The plans were delayed multiple times by weather, but on June 24, well past Anne Fiyalka’s 101st birthday, she soared through the clouds in a plane just as she had done with Amelia Earhart as a sophomore in high school. Her second flight was well worth the wait.
On Nov. 5, 1936, three Warren Harding High School honor students were chosen to fly with Amelia Earhart. Fiyalka was among them. Before they were airborne, Earhart turned to Fiyalka in the front passenger seat and said, “It is not only a man’s world. It’s a woman’s world, as well.”
The event shaped her life. She’s given dozens of interviews and speeches about her famed flight with the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She’s shared her story and made advocating for women’s equality central to her philosophy.
Thursday’s flight from Stratford was made possible through the Wish of a Lifetime Foundation, a branch of AARP, and provided Fiyalka the thrill of flying once again. “I can’t believe that 86 years ago I was on Amelia Earhart’s airplane, ” Fiyalka said excitedly. “I don’t know where the time has gone!”
Ken Smith, general manager of Three Wing Aviation in Stratford, piloted the plane and was largely responsible for the arrangements. “Anne put in a request to take a flight to commemorate her experience with Amelia,” he said. “Not the same plane, but we got one for her.”
Nicole Marsillio, a certified flight instructor who also sat at the controls said, “God bless her! I give her a lot of credit for making her dream happen.”
“I love to be up in the air. I love the feeling of you’re on the ground, and all of a sudden, you’re up in the air,” said Fiyalka.
Close friends Holly and Dennis Pryor accompanied her. Holly flew as Dennis watched from the ground. “She’s so inspirational and she has so much energy,” Dennis said. “On Saturday nights we go over to her place to play scrabble. By 8:30 we’re tired out and she wants to play another game.”
Before take-off, Smith had his mission: “We’re gonna get her smiling ear to ear and bring back some memories for her.” Mission accomplished.
Fiyalka has resided in Easton since 1975. She moved to the community as a widow with her four children. “I just love it where I am,” she said. “I can go out on my deck and listen to the birds sing, and I have found the community in Easton to be very friendly.” She is an active and involved member of the Easton Senior Center, which recently honored her for her years of service, as well as at Notre Dame Church.
Back on the ground, she said she especially enjoyed seeing the Easton Reservoir and schools from the skies. Post-flight she was asked if she had advice for young people. True to form she said, “Be good, at whatever you do. The Lord is watching so you better be good.”