than three decades. “We want to preserve her history through this airplane and also preserve all the work Grace has done.”
Mcguire had been working on the twin-engine Electra – which she named “Muriel” after Earhart’s sister – since she acquired the airplane 34 years ago from a defunct museum in Orlando, Fla.
“She needed major surgery,” Mcguire said of the Electra when she bought it. She said this particular Electra L-10E was first used as a passenger plane by Pan American Airways in Brazil and other parts of South America.
A pilot and flight instructor, Mcguire’s intent all along was to restore the airplane to airworthiness and complete Earhart’s original 29,000-mile flight.
But multiple sclerosis forced her to cancel those flight plans.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but I knew about a year and a half ago it would be impossible for me to do the flight,” Mcguire said. “I thought, ‘I’ll never be able to sit in the cockpit for long stretches, and if anything happened, I would have a hard time getting out the escape hatch.’ ”
She has known Karen Seaberg and her husband, Ladd, since the early 1990s and that they wanted the airplane as the anchor for a museum focusing mostly on Earhart’s attempt to be the first female pilot to circumnavigate the globe.
“It took about seven months, and then Ladd and Karen had things all set up” to buy and safely store the airplane, Mcguire said.
When asked about the details of the airplane’s sale, Mcguire said it’s “more an adoption than a sale.”
“I wouldn’t have let her go to anyone else,” she added. “I didn’t do this for money.”
Karen Seaberg said the foundation has raised enough money to build a hangar shell for the airplane at the Amelia Earhart Airport in Atchison. While that is being built, Seaberg said, they have a place to safely store the airplane. But more money will have to be raised to turn the hangar into a museum showcasing other artifacts, including an actual cockpit of a Lockheed Electra L-10A, modified to a Model E cockpit that visitors will be able to sit in.
She estimates the foundation will need to raise another $500,000 to complete the museum.
“Hopefully, next year we’ll be starting to do things to get the museum open,” Seaberg said.
Seaberg and Mcguire said the fuselage of the airplane will be loaded onto an 89-foot-long truck and trailer operated by Landstar Inc. and will begin its journey from El Cajon, Calif., across four other states before reaching Kansas: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma.
It’s expected to arrive in Atchison on Friday.
For more information about the museum, see atchisonameliaearhartfoundation.org.