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Texas woman plans to re-create Earhart flight

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Sixty years after legendary aviator Amelia Earhart mysteriously disappeared while flying around the world, a Texas woman plans to recreate and complete Earhart's journey in a 1930s-vintage plane.

Linda Finch, a 46-year-old San Antonio businesswoman, is due to take off from Oakland, California on Monday at the start of a 30,000-mile, 2 1/2 month trip that follows a route similar to Earhart's 1937 flight.The journey, called "World Flight 1997", will span five continents and include more than 30 stops in 20 countries.

Finch will fly a carefully restored 1935 Lockheed Electra 10E - the same make and model as Earhart's aircraft and one of only two left in the world. The two-engine plane has a maximum speed of about 200 miles an hour.

Finch said Earhart believed that people did not have to live within limits set for them by society. "We want to communicate the same message, and we want to remind people of Amelia and what a hero she was," Finch told Reuters in a break from her hectic schedule of preparing for the flight.

This year is the centenary of the birth of Earhart, who became a household name in her time with her daring aviation feats, including becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932 and many other record flights.

Finch will be taking off exactly 60 years after Earhart. The legendary aviator took off in Oakland on March 17, 1937 on the first leg of her attempt to fly around the world. But that was called off when the plane was damaged during takeoff from Honolulu at the start of the second leg.

On May 20, 1937, Earhart left Oakland again, this time flying eastward. She and navigator Fred Noonan were nearing the end of the trip when they disappeared on July 2, 1937, on the leg from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. No trace of her plane was found despite a long search. What happened to her is a mystery that historians and biographers have puzzled over ever since.

Finch is not the first to replicate Earhart's round-the-world flight, but she is the first to use the same make and model aircraft. Several navigators will fly with her on different legs of the journey.

Finch said she was very excited about the trip and had no fears about it. "All my life when I have a problem, I break it down into little pieces. Today I have to do this and that's what I pay attention to. So I don't worry," she said.

Students and others can follow Finch's progress on the Internet at (http://www.worldflight.org)