Amelia Earhart is known for her trailblazing achievements in aviation and her groundbreaking career as a feminist icon. But not many people know that the famed pilot had family ties to Upstate New York.

Earhart's grandfather, Alfred Gideon Otis, was born in Homer, New York, in 1827.

Throughout her career, Earhart made several landings in the Upstate New York area, where she met and became friends with local aviation enthusiasts.

In September 1928, just two months after becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as part of a 3-person crew, Earhart was a special guest of Governor Al Smith at the New York State Fair. During her visit, she made fast friends with Syracuse's "Flying Mayor" Charles Hanna, a World War I pilot who played a key role in creating the Syracuse Municipal Airport at Amboy, which helped establish Syracuse as an important aviation hub in the early years of flight.

Earhart returned to Upstate New York a few years later in her innovative Pitcairn autogiro, which was the first female-piloted new machine. She landed at Syracuse Municipal Airport on August 7, 1931, having flown at altitudes of over 19,000 feet. Her autogiro tour that summer was part of a marketing campaign paid for by Beech-Nut Foods, located in the Mohawk Valley.

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During her time in Upstate New York, Earhart also developed a love for the air-cooled engine that powered her autogiro. She was so impressed with the technology that she purchased an air-cooled Franklin automobile, made in Syracuse, that same year. As a result, she appeared in a great deal of Franklin advertising, raising the brand's profile across the country.

In September 1936, Earhart made her final flight into Syracuse to attend the Democratic State Convention, which was being held in the city that year. The convention provided her with a platform to promote a variety of feminist causes and push for female equality across the board. She was a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and the director of the Institute of Women’s Professional Relations.

Upon landing in Syracuse, Earhart was met with a hero's reception, with reporters referencing her family roots in Cortland County. While in Syracuse, she made a national broadcast for NBC supporting her close friend and neighbor, Congresswoman Caroline O’Day, who was running for re-election to the House of Representatives and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

Although Earhart's career was tragically cut short in 1937 when she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe, her legacy lives on. As a pioneer in aviation and a champion for women's rights, Earhart's contributions continue to inspire generations of young girls and women to aim high and break barriers.

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