Any unsuspecting person in Washington looking up at the sky on the evening of April 20, 1933 might have seen a plane flying overhead, bound for Baltimore. What they couldn’t know, however, was that inside were two of the most well-known women of the time, pilot Amelia Earhart and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The pair, and some companions, had taken to the skies for a momentous joyride.
An invitation to the White House
Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt became fast friends after their first meeting in 1932. Already a well known figure for becoming the first female aviator to fly over the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, Earhart, and her husband George Putnam, were invited to a special dinner at the White House in 1933 not long after President Roosevelt was elected. He wasn’t there, but the pair were surrounded by many other guests.
This didn’t stop the women from talking about Earhart’s aerial adventures. Allegedly, Roosevelt was extremely curious about aviation, and asked the pilot what it was like to fly in the evenings – a dangerous thing to do at the time because airplanes weren’t equipped with the same computers and navigational equipment they have today. Earhart responded that it was like flying with the stars.
A special joyride
Sensing her intrigue, Earhart supposedly suggested that she and the first lady find themselves a plane and travel to and from Baltimore that very night. As it was a formal occasion, both women were decked out in elegant evening gowns and formal white gloves, so they threw on their fur coats and traveled with an entourage of family and reporters to the nearby Hoover Field Airport.
They commandeered an Eastern Air Transport plane, along with the two pilots who were scheduled to fly it. Their presence on the aircraft was really more of a formality as the legendary Earhart did most of the flying that evening. Not only that, but Roosevelt spent much of her time in the cabin taking in the sight. She joyously expressed during the flight: “It does mark an epoch, doesn’t it when a girl in an evening dress and slippers can pilot a plane at night.”
Becoming close friends
When they landed after their joyride, they marked the occasion with a photograph outside the plane before returning to the White House to eat the last of their dinner. In the coming years, Earhart and Roosevelt remained close, as they felt as though they were kindred spirits. The first lady even got a student flight permit, although sources differ on if this was before or after the Baltimore flight.
Roosevelt’s husband was adamant that she not learn to fly, but her friend had other ideas and promised that she’d show her the ropes. The pair got together on many other occasions, up until Earhart’s disappearance in 1937.
President Roosevelt put a tremendous amount of time and money into looking for the lost pilot, but to no avail. The first lady once told reporters she was sure her friend’s last words were, “I have no regrets.”