RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn.- Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, but few people know that her so-called "Good Luck Charm" lived in Rutherford County and regretted not being with her on her final flight.
Amelia Earhart was America's most famous female pilot. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, but her later attempt to fly around the world did not end with a ticker-tape parade. Her customized Lockheed Model 10 Electra disappeared over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937. To this day no one knows for sure what happened.
Clarksville Attorney Eddie Farmer wonders if perhaps things might have ended differently.
"When they asked what is your good luck charm Mrs. Earhart and she said a good luck charm is a good mechanic and my mechanic is the best. It's Bo McNeely," said Farmer.
Bo McNeely was Farmer's grandfather and lived in Rutherford County. As Earhart's mechanic McNeely always wished he'd been with her and her navigator the day they disappeared
"He would regret not being on the flight, if only there were another pair of eyes it might have helped," Farmer explained.
Farmer says his grandfather often joined Earhart on her flights. As her mechanic he helped retrofit the Lockheed Electra with enlarged fuel tanks for the longer trips. No one knew her plane better.
"He was really proud of the work that he did with her," said Farmer.
For years Farmer knew little about his grandfather's history with Amelia Earhart. McNeely rarely spoke of it but Farmer found pictures.
"This is the first one I ever saw that confirmed for me he really worked for Amelia. This shows him taking fuel out of a wing, and her standing there watching him take the fuel out of the wing," he said.
McNeely and his grandson were close. McNeely died in 1998, but in interview a few years before his death he talked about the day in the early 1930s when a colleague introduced him to Earhart. McNeely was already an accomplished airline mechanic, but didn't recognize the woman who walked into the hanger/
"I didn't really know who she was," McNeely explained.
He did know about the Lockhead Electra she flew and Earhart told him she was looking for a mechanic
"Amelia, we talked for a while and she agreed if I'm interested the job was mine. So from then on I worked for Amelia," he said.
Just like that McNeely became the so-called "Good Luck" charm for one of the most famous pilots in the world. Farmer says his grandfather was heartbroken when Earhart disappeared.
"I think they were friends and there was a mutual admiration and respect," said Farmer.
Now 75 years later a new multi-million dollar international effort is underway to locate Earhart's plane in the south Pacific. Farmer says his grandfather never really doubted what ultimately happened.
"Only thing he was really certain about is that she ran out of fuel and flew into the ocean," he said.
Farmer says McNeely seemed certain the mechanics did not fail. Earhart simply ran out of time looking for a place to land in the south Pacific.
The latest search effort for Earhart's plane wreckage began earlier this month off a tiny uninhabited island between Hawaii and Australia. Salvage crews used high-tech underwater cameras to search the ocean floor. So far -- no plane debris has been found.