Finch in June 2007
|Occupation||Aviator, aviation historian, businesswoman, author and spokesperson|
Linda Finch (born March 13, 1951) is an American businesswoman, aviator, and aviation historian from San Antonio, Texas, with a career including more than 30 years experience in the construction and operation of health care facilities and the construction of prefabricated buildings.
Finch developed an interest in flying in the early 1970s and was particularly interested in World War II era aircraft. She has restored vintage airplanes and participated in races and airshows.
She is most noted for her 1997 World Flight, recreating and completing Amelia Earhart's attempted world record. She flew a restored 1935 Lockheed Electra 10E, the same type of plane that Earhart flew in 1937 as she attempted her world flight. The plane was modified to contain a modern Global Positioning System, increased gasoline capacity, and modern communications equipment. She followed Earhart's route as closely as she could and completed the 26,000 mile trip around the world in 73 days.
Partnered with Pratt & Whitney, who funded the restoration and flight, Finch established the You Can Soar educational and motivational program that allowed students in 200,000 classrooms to follow her flight. For the two and a half months of the flight, there were about 30 million hits on the educational website.
Early life and education
Finch was born at San Antonio, Texas on March 13, 1951. Her parents were Mary Beth Duerler and Leslie Duerler, who worked for a telephone company. Finch grew up with her two brothers, Michael and Jerry, initially in Highland Hills, a lower–middle–class neighborhood southeast of downtown San Antonio. When she was in her early teens, the family moved to a more prosperous suburban area outside the city limits.
When she was 16 years old she began dating a man around 19 years of age from the local Army base. He received orders to go to Vietnam. Finch quit John Marshall High School and they eloped to Mexico before he left for Vietnam. The couple had a daughter, Julie, born in February 1969. A year later the couple ended their marriage.
Finch has always believed in the importance of self-reliance and ingenuity. She obtained her high school equivalent diploma when she was twenty years old. She studied accounting at Southwest Texas State University and obtained work at various bookkeeping jobs in New Jersey, Texas, South Dakota, Montana, and Illinois. Some of her bookkeeping jobs were at nursing facilities, where she enjoyed working with seniors.
Finch networked with the key townspeople to recruit 15 new residents a month as one of her first management duties for a nursing home in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Goal-driven and detail-oriented, she enjoyed the work and decided she wanted to own her own set of nursing homes. Finch financed her first nursing home facility in 1979 from money loaned to her by her grandparents, who refinanced their home with a new mortgage with the proviso that if she failed in this nursing home enterprise her family would pay off the mortgage but she would lose her inheritance. The loan for the business was guaranteed by a former employer from New Jersey. One of Finch's uncles, a pharmacist, for whom she had performed bookkeeping services, helped finance her second nursing home facility. She acquired five more nursing homes over the next two years that resulted in her owning seven facilities with a total of 750 residents.
Finch at 31 years of age, in 1982, employed about 600 workers to run her facilities. She later organized Care Centers Management Corporation and began building retirement communities. By 1997 she owned retirement property, four nursing homes with 500 residents, and a construction firm that manufactures prefabricated buildings. At that time, her enterprises employed 500 people and earned $14 million in annual revenues. There were lawsuits tried against Finch and her businesses related to patient care and HUD financing.
Having dreamt of flying a Vought F4U Corsair since she was a teenager, Finch used the money she budgeted for lunches while working as a bookkeeper to pay for flying lessons beginning about 1972, when she first flew solo in a Grumman trainer. And, as she began to scout for potential nursing homes to purchase, she thought it would be good idea to fly to each of these locations. She obtained her pilot's license in 1979 and about 1980 purchased a Piper Arrow, which she flew throughout Texas to manage her nursing homes. In the 1980s, she acquired a North American T-6 Texan, a World War II trainer which she completely restored to participate in air shows and races, like the Reno Air Races. She later flew her Beechcraft airplane to conduct business. She restored six vintage planes by 1997.
Early in her flying career, Finch became a member of the Confederate Air Force (now Commemorative Air Force) Association, where she was taught to land the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt without power 100 times. At that time, it was unusual for an aviatrix to fly the P-47. She was a major fundraiser for the restoration and marketing of this rare aircraft, of which there are only a small number still flying. Finch has flown for over 8,000 hours with approximately 5,900 of these flying hours in vintage multi-engine aircraft, warbirds and tail draggers. She has flown in numerous air shows around the world for more than 20 years.
World Flight 1997
In 1991, Finch began to plan to duplicate Amelia Earhart's doomed around-the-world flight, known as World Flight, of 1937. Amelia Earhart was the first female to fly completely over the Atlantic Ocean, the first to fly nonstop across the United States, and the first to fly from Hawaii to the west coast of California. Amelia Earhart attracted the world's attention when she began her global attempt and mourned her when the plane came up missing without a trace. Earhart was lost somewhere in the south Pacific Ocean. Finch's flight marked the 60th anniversary of Earhart's failed effort as well as centennial of her birth.
Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.— Amelia Earhart's letter to her husband, Last Flight 
Finch flew a 1935 Lockheed Electra 10E, restored to the specifications of Earhart's Electra 10E plane. She believed the flight should be of the same type plane as Earhart's for historical purposes. She searched for three years to acquire the remaining parts from just one of only two such planes in existence, neither flight-worthy. She found it stored in a garage at a small grass strip airport near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. It had been sitting there for years. Various parts were missing and the wings and engines were taken off and sold.[a] Besides being in pieces, the plane was rusted and corroded. Finch spent a total of $330,000 (most of her savings) to purchase the hulk and haul it back to her hometown in Texas.
Pratt & Whitney, the manufacturer of the Wasp radial engines that powered Amelia Earhart's Electra, donated one and a half million dollars to help Finch restore the airplane in March 1995. Pratt & Whitney underwrote the cost of the $4 million flight and the Hartford Courant newspaper was a sponsor. The Electra plane was methodically and meticulously put back together with great attention to original specifications. Pictures of Earhart's plane and original drawings and photographs from Lockheed helped with the restoration. While reconstruction was not complete until 1997, the plane was able to fly in July 1996.
Earhart's radio gear was antiquated, however Finch's Electra was designed with the latest state-of-the-art radio navigation. Finch's aircraft was outfitted with weather radar and a Global Positioning System for world navigation and tracking. The fuel tank was increased from 800 pounds to 1,800 pounds for island hopping across the oceans.[b] The National Geographic Society supplied a video camera for the plane. In addition to access to the internet, the plane was outfitted with a fax machine. Although Finch added modern equipment to aid in navigation and communication, it was still a dangerous trip, flying a heavy plane built for short distances (800 miles (1,300 km)) and she had to contend with the loud engine noise and heat from the engine of the vintage plane for 8 to 12 hours a day.
Another plane was outfitted with modern communication and navigational equipment to travel alongside Finch. Her team for the flight included Pratt & Whitney employees, two navigators, and a staff dedicated to promotion of the flight.
Recreation of historic flight
Finch's recreated flight began from Oakland International Airport at Oakland, California March 17, 1997, 60 years after Amelia Earhart's 1937 around-the-world flight attempt from the same airport.
Finch's flight plan was patterned after Amelia Earhart's route.[c] It involved stopping at 36 places in 18 countries. The trip took 73 days and ended May 28 at the Oakland Airport. The trip was 26,000-miles, during which her cruising speed was just 90 miles per hour.[d] She generally flew in increments of 8 to 12 hours at a time. The Electra's cabin was not pressurized and it did not carry oxygen and, like Earhart, Finch flew below 10,000 feet (3,000 m) for most of the flight.
Finch touched down on five continents, mirroring Earhart's route and its stops. She flew a total of 224 hours, visiting 18 counties and making a total of 34 landings. She flew an additional 1,000 miles to drop a single wreath over Howland Island from her aircraft to honor the pioneering aviator. (Amelia Earhart disappeared on her way to Howland Island on July 2, 1937.) Finch's last leg, the longest of the world flight, was made on May 28. It was an estimated 18-hour flight to cover 2,000 miles (3,200 km) between Hawaii and Oakland, California.[e] At the time of the flight in 1997, Finch was 46 years old, seven years older than Earhart's age on her final flight.
You Can Soar
Finch hoped children around the world would understand Earhart's courage, hope and determination, and find heroes in their own lives - heroes that would teach them to also "reach for the sky". She tied her flight adventure to the educational series You Can Soar. The flight's purpose was to tell Amelia's message, "That you can have your dreams - and they should be big dreams".
Finch's flight and education programs were supported by Pratt and Whitney. Finch's team and Pratt & Whitney developed a comprehensive free multimedia curriculum which was sent to schools, targeting 5th through 8th-grade students. The curriculum taught geography, time zones, weather gauging, as well as Earhart's legacy. Picking up on the countries that she visited, the cultural studies portion of the program also taught poetry, language, and art.
Finch stopped at many places throughout the United States and Europe to meet with groups of admiring school children. The high-tech computer equipment in her aircraft communicated her daily progress to children via the Internet to nearly 200,000 classrooms worldwide. The website was accessed approximately 30 million times in 2 1/2 months. Finch used a laptop in the cockpit of the Electra to communicate details of her journey and answer school children's email messages.
The country is magnificent! The mountains are covered with jungle, and some of the small hills are covered with what looks like moss. It is very smooth, almost like a carpet in many shades of green.
After finishing the historic flight, Finch said to the spectators and media gathered at Oakland International Airport:
Now that I'm home I can confidently say that Amelia Earhart's message is as alive and vibrant today as it was 60 years ago. We learned that the differences in the people we met are far less than the distance we traveled. We saw the same hopes and dreams in the faces of children around the world, eager to learn about their own power and possibilities. It's been a wonderful ride, filled with memories I will never forget for as long as I live. But the world truly is getting smaller and smarter. And my wish is that good work carries on. I also want every one of the children we touched to remember that you too can soar on the wings of your own dreams and how wonderful those dreams are. I will continue to spread that message to anyone who will listen.
Finch appeared at numerous aviation-related events, schools, businesses, museums, and children programs, to continue to deliver her message and encourage others to tackle big dreams and make a big difference in our world. The Museum of Flight in Seattle has acquired the Electra. She was honored by the Gathering of Eagles Foundation in 1999.
Finch married three times, all ending in divorce. After her first marriage ended in divorce, she held a number of jobs as a bookkeeper and manager before she married for a second time. She returned to San Antonio, Texas and had her second child, a son, Leslie. Her third marriage was in 1983 to Delos Finch, a businessman that owned a chain of auto repair centers in San Antonio, and it lasted ten years. She has three children: Julie and Leslie (born about 1969 and 1976) and a granddaughter (born about 1995) whom she adopted.
- Ann Pellegreno, in 1967, completed a world flight by flying a plane similar to Earhart's plane
- There were only 15 Electra 10Es that were built.
- The extra gasoline helped Finch ensure that the plane could make it through the open seas between the islands of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, but the extra weight increased her chances of crashing on takeoff.
- Finch bypassed African countries undergoing political unrest and did not land on Howland Island, where Earhart was supposed to have landed, due to its loss of its airstrip.
- The Electra's top speed was 202 miles (325 km) at 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Finch averaged 116 miles (187 km) per hour (26,000 miles / 224 hours.)
- The trip from Honolulu to Oakland is also reported to have been a 16-hour, 2,400 mile flight. In any event, she made the trip without the chase plane; Its brake was damaged before takeoff.
- Stewart, Jocelyn Y. (March 18, 1997). "Pilot Sets Out to Finish What Earhart Started". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- "Ghost Flight / Pilot prepares to re-create around-the-world flight". The Hartford Courant. Hartford, Connecticut. February 9, 1997. p. 12 – via Newspapers.com .
- "Leslie Eugene (Les) Duerler - obituary". San Antonio Express-News. October 30, 2004. Retrieved May 1, 2020 – via Legacy.com.
- Plummer, William (April 7, 1997). "The Sky's the Limit". People Magazine. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- Lowell A. Keig, Rande Herrell. "Texas' Nursing Home Enforcement System". Marquette Elder's Advisor: Volume 3: Issue 2, Article 5. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
- Carmina Danini, Jacque Crouse (November 21, 1997). "Aviator Accused of misusing HUD loan". South Florida Sun Sentinel. p. 17 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Earhart trip pilot hit by HUD suit". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. November 21, 1997. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com .
- "Linda Finch". Gathering of Eagles Foundation. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- "Preparing for flight or career". Hartford Courant. February 9, 1997. p. 13. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- "Linda Finch". Top 100 Women in the World. 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
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- Roen, Peg (November–December 1997). "Flying on Faith, Hope, and History". Christianity Today. Archived from the original on February 13, 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- Amelia Earhart's Legacy Remembered. Retrieved: June 19, 2008.
- Berthelet, Dorothy. "Oshkosh Visit". Canadian 99s. Archived from the original on February 9, 2012. Retrieved June 20, 2008.
- "Heirhart". Texas Monthly. March 1, 1997. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- Nagy, Barbara (February 9, 1997). "Ghost Flight". Hartford Courant. p. 1. Retrieved May 3, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- Higgins, Chris (May 28, 2017). "On This Day in 1997, Linda Finch Completed Her Round-the-World Flight". Mental Floss. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- Irvine, Martha (writer, Associated Press) (January 10, 2011). "Pilot finishes Earhart's round-the-world journey". SouthCoast Today. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- "Lockheed Model 10-E Electra". The Museum of Flight. Retrieved April 24, 2020.