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Earhart pilot tells children: You can have your dream

An old man pressed a prayer card and his lucky bean into her hands. Schoolchildren lined up for hugs. Pilot Linda Finch was surrounded Saturday everywhere she went, and that was fine with her.

They wanted autographs or pleaded to have their pictures taken with her in front of her restored Lockheed Electra 10E, a duplicate of the twin-engine propeller plane in which Amelia Earhart disappeared 60 years ago.

Finch, a millionaire businesswoman, is recreating Earhart's last flight as a tribute.

"Amelia wanted to fly around the world to set a record. We want to fly around the world to bring her message . . . you can have your dream," Finch told hundreds of children who sat with her on the ground beneath her craft.

Finch, 46, arrived in New Orleans on Friday from Tucson, Ariz., having completed 1,750 miles of her 29,000-mile journey. She heads for Miami today and expects to finish in 2{ months.

She answered questions in the hot sun under the glare of the Electra, reconfigured identically toEarhart's plane, except for the latest satellite-based navigational equipment.

Finch told the youngsters Earhart took a big dream and broke it up into little pieces: The trip is just a bunch of 36 shorter stops, she said.

"You don't get scared by breaking it down in little parts," she said.

Educational aspects of the flight, including a World Wide Web site and middle school materials sent around the nation, are a big part of Finch's dream.

Finch took off from Oakland, Calif., on March 17 _ the same day Earhart took off in 1937, trying to become the first woman to circle the equator. Others have completed the Earhart flight, but not in an Electra 10E. Only 15 such planes, with a wing span of 38 feet and 7 inches, were built.

Joe Martin, 76, a retired Air Force radio operator, asked Finch to put his prayer card and lucky bean _ a fava blessed at an altar set up for St. Joseph's Day more than 50 years ago _ in her plane. They kept him alive during World War II, he said.

"I remember her flight and I remember her," Martin said of Earhart.