In 1937 or 2011, it is still Amelia’s Airspace: A photo recreation over Treasure Island

Day one: Denver to Oakland

As we launched out of Centennial Airport at 7:00 am on Monday December 26th, a huge mountain wave cloud sat over the foothills of Denver, waiting to rock our wings and remind us that flying is still a challenge and a feat that is not for the faint of heart. After a clearance for a Rocky 7 departure, Red Table transition, then direct to Oakland, we were told that we would climb to 16,000 feet in our single engine aircraft. It was a tough climb. Airspeed wavered, our bodies bounced and we shot on Westerly course towards Golden, CO. Once we made it through the light turbulence, we were on a smooth path over Colorado’s fourteeners, snow covered ski areas, and the most beautiful pinkish-orange-puruple sunrise.

Winter Park, Aspen, Rifle, Eagle, and the Utah State line passed below us as we cruised at true airspeed of around 190 kts. I stared out the window and watched as smooth and deeply snow-packed Colorado mountains transitioned to jagged mesas with only a dusting. The shadows were deep and the sun was low in the East. The colors were an intensified burnt orange hue, reminiscent of the Fall colors of an Oak tree. Utah felt open and vast, speckled with neon blue lakes that still had patches of floating ice. I searched to find shapes in the formations on the water, much like I search for shapes in the clouds.

Because of our 45-50 knot headwinds, we had to stop for fuel in Nevada. We used our Garmin 1000 to locate a nearby airport with 100LL fuel, which is a bit of a task in this desolate area. We chose Tonopah, a small airport with a 7,000 foot runway. Save the crows flying above, we were the only ones around for miles. We landed smoothly on runway 15 and taxied to a double-wide trailer with a fuel tank outside. Did this place even have running water? John and I nervously laughed as we made our way towards a man in coveralls and work boots. He greeted us with a smile and filled our tanks. Fuel is cheap in Tonopah, NV! We paid around $5.40 a gallon, which would take us to Livermore airport in California. As we left this one horse (one airplane too) town and looked to the South East, we saw what looked to be a storm in the distance. With squinted eyes we saw what looked like the mature stage of a thunderstorm as the anvil of a cumulonimbus cloud arcs to the side before rain pounds the ground below. How could this be? We had blue skies all around… as we lifted of into the air, we found that our eyes had deceived us. A desert mirage appeared as we climbed into the quiet and mysterious Nevada sky.

Our instrument approach into Livermore Airport took us over the Sierra Nevada’s, frigid alpine lakes and windmill farms. The decent was smooth, our landing was on the centerline and our airplane was happy. What more could a pilot hope for? I felt an exciting buzz around the fact that we were here to kick off the start of an adventure.

We met with the crew from A Pilot’s Story, a documentary about the passion of aviation. John’s uncle and cousins were also waiting at Attitude aviation. We looked to familiar faces smiling and waving, as we taxied into the beautiful hangar filled with WWII aircraft and aerobatic planes. Meet and greet, lunch and a short rest and it was time to do the photo-recreation of Amelia’s 1937 flight over Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge.

Here is video from our air to air photoshoot as we cruised as a flight of two, in formation over San Francisco and the bay.

As we cruised over Treasure Island, interacting with the photo ship and cautiously making turns while hitting specific altitude marks and speeds, I couldn’t help but get chills knowing that I was flying in the same spot that Amelia flew 74 years ago.

Amelia surely admired the beauty of this coastal city, she surely watched the barges pass below her shining Lockheed Electra, she undoubtedly skillfully navigated her plane over this town which would eventually become her kick off point for her round the world flight.

Here is the shot we were attempting to recreate:

Here is what we accomplished:

Robert Capps IIPhotographer Robert Capps II and the folks from A Pilot’s Story put together this photo shoot and generously donated their time to making this photo great. (Larger image will be available once final edits are complete)

Pride does not begin to describe how I feel about this photo. From the airspace, the weather, the timing, there were so many variables that could have made this photograph impossible. Instead, it was a safe, accurate, perfectly executed photo shoot that I will remember for the rest of my life. I couldn’t help but tear up a bit as I gazed out the window of the plane, down at the same view that Amelia saw.



13 thoughts on “In 1937 or 2011, it is still Amelia’s Airspace: A photo recreation over Treasure Island

  1. Such a nice video from my home, and also a nice tribute to the lovely bridge spans of the Bay Bridge, a hunk of steel and concrete that’s dear to me. Congrats!

  2. Too bad orginal Amelia did not have your writing skills! Tonopah has great people. We have refueled there when nobody was around and simply followed the instructions to run our own credit card though. It is nice to see such trust in basic pilot honesty try in today’s age. Next time ask about the big wooden hangars there and WWII story. You might consider KMLF – Milford UT, which is right on the border with Nevada. Their fuel price is usually very low, and the airport managers are a charming couple. We have made cautionary overnight stops there when getting a late start and don’t wish to break our own rules of no single engine over the Rockies past sundown. Good hotel, good diner.

  3. I wish I could have met you while you were here. Funny thing is that I had to make a go / no go decision on December 26th around 2-3pm from Petaluma and decided NOT to do the Bay Tour in a Cessna with my uncle. Sounds like I might have been flying around with you / near you and maybe even heard you on Nor Cal Approach! The airport was almost socked in and I decided to stay grounded. Now I wish I had flown. What time were you around the Bay Bridge?

  4. Dear Amelia
    Day two and you’ve gotten so far!!! I love the pictures and the video they give me chills! Today I went ice skating and I saw a plane and i watched it until it flew over the mountain. It was amazing! I You are so brave and I love following all of your accomplishments!! So while your up in the air I decided that you might need a little humor so I found a joke! Hope you like it!

    A blonde went to a flight school insisting that she wanted to learn to fly. As all the planes were currently in use, the owner agreed to instruct her by radio on how to pilot the solo helicopter. He took her out, showed her how to start it and gave her the basics, and sent her on her way.After she climbed 1000 feet, she radioed in. “I’m doing great! I love it! The view is so beautiful, and I’m starting to get the hang of this.”After 2000 feet, she radioed again, saying how easy it was to fly. The instructor watched her climb over 3000 feet, and was beginning to worry that she hadn’t radioed in.A few minutes later, he watched in horror as she crashed about half a mile away. He ran over and pulled her from the wreckage.When he asked what happened, she said, “I don’t know! Everything was going fine, but as I got higher, I was starting to get cold. I can barely remember anything after I turned off the big fan!”

    Im 14 years old and I fly all around the world to see family but I think what your doing is just amazing! Your my idol! I hope you had a wonderful day!
    Ashley Franco
    Littleton Colorado

  5. YOU KEEP ON GOING GIRL!!!!! PS TO ASHLEY,Amelia is a person you should IDOLIZE……..She is an awesome human being from all I have seen and heard.

  6. Hi Amelia,

    Congratulating on your dream. It’s a thrill to join you through your blog. I can’t wait to share the beautiful blue skies with you. I’m going up for my first pre lesson sometime in the next few days. It’s been a long dream of mine for many years that one day I would be at the controls of my own airplane. The dream is closing in and the excitement keeps my mind running when I should be sleeping instead. I almost can’t wait to go flying so I can get a full nights sleep…. Funny how the older we get and yet we still can feel like a child waiting and wondering if one day we will get that bike, car or that beautiful girl to say yes to a date. Hope to see you in the hanger one day. Safe flying…. Jeff

  7. I’ve been following this with great interest! It is really fun to hear about your interest in aviation growing as a result of your family ties with Amelia. I’ve been in and out of aviation since my youth, due to my grandfather’s aviation history as well. I recently discovered that the woman who taught your namesake to fly was at the Curtiss School in Newport News, Va about the same time my grandfather was learning to fly. Keep up the great adventure! We’re all pulling for you!

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