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Aviator hopes to inspire others as Earhart did

She may be following in the steps of an aviation pioneer but Linda Finch isn't after a record.

She's more interested in inspiring dreams, the way Amelia Earhart did 60 years ago when she attempted to fly around the world.

"Everyone can have dreams," Finch said Monday after landing at Kendall-Tamiami Airport in suburban Miami. "I believe Amelia flew to teach people they can do extraordinary things."

Miami is her last stop on the U.S. mainland as she tries to fly around Earth in a restored Lockheed Electra 10E, a duplicate of the twin-engine propeller plane in which Earhart disappeared in 1937. She leaves Monday for San Juan, Puerto Rico.

About 200 people, many flying enthusiasts who remembered listening with despair to radio dispatches about Earhart's disappearance, waited in the grassy fields next to the airport tarmac to greet Finch.

Among them was John Elder, a 75-year-old former Air Force gunner aboard B-17 bombers during World War II, who brought two granddaughters to see what he considered a piece of history. He said despite technological advances, Finch showed the same courage Earhart did during her time.

"I never had enough guts to do this," he said. "They're a special breed of people."

Finch, 46, a millionaire Texas businesswoman, took off from Oakland, Calif., on March 17 _ the same day Earhart took off in 1937, trying to become the first woman to circumnavigate the equator. She has made stops in Burbank, Calif., Tucson, Ariz., and New Orleans. Finch flew Sunday into a Palm Beach County airport, which is near a major plant operated by Pratt & Whitney, the engine manufacturer on Earhart's and Finch's aircraft. Her flight into Miami was delayed about four hours by a brake problem.

Joyce Wyatt, who was 12-years-old when Earhart made her last voyage, said the flier made great strides for women outside aviation.

"She gave women the inspiration to do what they wanted to do _ in 1937 there weren't a lot of women who were working outside the home," the part-time Miami resident said.

Finch's aircraft has many of the latest navigational aids, which Earhart didn't have access to 60 years ago. She plans to pay tribute to the source of her inspiration by dropping a wreath in the ocean, after taking off from Lae, New Guinea, the last place Earhart was seen, July 2.

Though mindful of the tragic end to Earhart's voyage, Finch said she prefers to speak about Earhart's life and what it can inspire children to do.

"We're doing this to remind people that they can achieve their goals," she said, all the while trying to sign autographs, "how to make big goals and break them down. You can look at this as 30 little goals _ each leg of our voyage is one little goal."

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