Under Amelia's Wing
Book 2 in the Ginny Ross series
OverviewA STEM-friendly novel about a girl who just wants to learn to fly. Stubborn to a fault, Ginny Ross is enrolled at Purdue University to earn her pilot's license and help her friend and mentor, Amelia Earhart, recruit more young women into aviation and engineering. But when Amelia goes missing in 1937, Ginny must learn to carry on alone.
When the servicing was finished, I wiped my greasy hands on the towel Matt handed me. It was time to perform a ground run to see if my repairs were successful. The four of us pushed the plane out onto the runway and Cap asked me to start it up.
I could hardly believe my ears. I hesitated. "Really?"
"You serviced it," Cap replied. "You start it."
I stepped into the Taylor Cub's tiny cockpit and rubbed my hands together. The switches and dials on the instrument panel looked just like the ones in the City of New York. I took a deep breath and rested my hand on the throttle. Outside, Matt turned the propeller and a roar echoed in the autumn air. He cheered, Mabel's eyes widened, Cap smiled, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief.
When I turned off the engine, Matt said, "She knows more about planes than any girl I've ever met!"
"She's one-of-a-kind all right," Cap replied with a proud smile.
I stepped out of the plane and curtsied. Mabel just shook her head in amazement.
"You deserve a break after all that work. Let's take a spin around the campus," he said, patting the plane and looking at me.
My heart skipped a beat. "You're kidding," I said.
"I never kid when it comes to planes," Cap replied. "This one needs a flight check before the boys start their aviation classes anyway." He held his hand out to me. I stepped over the low door again and sat in the back seat. Cap stepped into the front seat, pulled the door up and the window down. I breathed in the smell of leather seats and machine oil. This was it. I was finally going into the air!
Cap signalled Matt to turn the propeller. I took a deep breath and in vain, willed my heart to slow as another roar filled the air. The wheels turned slowly and the plane rolled to the runway closest to the hangar. My heart pounded as Cap revved the engine to full power, eased the throttle forward, and started our takeoff run. The runway blurred with the increased speed and the force pushed me back in my seat. My stomach gave a lurch as the plane tilted and the ground fell away, and my whole body tingled with the vibration. Mabel, Matt, and the hangar got smaller and smaller as we soared into the clear blue sky.
All my studying with Uncle Harry had taught me what to expect during takeoff. But knowing was not the same as feeling. I wanted to hold my hands over my head and yell, "I'm free!" No more a fish out of water. I was an eagle, soaring, gliding, and swooping through the clouds. This was where an eagle belonged.
The roaring of the wind and the engine made talking difficult. Cap turned his head and yelled something to me that sounded like "football." I looked down where he was pointing and saw a huge green oval with white lines. I remember Mabel telling me the football stadium was at the end of University Street, so now I had a landmark. The next building I recognized was the Armory, with its sloping roof and big windows. When Cap flew over, the students streaming in and out looked up and waved.
We continued south where the buildings stood closer together. I wasn't sure what I was looking at, but I was impressed with how much bigger the university looked from the air. It seemed to spread for miles. Obviously, I'd only seen a small part of it from the ground.
Beyond the buildings were clumps of dark green trees and open yellow fields. The ripened corn stalks seemed to bow their heads as Cap and I flew over. In the pastures, cows grazed and horses ran away from the roar of the plane.
Cap turned around again and shouted over his shoulder. I heard, "Time...home." I smiled and nodded, although I hated to leave the sky.
Cap flew over more buildings until I recognized the runways at the airport in the distance. Slowly we lost altitude and the buildings, cars, and people grew. We bounced down onto solid ground and taxied back to the hangar, where Mabel and Matt still stood on the tarmac. They ran toward the plane as soon as it stopped. Cap pushed the window up and the door down. Then Matt held out his hand and I stepped out.
"What was it like?" Mabel asked right away.
I jumped down and practically shouted, "Amazing!"
Cap stepped out of the plane and I turned to him. "Thank you so much!" I took his hand in both of mine and shook it vigorously.
He chuckled. "Keep up the good work and you'll be flying the plane yourself in no time."
"That's my plan!"
"Amelia Earhart will be on campus soon," Cap said. "I know she wants to talk to people like you about aviation."
"She already—" Mabel started, but I shot her a look that made her stop. "That's a good idea," she finished instead.
"A very good idea." I agreed. I held out my hand to Cap again. "Thank you. It's the best present anyone has ever given me."
He laughed and said I was more than welcome. Mabel and I said goodbye and walked in the direction of our residence. My whole body still tingled from the flight. I'd often thought of what it would be like to fly but to feel it was more thrilling than I imagined—the smell of machine oil and leather, the roar of the engine, and the whole world stretching out below. More than all of that was the sense of freedom. I couldn't stop smiling.
"You could have knocked me over with a feather when you stepped out of that plane!" Mabel's voice brought me back to earth.
"Still think I'm crazy?"
She shook her head, but there was a sparkle in her eye this time. "Only slightly."
We walked in silence for a few more minutes before Mabel stopped again. "Why didn't you want me to tell Cap you already know Amelia?"
I walked to the side of the road and sat down on the grass. "It's this whole 'non-traditional role' idea. Being in engineering already has people talking about me. I don't want to draw more attention to myself."
Mabel sat down beside me. "Wait 'til they find out you want to be a pilot!"
"I'm not looking forward to that reaction." I thought for a few more seconds. "I'm different enough for now. Telling people I know Amelia can wait until she arrives."