Research Document #1:
The Chater Report
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In late July of 1937, the general manager of Guinea Airways, Ltd., on Lae Airport in New Guinea, wrote a full report on Earhart’s activities at the airport and her departure from it. Lost for many years in a filing cabinet, it came to light due to publicity generated by the Earhart Project, and has been invaluable in establishing facts as to Earhart’s fuel load and maintenance issues when she left Lae. Please note: This is a transcription, not a facsimile.

GUINEA AIRWAYS LIMITED

Lae – Salamaua – New Guinea

EHC/LP

LAE, New Guinea, 25th July 1937.

Mr. M.E. Griffin,

C/ o Placer Management Limited
2310, Russ Building
SAN FRANCISCO – California
United States of America
 

Dear Sir:

I am in receipt of your radio received the 24th instant which reads as follows:

"CHARTER UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT REQUESTS FOLLOWING TIME MISS EARHARTS DEPARTURE FROM LAE AMOUNT GASOLINE ABOARD AT TAKEOFF CONDITIONS MOTORS AND RADIO EQUIPMENT WEATHER CONDITIONS LENGTH OF TAKEOFF DID SHE CONTACT GROUND STATION BY RADIO IF SO CONTENTS MESSAGES ANY OTHER INFORMATION RELATIVE HER VISIT AND FLIGHT STOP PLEASE AIR MAIL REPLY",

and in reply now submit the following report concerning the movements of Miss Amelia Earhart while flying to and from Lae.

On June 28th we had considerable difficulty in ascertaining the actual leaving time from Darwin of Miss Earhart, and our Wireless Operator failed to contact her at any time during the flight.

On June 28th we received the following messages from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd. and Vacuum 0il Company Pty. Ltd.:

"Amalgamated Wireless -

FOLLOWING FROM DARWIN BEGINS EARHART WILL SEND AND RECEIVE ON 36 METRES AT 18 AND 48 MINUTES PAST EACH HOUR STOP EXPECTS LEAVE DARWIN FOR LAE ABOUT 6.30 YOUR TIME INFORM LAE ENDS"

and

"Vacuum Oil -

'EARHART ANTICIPATES DEPART 0600 29TH FOR YOURS RECEIVING AND TRANSMITTING THIRTYSIX POINT SIX METRES D BAR F LOOP' ".

On arrival Miss Earhart pointed out that whereas these radios advised us of a wave length of 36 metres, in reality her wave length was 49 metres which explained why we failed to pick up any messages from her.

Her trip from Darwin took seven hours forty minutes.

After Miss Earhart's arrival work was proceeded with on her machine under her supervision, and this was continued the next day (June 30th). During this period the following work was carried out –

CHIEF ENGINEER'S (E. Finn) REPORT
Clean set of spark plugs fitted to both engines.
Oil drained from both tanks.
Oil filters inspected and cleaned - both engines.
Petrol pump removed from starboard engine on account of fluctuation of pressure at cruising revolutions. Spare petrol pump fitted.
Thermo couple connection on No. 4 cylinder, starboard engine, repaired.
Air scoop between Nos. 2 & 3 cylinders on port engine repaired.
Propellers greased.
Batteries inspected for level and charge.
New cartridge fitted to exhaust gas analyser - starboard side.
Spare adapter plug fitted to carburettor air scoop for temperature gauge line.
Sperry Gyro Horizon (Lateral & fore & aft level) removed, cleaned, oiled and replaced, as this reported showing machine in right wing low position when actually horizontal.
Engines run up on ground. Petrol pressure on starboard engine too low. Petrol pump removed. Original petrol pump valve and seat ground in to remove uneveness. Pump fitted to engine.
Engines run up on ground and tested in air. Both engines okay. Petrol pressure port engine 4 1/2 lbs., starboard engine 4 3/4 lbs.
Engines, instruments and aircraft approved okay by Miss Earhart.

On June 29th the following radio was received from Tutilla –

"AMELIA EARHART LAE

ITASCA TRANSMITTERS CALIBRATED 7500 6210 3105 500 AND 425 KC' S LAST THREE EITHER CW OR MCW PERIOD ITASCA DIRECTION FINDER FREQUENCY RANGE 550 TO 270 KCS PERIOD REQUEST WE BE ADVISED AS TO TIME OF DEPARTURE AND ZONE TIME TO BE USED ON RADIO SCHEDULES PERIOD ITASCA AT HOWLAND ISLAND DURING FLIGHT

BLACK ITASCA"

and to this Miss Earhart replied at 6.15 a.m. June 30th as follows –

"COMMANDER USS ITASCA TUTILLA RADIO

PLAN MIDDAY TAKEOFF HERE PLEASE HAVE METEOROLOGIST SEND FORECAST LAE HOWLAND SOON AS POSSIBLE IF REACHES ME IN TIME WILL TRY LEAVE TODAY OTHERWISE JULY FIRST REPORT IN ENGLISH NOT CODE ESPECIALLY WHILE FLYING STOP WILL BROADCAST HOURLY QUARTER PAST HOUR GCT FURTHER INFORMATION LATER

EARHART".

You will note that the “Itasca” was notified that the broadcast from the machine was to be in GC time and not Zone time as suggested.

On June 30th the following message was sent to the Chief Wireless Inspector, Rabaul – Mr. Twycross –

"TWYCROSS RABAUL

AMELIA EARHART WOULD BE GRATEFUL IF YOU COULD OBTAIN WEATHER REPORTS BY ABOUT TEN AM FIRST JULY FROM NARAU OR OCEAN ISLAND TARAWA AND RABAUL ALSO FOR YOUR INFORMATION HER PLANE KHAQQ WILL TRANSMIT ON 6210 KCS QUARTER PAST EACH HOUR ON HER FLIGHT ACROSS TO HOWLAND ISLAND

VACUUM"

to which we received the following reply -

"THE FOLLOWING FROM NARAU STOP NEW NARAU FIXED LIGHT LAT 0.32 S LONG 16 .55 EAST FIVE THOUSAND CANDLEPOWER 5600 FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL VISIBLE FROM SHIPS TO NAKED EYE AT 34 MILES STOP ALSO THERE WILL BE BRIGHT LIGHTING ALL NIGHT ON ISLAND FROM PHOSPHATE FIELD WORKINGS STOP WEATHER 8 AM BARO. 29.908 THERM 84 WING SE 3 FINE BUT CLOUDY SEA SMOOTH TO MODERATE STOP PLEASE ADVISE TIME DEPARTURE AND ANY INFORMATION RE RADIO TRANSMISSION WITH TIMES".

No weather report was received from Tarawa (Gilbert Is.)

During most of the day on June 30th attempts were made by our Wireless Operator, Mr. H. Balfour, to obtain time signals for chronometer setting at the request of Captain Noonan and Miss Earhart. Owing to local interference these attempts were unsuccessful during this day.

At noon on June 30th Miss Earhart, in conjunction with our Operator, tested out the long wave received on the Lockheed machine while work was being carried out in the hangar. This was tested at noon on a land station working on 600 metres. During this period the Lockheed receiver was calibrated for reception of Lae radio telephone, and this was, on the next day, tested in flight.

Miss Earhart despatched the following message to the “Itasca”–

"BLACK ITASCA VIA TUTILLA

ACCOUNT LOCAL CONDITIONS PLAN START JULY FIRST TWENTYTHREE THIRTY GCT IF WEATHER OK STOP WILL ITASCA TRY CONTACT LAE DIRECT ON TWENTYFIVE METRES LAE ON 46 METRES SO CAN GET FORECAST IN TIME PARTICULARLY INTERESTED PROBABLE TYPE PERCENTAGE CLOUDS NEAR HOWLAND STOP NOW UNDERSTAND ITASCA VOICING THREE ONE NAUGHT FIVE ON HOUR AND HALF HOUR WITH LONG CONTINUOUS SIGNAL ON APPROACH CONFIRM AND APPOINT TIME FOR OPERATOR HERE TO STAND WATCH FOR DIRECT CONTACT

EARHART"

but we have no knowledge of any reply having been received to this.

At 6.35 a.m., July 1st, Miss Earhart carried out a 30 minute air test of the machine when two way telephone communication was established between the ground station at Lae and the plane. The Operator was requested to send a long dash while Miss Earhart endeavoured to get a minimum on her direction finder. On landing Miss Earhart informed us that she had been unable to obtain a minimum and that she considered this was because the Lae station was too pwerful and too close.

On enquiry Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan advised that they entirely depended on radio telephone reception as neither of them were able to read morse at any speed but could recognise an individual letter sent several times. This point was again mentioned by both of them later when two different sets at Lae were used for listening in for time signals.

Our Wireless Operator reports –

"THE CONDITION OF RADIO EQUIPMENT OF EARHART'S PLANE IS AS FOLLOWS - TRANSMITTER CARRIER WAVE ON 6210 KC WAS VERY ROUGH AND I ADVISED MISS EARHART TO PITCH HER VOICE HIGHER TO OVERCOME DISTORTION CAUSED BY ROUGH CARRIER WAVE, OTHERWISE TRANSMITTER SEEMED TO BE WORKING SATISFACTORILY".

July 1st — after the machine was tested the Vacuum Oil Co.’s representatives filled all tanks in the machine with 87 octane fuel with the exception of one 81 gallon tank which already contained 100 octane for taking off purposes. This tank was approximately half full and it can be safely estimated that on leaving Lae the tank at least 40 gallons of 100 octane fuel – (100 octane fuel is not obtainable in Lae). A total of 654 imperial gallons was filled into the tanks of the Lockheed after the test flight was completed. This would indicate that 1,100 US gallons was carried by the machine when it took off for Howland Island.

After the oil tanks were drained on June 30th the Vacuum Oil Co. report that they filled into the tanks 60 gallons of Stanavo 120 0il, and this was carried during the test flight before mentioned.

Miss Earhart had decided to take off for Howland Island at 9.30 a.m. on July 1st subject to obtaining the time signal. Lae Wireless Station again failed to pick this up but then contacted Salamaua Wireless Station requesting them to get in touch with Burns Philp’s vessel “Macdhui” which was in the neighbourhood This ship had previously been damaged by fire and was returning empty to Sydney via Port Moresby. The Wireless Operator on the “Macdhui” acknowledged the request and asked our Operator to wait until enquiries were made – after a few minutes his answer was received that he regretted he was unable to get the assistance of any of the ship’s officers as they were down the hold. An endeavour was made to make personal contact with the Captain of the ship but further attempted communication with the “Macdhui” proved unsuccessful. At 10.50 a.m. the Malabar radio call sign was received with a report to stand by for the time signal. However, no time signal was received until well past the period allotted, when the Malabar station called CQ and reported there was a fault on the line from the Observatory and so they had been unable to transmit the time signal.

Miss Earhart then decided to postpone her departure until the following day.

At 7.30 a.m., July 1st, the following weather report was received from Tutilla —

"EARHART LAE

FORECAST THURSDAY LAE TO ONTARIO PARTLY CLOUDED RAIN SQUALLS 250 MILES EAST LAE WIND EAST SOUTH EAST TWELVE TO FIFTEEN PERIOD ONTARIO EO LONG ONE SEVEN FIVE PARTLY CLOUDY CUMULUS CLOUDS ABOUT TEN THOUSAND FEET MOSTLY UNLIMITED WIND EAST NORTH EAST EIGHTEEN THENCE TO HOWLAND PARTLY CLOUDY SCATTERED HEAVY SHOWERS WIND EAST NORTH EAST FIFTEEN PERIOD AVOID TOWERING CUMULUS AND SQUALLS BY DETOURS AS CENTRES FREQUENTLY DANGEROUS

FLEET AIR BASE PEARL HARBOUR".

During the rest of the day constant watch was kept for the reception of time signals with no result until 9 p.m. when the Sydney signal was heard though with considerable interference. Meanwhile the Lae Operator had advised Rabaul of our lack of success in picking up a time signal owing to local interference. At 10.20 p.m. a message was heard from all Australian coastal stations requesting all shipping to keep silence for a period of ten minutes during the transmission of the Adelaide time signal which was being awaited by Miss Earhart. Complete silence prevailed during this period and a perfect time signal was received by Captain Noonan, and the machine chronometer was found to be three seconds slow.

On July 2nd a further time signal was received from Saigon at 8 a.m. when the chronometer checked the same as the previous night.

Both Captain Noonan and Miss Earhart expressed their complete satisfaction and decided to leave at ten o’clock.

On July 1st all weather reports received were dated June 30th. Several radios received on July 1st were taken away by accident by Miss Earhart (both original and copy) and consequently we have no copies available.

Miss Earhart did not receive any weather reports on July 2nd prior to her departure.

At 10:00 a.m. the machine was taken off, the actual take-off being satisfactory for a heavily loaded machine – the run taken was approximately 850 yards.

As the machine was leaving the ground the following weather reports were received at the Lae Wireless Station –

"EARHART LAE

ACCURATE FORECAST DIFFICULT ACCOUNT LACK OF REPORTS YOUR VICINITY PERIOD CONDITIONS APPEAR GENERALLY AVERAGE OVER ROUTE NO MAJOR STORM APPARENTLY PARTLY CLOUDY WITH DANGEROUS LOCAL RAIN SQUALLS ABOUT 300 MILES EAST OF LAE AND SCATTERED HEAVY SHOWERS REMAINDER OF ROUTE PERIOD WIND EAST SOUTH EAST ABOUT TWENTY FIVE KNOTS TO ONTARIO THEN EAST TO EAST NORTH EAST ABOUT 20 KNOT TO HOWLAND

FLEET BASE PEARL HARBOUR

and

BARO 29.898 THEMO 83 WIND EASTERLY 3 CLOUDY BUT FINE CLOUDS CI CI STR CU CUMI MOVING FROM EASTERLY DIRECTION SEA SMOOTH. NARU 8 AM UPPER AIR OBSERVATION 2000 FEET NINETY DEGREES 14 MPH 4000 FEET NINETY DEGREES 12 MPH 7500 FEET NINETY DEGREES 24 MPH".

These reports were then transmitted by the Lae Operator by radio telephone during each hourly transmission time arranged by Miss Earhart until 5.20 p.m. local time.

Arrangements had been made between the plane and Lae station to call at 18 minutes past each hour and arrangements made to pass any late weather information, but local interference prevented signals from the plane being intelligible until 2.18 p.m. The Lae Operator heard the following on 6210 KC –“HEIGHT 7000 FEET SPEED 140 KNOTS” and some remark concerning “LAE” then “EVERYTHING OKAY”. The plane was called and asked to repeat position but we still could not get it. The next report was received at 3.19 pm on 6210 KC – “HEIGHT 10000 FEET POSITION 150.7 east 7.3 south CUMULUS CLOUDS EVERYTHING OKAY”. The next report received at 5.18 p.m. “POSITION 4.33 SOUTH 159.7 EAST HEIGHT 8000 FEET OVER CUMULUS CLOUDS WIND 23 KNOTS”.

Miss Earhart had arranged to change to 3104 KC wave length at dusk, but signals were very strong and the plane was then called and asked not to change to 3104 KC yet as her signals were getting stronger and we should have no trouble holding signals for a long time to come. We received no reply to this call although the Operator listened for three hours after that on an 8-valve super-heterodyne Short Wave Receiver and both wave lengths were searched.

It was presumed the plane had changed the wave to 3104, the reason for that being that Miss Earhart claimed it to be a better night wave than 6210 and had used it on her flight from United States to Hawaii previously.

Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan spent a considerable time in the radio office and as previously mentioned it was learned that neither of them could read morse at any speed but could only distinguish letters made individually slowly and repeated often; in that case their direction finding apparatus would be useless or misleading unless they were taking a bearing on a station using radiophone which could give the station position on voice. We understand the “Itasca” was to do this but if the plane was unable to pick up the “Itasca” it is doubtful if the drection finder would be any use to her.

Lae Station endeavoured to pick up both the USS “Itasca” and “Ontario” on July 1st but failed to contact them at any time.

Yours faithfully,
GUINEA AIRWAYS LIMITED.
(Sgd.) ERIC H. CHATER
General Manager


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