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AMELIA

Amelia's Plane: The Electra
One of the main characters in AMELIA is made of metal not flesh, but nevertheless was one of the great loves of Amelia Earhart's life. This was her famed, twin-engine, silver-and-orange Lockheed L-10 Electra airplane, in which she would ultimately disappear. An innovative design by Hal Hibbard, the plane was first flown in 1934 and soon became one of the fledgling airline industry's state-of-the-art, long-distance vehicles, as well as coveted by Earhart. When she purchased the plane, it gave her the chance to go after her greatest dream: to become the first woman pilot to circumnavigate the globe.

Since only a handful of Electra planes still exist in the world, the film production launched a global search for one that was ready for some serious action. "Finding our Electra was like casting one of the stars of the movie,” says Mira Nair. "The plane is so vital to Amelia's story, it led to an amazing journey. We found our Electra in the South of France, and flew it across the entire African continent, in Amelia's footsteps. It was an incredible trip that nourished us through the course of shooting. I think people can relate to the plane because it reminds one of all the beauty and potential of flying.”

The film's Electra is owned by veteran pilot and French journalist, Bernard Chabbert, whose own aviator father met Amelia Earhart briefly in Senegal, giving him a unique link to the story.

Chabbert says the Electra is the kind of plane that sparks deep passion in all aviation fans. "The Electra is a masterpiece of a flying machine, an Art Deco, sophisticated, refined airplane with a seemingly magical potential for adventures,” he muses. "If you own an Electra – and only a dozen are still in existence – you dream of the day a movie company will call and ask if they can use your aircraft in a film about Amelia Earhart.”

But when that day came for Chabbert, it brought, with the honor and excitement, a massive logistical challenge. After all, his plane was in France and it needed to be in South Africa where much of the production was taking place. Mira Nair wanted not only to transport the plane to Cape Town but to capture its long sweep across the African continent, mirroring Amelia's remarkable travels.

This would be no minor feat. The Electra Chabbert owns -- known as "Hazy Lily” or just "Lily” for short -- had already been in operation for more than 6 decades, had served as a flying limousine during World War II and was flown by the British pilot and alleged spy Sydney Cotton, one of the inspirations for James Bond. After all that, the plane was now sitting in a hanger without an engine or propeller and damaged from a belly landing.

"Now we had just four months to fix everything, find two new engines, have new propellers made, and more,” recalls Chabbert. "We then had to plan a very unusual trip around Africa. In 1937 such a voyage would have made us front page news! We duplicated a flight equivalent to what Amelia had done in her time, allowing the film to honor her travels with shots of ours.”

Chabbert emphasizes: "The difference is that we were a thing of the past – flying this old, lowflying, gasoline-burning, strange machine across Africa -- while Amelia had been flying a thing of the future.”

With barely enough time for a test flight, the refurbished Electra took off from Annemasse Airfield near Geneva and headed towards the coast of Spain. Two days later, it landed in Morocco, then on to Bamako, Mali through rows of thunderstorms. "The old beast turned out to be a real adventurer,” enthuses Chabbert. The journey continued as the plane hopped across Africa, often in search of the increasingly rare fuel known as Avgas (most modern planes use kerosene gas.) The Electra flew over the shark-infested waters of the Gulf of Guinea, was grounded for s

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