Forum artHighlights From the Forum

September 3 through 9, 2000


Subject: FN & AE
Date: 9/4/00
From: William Webster-Garman

I generally agree with Kenton Spading.

A recap might be productive today:

I am convinced that they unknowingly blew out some vital component of their radio gear on takeoff from Lae, failed to make useful voice or bearing contact with Howland, and got really close but couldn’t see the tiny island because of cloud shadows.

Hypothesis:

Not finding Howland, they probably attempted to fly the LOP to Gardner as an alternate. Based on what TIGHAR has developed in its research over the years, they reached Gardner, an uninhabited and remote island, landing on the reef near the then-recognizable wreck of the SS Norwich City.

Perhaps a few transmissions were made from the radio of the grounded Electra before it was swamped and severely broken up by waves. The debris was close enough to the remains of the Norwich City that it wasn’t recognizable or notable.

There is evidence, but not proof, that at least Earhart may have survived the wreck, and might have persisted on the island for some time, even finding stores left years earlier by the Norwich City rescue party, before ultimately succumbing to exposure or some mishap.

There is even a tragically tantalizing, remote possibility that only three months later, in October 1937 during a colonial recon visit, Eric Bevington passed within metres of her (possibly still alive), as he briskly walked around the island with several Gilbertese, encountering unexpected difficulties himself and concentrating on his own survival.

Three years later, in September 1940, Gerald Gallagher sent the following telegram from Gardner to the British Resident Commissioner on Ocean Island:

"Some months ago working party on Gardner discovered human skull -- this was buried and I only recently heard about it. Thorough search has now produced more bones (including lower jaw) part of a shoe a bottle and a sextant box. It would appear that

(a) Skeleton is possibly that of a woman,
(b) Shoe was a womans and probably size 10,
(c) Sextant box has two numbers on it 3500 ( stencilled ) and 1542- -
sextant being old fashioned and probably painted over with black enamel.

Bones look more than four years old to me but there seems to be very slight chance that this may be remains of Amelia Earhardt [sic]..."

LTM, who knows the rest

william 2243


From Ric

Yeah, that’s pretty much the current TIGHAR hypothesis. Now all we need is proof.


Subject: Crop Circles
Date: 9/4/00
From: Ken Feder, Dave Porter

Back in 1994, Jim Schnabel wrote a terrific book, Round in Circles, about the crop circle phenomenon. Best part; after the two guys (Doug and Dave) who started the whole thing fessed up, the crop circle believers said, well, maybe those guys did some of the circles, but "experts" could tell the difference between the man-made fakes and the real thing. The BBC then secretly had Doug and Dave make a circle and they filmed the procedure. Sure enough, the next day, the true believers were out in force, and asserted that the newest circle (Doug and Dave’s) was definitely the real deal. They had lots of scientific-sounding reasons why the newest circle could not have been made by human agengy. That’s when the BBC brought out the tapes. I’m not sure the circle fans have ever fully recovered.

Ken Feder


From Dave Porter

Ric,

Regarding crop circles, aliens, Loch Ness monsters, etc.

There’s a panel of the old, sadly extinct Far Side cartoon strip that depicted a view of the earth, surrounded by circus clowns. The caption read: "The Bozone Layer--protecting the rest of the universe from earth’s harmful effects."

Along that same line, but in slightly more serious mode for anyone interested, there is a delightful science fiction short story called "Danger--Human" by Gordon Dickson; and the idea presented by CS Lewis, in his space trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength) that the reason other intelligent species don’t visit earth is because we’re too messed up.

LTM,
Dave Porter, 2288


From Ric

Proof of that theory can be found in Amelia Earhart Lives! by Joe Klaas (McGraw-Hill, 1970).


Subject: Gilberts/Amelia’s first choice
Date: 9/4/00
From: Ron Bright

Ric and DustyMiss,

I have been in correspondence with Carl Halberg at the Univ. of Wyoming and received the same reply re his search of Box 19 of the Vidal collection with negative results concerning Vidal’s comments AE intended to fly back to the Gilberts if she missed Howland.

Halberg said that his inquiry (which probably includes his reply to Dustymiss,see her posting) was not exhaustive because of the .75 cubic feet. So we are still not absolutely positive of Rich’s research. Her cite may be wrong, so I suggest Dustymiss contact her.

Loomis, Lovell, and Rich all mention this "plan" to return to the Gilberts.Now noneother than Fred Goerner in his book published in 1966 uses this quote from AE who talked with Vidal and Miller (page328):" ’ If we don’t pick up Howland, I’ll try to fly back into the Gilberts and find a nice stretch of beach...’ "

Goerner quotes AE but doesn’t cite a source. Now that plan seems to be coming from the horse’s mouth.

So to date, subject to further review, I’m certain Vidal must have said something to that effect; since he was such a long time friend and associate of AE why would he make up such a statement and attribute it to Amelia?

I’ll keep you posted.

LTM,
Ron Bright


From Ric

You bring up two of the mostly commonly raised arguments for the credibility of anecdotes.

He must have said it because so many people say he said it.

Why would he lie?

The presence of the alleged anecdote in multiple Earhart books is, of course, meaningless. Without a verifiable source it’s just one more piece of recycled Earhart folklore (the trailing wire was left in Miami, Noonan was fired from Pan Am for alcolholism, there was a Bendix RA-1 receiver aboard the airplane, etc. etc.). All it takes is one person who is perceived as being credible saying that Vidal said it.

Intentional fabrication is rarely the start of groundless rumors. People can "remember" and relate with total conviction the most God-awful nonsense.

Vidal may or may not have claimed to have heard Amelia describe a "Plan B." So far nobody has produced a verfiable source to indicate that he ever told that story. If he did, it may or may not have been true. The credibility of his recollection would depend upon how soon he wrote it down after he heard it.

For example, if somebody came up with a Gene Vidal Diary and on page 234 was an entry for April 5, 1937 that went, "AE phoned last night. Noonan wrecked his car and almost wrecked his new wife yesterday. Rumor has it that he had been drinking. AE is worried about his reliability as a navigator. Says that if he can’t find Howland she’ll just turn back and find a nice beach in the Gilberts." That would be pretty good.

But, if weeks or months, or even years, after the disappearance Vidal makes a comment to somebody either verbally or in a letter that "AE once told me that (yadayadayada)" that’s real shaky.

Either way, I think it’s largely meaningless. There has never been even an allegation that Noonan thought that such a plan would be a good idea (in fact, it’s a supremely dumb idea) and the last tramsmission we have from Amelia specifically states that they’re doing something else that does make perfect sense.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Re: Radio Details
Date: 9/5/00
From: Vern Klein

Ric writes:

>Let me jump in here with just a couple of points:
> • There is good evidence that Earhart left her telegraph key behind in Miami.
> • I don’t know of any credible post-loss message that contain keyed information.

The "story" about Earhart leaving her telegraph key behind in Miami is just that isn’t it? Anecdote.

Moreover, in view of all the radio gear that was in and out of that plane and all the people who tinkered with it at various times, how confident can we be that there was only one telegraph key around at the time they left Miami?

The "281 NORTH..." message received by Navy Radio Wailupe (Hawaii) on the night of July 4, 1937 was described as, "keyed transmission, extremely poor keying behind carrier." I take that to be a reference to modulated CW (MCW) -- a continuous carrier signal with an audio frequency tone being keyed.

If we can now say (Mike E’s recent post) that Earhart’s transmitter had CW and MCW capability and if we admit the possibility of a telegraph key on the plane, then that message becomes somewhat more credible.

Incidently, I do not believe the above quoted characterization of the signal even comes close to what keying with the microphone push-to-talk button would have sounded like.


From Ric

I’ll have to go back and check the sources but I think that the bit about the key being left behind was mentioned in a fairly contemporaneous letter.

As for the "281 Message", Bob Brandenburg’s computer modeling of the aircraft’s system and propagation environment on that day concluded:

"The SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) for a CW signal from NR16020 on Gardner Island to Wailupe during that period was far below the threshold for either detection or usability, and the hypothesis is rejected. The signal heard at Wailupe could not have originated at Gardner Island."


Subject: Did AE leave the key behind?
Date: 9/5/00
From: Mike Everette

After I made my posting last night I took another look at the WE-13C transmitter schematic... something I said last night wasn’t quite right. I stated that it would have been no problem for AE to leave the telegraph key behind if all she wanted was voice transmission; just unplug it and remove it from the cockpit.

Well... that’s not right.

Indeed, it is not possible.

The "key" in this setup was more than just a morse key. It was part of a subassembly, a control unit. The unit contained the key and a switch. The switch, a double-pole double throw type, had two positions, labeled "CW" and "PHONE." Like I said last night, throwing the switch to "CW" closed the push-to-talk line (like the mic switch would do on voice) and made the rig READY to transmit. The "keying" was through an added relay. This relay actually followed the operator’s key.

To RECEIVE on CW, it was necessary to throw the switch on the controller containing the key BACK to "PHONE." Potentially confusing.

I had forgotten one more important function of that switching circuit, last night.

That switch, when thrown to "PHONE," also closed the CW keying relay circuit. The keying relay, therefore, was energized continuously when the rig was switched to "PHONE."

That way, the radio was ready to transmit on voice. It was NOT "keyed" on voice until the mic switch grounded the PTT circuit, energizing the dynamotor starter (and therefore applying high voltage) and antenna relays. The CW keying relay had to be closed to enable the tubes to function, by grounding the blocking-bias that kept them from drawing current (as well as applying screen grid voltage to the multiplier and final amplifier stages).

To summarize: Since the transmitter operated in Push to Talk fashion (PTT) on voice, the CW keying relay had to be closed on voice. It did not operate with the PTT circuit. The ’CW-PHONE" switch closed this relay on voice. The key closed it on CW, AFTER the "CW-PHONE" switch was thrown to CW mode. The switch had to be returned to "PHONE" to RECEIVE ON CW, in order to de-energize the antenna relay and dynamotor.

The transmitter DID NOT operate in "break-in" style on CW (the equivalent to push-to-talk operation on voice).

But here is a thought, and an important one:

If TWO ANTENNAS were used (one transmit, one receive) it would not have been necessary to have the antenna relay de-energized in order to receive; so returning the switch to "PHONE" would not have been a requirement.

The bottom line:

IT WOULD HAVE BEEN IMPOSSIBLE FOR AE TO USE THIS RADIO AT ALL, EVEN ON VOICE, WITHOUT THE TELEGRAPH KEY UNIT CONNECTED TO THE TRANSMITTER. The switch in the key unit had to be in the circuit....

UNLESS, and we may never be able to completely resolve this... some sort of modifications were made to the radio in Miami, to bypass this switch. All it would have taken, was a "dummy" connector plugged into the transmitter where the key unit was connected... if Pin 4 of this connector was jumpered to ground, that would complete the keying relay circuit. Of course, an internal mod to the transmitter’s wiring could have accomplished the same thing.

How hard is the evidence that she left the key behind? Anecdotal? It may be worth the paper it is printed on.

We have been through this before... wonder if there are any scraps of paper anywhere detailing the work done on that radio in Miami? Did Pan Am techs do it? Anybody search the Pan Am files that closely? (Chances are none to slim, right? Probably the document retention schedule was not that long and any such paper was tossed out with other routine stuff....)

A lingering question from earlier postings by others:

Would it have been possible to "key" this radio on CW, using the mic button?

Yes. BUT... It would have produced a very ragged, awful signal. The keying speed would be very slow. And the radio would have been damaged quickly because of heavy current circuits being made and broken, which were never intended to be so operated.

LTM (who sometimes gives out mixed signals) and
73
Mike E.


From Ric

Advantages to separate transmit and receive antennas huh? The plot thickens. Okay, let’s dig for the key-left-behind source.


Subject: Re: Gilberts
Date: 9/6/00
From: Patrick Gaston

Ric wrote:

> The presence of the alleged anecdote in multiple Earhart books
> is, of course, meaningless. Without a verifiable source it’s just one
> more piece of recycled Earhart folklore (the trailing wire was left in
> Miami, Noonan was fired from Pan Am for alcolholism, there was a
> Bendix RA-1 receiver aboard the airplane, etc. etc.). All it takes is one
> person who is perceived as being credible saying that Vidal said it.

I agree completely that anecdotal evidence can become self-perpetuating, but in this case Rich has provided a specific source for the "Plan B" quote. Hopefully Dustymiss can follow up with her directly. Interesting that three full years of correspondence are missing from the Vidal papers. Almost turns one into a "conspiracy theorist...."

Ric continued:

> Either way, I think it’s largely meaningless. There has never been even an
> allegation that Noonan thought that such a plan would be a good idea (in
> fact, it’s a supremely dumb idea) and the last transmission we have from
>Amelia specifically states that they’re doing something else that does make
>perfect sense.

The comment assumes that what Noonan thought made any difference to Earhart after 8:43 a.m. on July 2, 1937. We know that, for a time, they were flying "north and south" on the 157/337 LOP. We don’t know how long they flew on it, where they were on the line when they started, how many miles they covered in each direction, or what they did after they figured out it wasn’t getting them anywhere. The Niku Hypothesis assumes that AE coolly and logically continued on a 157-degree heading to the nearest landfall. It’s certainly possible. It’s equally possible (and to my mind more in keeping with AE’s barnstorming character) that, FN having failed to do the one thing he was brought along to do, she simply tuned him out and trusted to the instinct that had served her so well in the past. She would have had a net tailwind effect on a flight back to the Gilberts; maybe that gave her some hope that, with careful fuel management, she could just barely make it. Not saying that’s what happened, but I think it renders the search for documentation of an alleged "Plan B" far from meaningless.

BTW, my assumption that Fred was along primarily, if not exclusively, for the Lae-Howland-Hawaii run flows from AE’s alleged plan -- reported by the Longs and others -- to ditch him in Australia on the first attempt. In other words, once FN got her safely across the Pacific, AE figured she could handle the rest of the navigation herself. The change in directions, unfortunately for Fred, shifted the dangerous island-hopping phase from the beginning to the end of the flight. If AE did consider FN essentially as baggage for the first three-quarters of the Second Attempt, then the seeds of a rather unpleasant cockpit atmosphere may have been sown early on. Of course it’s all speculation, but let’s not forget those two complaints of "personnel" (or "personal") unfitness" lodged by AE during the flight.

The point is that TIGHAR’s hypothesis makes perfect sense if AE was still listening to Fred’s presumed advice, if her judgment was unimpaired by fatigue and perhaps frustration; if she had no contrary backup plan, and if she never deviated from the 157-degree heading. The presence of so many "if’s" leaves other possibilities worth investigating, "if" not by this organization! (I’m accepting donations....)

All of which is a long way of saying, keep diggin’, Ron and Dusty!

LTM (who sympathizes with her fellow scotch drinker),
Pat Gaston


From Ric

>I agree completely that anecdotal evidence can become self-perpetuating, but
>in this case Rich has provided a specific source for the "Plan B" quote.

Yes, and we already know that it is not where she said she found it. At this point it’s still anecdote.

Some factual nitpicking:

>We know that, for a time, they were flying "north and south" on the
>157/337 LOP.

Book after book has quoted AE’s "last words" as "We are running north and south" probably because that’s how Thompson reported the transmission in his July 19, 1937 report "Radio Transcripts Earhart Flight." Bellarts original log, however, tells a somewhat different story. After Earhart had said that she was "on the line 157 337" and that she woud repeat the message on 6210, she came back unexpectedly on 3105 and said something that the operator (Galten) logged as "(?/KHAQQ XMISION WE ARE RUNNING ON N ES S LINE". The best translation of this entry might be "I’m not sure I heard this right but I think she said, ’We are running on north and south line’". The truth is, we don’t know what she said.

>...AE’s alleged plan -- reported by the Longs and others -- to ditch him in
>Australia on the first attempt.

The original plan was for Fred to leave the flight at Howland because it was U.S. territory and he hadn’t had time to get a visa for Australia. Manning was to leave the flight in Australia and AE would continue alone. Between March and July there was plenty of time to get Fred to Australia to meet AE there for the Pacific legs if that had seemed desirable but there is no indication that that was ever contemplated. Earhart’s notes from the World Flightcertainly give no hint of tension between her and Noonan. Far from considering him baggage, she is often highly complimentary of his skills -- for example: forced to turn back in a monsoon rainstorm off the coast of Burma - "By uncanny powers, Fred Noonan managed to navigate us back to the airport, without being able to see anything but the waves beneath our plane."

>...let’s not forget those two complaints of "personnel" (or "personal")
>unfitness" lodged by AE during the flight.

I’m aware of only one instance - the "personnel unfitness" mentioned in the telegram from Lae.

TIGHAR’s hypothesis requires only that the people involved did what the avialable evidence suggests that they did.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Post loss messages
Date: 9/6/00
From: Ron Bright

Re: Seapin’s posting of the possibility that post loss broadcasts were the "Real McCoy":

Goldstein and Dillon in their book,page 235, report that a radio Nauru operator picked up and recognized AE’s voice three times after the last Itasca reception-0901,0913 and 0924 Howland time. Nauru informed San Francisco and this message was forwarded to Itasca. The authors believed these broadcasts were probably authentic as at of that time "...it was not widely realized that the Electra was in distress or had crashed...". (They cite Safford’s unpublished book Flight into Yesterday.)

As I recall you said that TIGHAR exhaustively researched those times and believed Safford’s times were dead wrong -- that the times were after 6:00 pm Howland time. Thus the post loss broadcasts,if any, came well after the world knew the Electra was down. I’m guessing but Itasca probably radioed Coast Guard Headquaters around 0912,when he ordered the landing party back,that he suspected she missed Howland. TIGHAR probably has the message that first notifed Headquarters of the status.

LTM
Ron Bright


From Ric

The first message from Itasca to Coast Guard headquarters that things were not going as planned was sent at 10:15 local time when Thompson said:

EARHART CONTACT 0742 REPORTED ONE HALF HOUR FUEL AND NO LAND FALL POSITION DOUBTFUL CONTACT 0646 REPORTED APPROXIMATELY ONE HUNDRED MILES FROM ITASCA BUT NO RELATIVE BEARING PERIOD 0843 REPORTED LINE OF POSITION 157 DASH 337 BUT NO REFERENCE POINT PRESUME HOWLAND PERIOD ESTIMATE 1200 FOR MAXIMUM TIME ALOFT AND IF NONARRIVAL BY THAT TIME WILL COMMENCE SEARCH NORTH WEST QUADRANT FROM HOWLAND AS MOST PROBABLY AREA PERIOD SEASMOOTH [SIC] VISIBILITY NINE CEILING UNLIMITED PERIOD UNDERSTAND SHE WILL FLOAT FOR LIMITED TIME

Thompson, in fact, left Howland to begin his search at 10:40 but he didn’t notify his superiors that Itasca had left its station.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Re: Radio details
Date: 9/6/00
From: Mike Everette

Some of this is a bit off topic, but I feel my credibility is being questioned or even challenged by certain individuals. I must state some facts, and my position and qualifications which led to the conclusions I made.

I am working from an actual schematic of the radios, and from specifications published.

Read the diagram, Hue...

AE’s transmitter did NOT have any kind of "side tone oscillator" for CW monitoring. Like I said, in most rigs the speech amp stage was made to oscillate, or a separate tube was employed as an oscillator (ala the ARC-5/SCR-274N) operating at around 1000 Hz; and the oscillator was disabled on voice.

Most Hams of the era did not use sidetone oscillators to monitor their CW transmissions. They either listened directly in their receivers, or employed a secondary, completely shielded "monitor" which was actually a one-tube (maybe 2) regenerative receiver with no antenna, strictly used to pick up a tiny bit of transmitted energy... tiny, so as not to "overload" the monitor receiver and give a false indication of rotten quality. Indeed, a "side tone oscillator" of the sort used in a/c radios would have been very strange to the average Ham, and foreign to amateur radio practice of the era.

Yeah, a lot of "real men" disdained side tone, thinking their CW sending was perfect... HA! In the days before "electronic keyers" and keyboard-generated "perfect" CW, a lot of real trashy sending was heard... the "banana boat fist" for instance. And Lord help the guy who tried to send with a "bug" (mechanical semi-automatic key) without monitoring him/herself! (Been there, done that, heard it, couldn’t read it either)

Those, aircraft rigs which did not use a tone oscillator for the MCW tone were usually radios which operated on high frequency AC power (like 400 or 800 Hz AC, 800 being common in Naval a/c and 400 in Army, for a long time, till about midwar... don’t ask me why the dif)and these rigs (such as the GO-9 transmitter) were found in large a/c like PBYs. In these cases, a small amount of 400 or 800 cycle voltage was fed to the suppressor grids of the final-amplifier tubes, which produced the modulation for A2 (tone modulated telegraphy) emission.

AE’s rig did not do this. AE’s rig worked from 12 volt DC power.

AE’s rig did NOT have "MCW" capability (that is, A2 emission, tone modulated telegraphy). It only transmitted A1 (unmodulated, on-off keyed telegraphy) and A3 (amplitude modulated voice).

And I beg to differ sharply regarding the use of the CFI (freq standard) aboard Navy a/c. I have seen plenty of pix of these freq meters in Naval a/c, including SBD/SB2C/TBF/TBD/OS2U etc etc, plus PBYs.

The procedure for using the CFI was to loosely couple the output of the transmitter’s variable-freq oscillator to the CFI input. The GO series/GP series/TBW series had a binding post on the front marked "CFI" for that purpose.

I have the manuals for all these equipments, which detail how to use the xmtrs with the CFI (LM freq meter) and I have done it this way, using a TBW... plus a GF-series. (By the way, the GP and GO transmitters, as well as the TBW ground xmtr, were built by Westinghouse and are extremely similar in terms of circuitry/ operation).

You are correct in that the ART-13/ATC xmtr had an internal crystal calibrator (been there, done it with that rig too). The whole crystal calibration procedure is different too.

You are somewhat correct that under wartime radio silence conditions, the freqs were set on the flight/hangar deck... but it was done infrequently because even radiation from the CFI units was feared detectable by enemy receivers or d/f. This is one reason the air attack at Midway experienced so much trouble... the freqs were not reliably/recently set, and as a result some of the tunable receivers got "moved" off freq. The squadrons could not intercommunicate when they neared the target.

This was a BIG reason the Navy adopted crystal-controlled VHF radios late in the war (AN/ARC-1, ARC-3 for instance) and phased out HF as fast as it could.

OK, this is off topic... but my point is, I am working from a diagram, and a set of published specs, plus a considerable experience in "evaluating" this old gear (which has always fascinated me... and it’s like touching history to mess with it). I DO INDEED know what I am talking about.

Did I say this... the power OUTPUT of AE’s rig was 50 watts to the antenna. The power input to the final amplifier, a pair of WE-282A tubes, was a little over 100 watts. The multiplier stage, which drove the final amp, used one WE-282A and was operated at almost 50 watts input (those old tubes needed lots of drive). The crystal oscillator, a WE-205D triode, operated at about 15-20 watts input (Holy high crystal currents, Batman...!).

This radio was not an efficient device....

I am not saying I am always right. That would be foolish.

I make errors occasionally but when I do, I try to correct them.

LTM (who was not infallible either) and
73
Mike E.


From Ric

Our faith in Mike’s expertise is amply demonstrated by the fact that we asked him to write the description of Earhart’s radio system fo the 8th edition.


Subject: Thompson’s message
Date: 9/6/00
From: Roger Kelley

Referring to Capt. Thompson’s message to USCG HQ:

Thompson is quoted in his first message of concern about AE’s failure to arrive at Howland Island, "Earhart contact 0742 reported one half hour fuel and no land fall." Within the same message Thompson states, "Estimate 1200 for maximum time aloft."

Did Thompson conclude that AE would suffer fuel exhaustion at 0812 hrs or at approximately 1200 hrs? Why the apparent discrepancy? Or, am I missing something?

LTM, (who suffers total exhaustion when her gas is gone)
Roger Kelley


From Ric

It’s apparent from the various reports that those aboard the Itasca expected Earhart to have fuel enough to remain aloft until local noon (12:00). It’s not clear where that information came from but that’s actually a real good estimate based upon the airplane’s capabilities.

But then the whole radio drama plays out and it becomes apparent that Earhart is close but can’t hear the Itasca and everybody gets very rattled and she says something about gas is running low but Tommy O’Hare who is keeping the other log says he thinks she said she has only a half hour left but Thompson says they’ll stand by at Howland until noon but what if she’s down out there somewhere trying to stay afloat and here they all sit at Howland Island so he changes his mind and orders everybody on the island (except Cipriani) back aboard on the double and off they go searching to the north and west at 10:40 except he doesn’t happen to mention that to headquarters.

And you wonder if YOU’RE missing something.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Fred’s Car Wrecks
Date: 9/7/00
From: Ron Bright

In Last Flight Amelia reported two auto accidents involving Noonan. One was just before the Oakland takeoff and the second soon after their return to California, "he survived another highway smash-up."

As I recall one of the wrecks, the one involving his new bride who was seriously injured, occurred in Fresno, Ca. sometime in March 1937. One writer mentioned that no citations were given but that Noonan smelled of alcohol.

Has TIGHAR or anyone on the forum been able to check out these records in California to see if they were alcohol related? Or are these records lost to time?

LTM,
Ron Bright


From Ric

It seems that these records are lost to time, and have been since long before Fred Goerner claimed to have seen them. In his book, Goerner alleged that the citation Fred received for the accident in April had "driver had been drinking" handwritten on it as a notation. When we ( I think it was either Jerry Hamilton or Ron Dawson) tried to check those records we learned that they are routinely disposed of after something like five years.


Subject: Fuel Reserves
Date: 9/7/00
From: Ross Devitt

One point here that I believe we discussed in the fuel consumption thread last year, but I’ll pop it in here for those who missed that discussion and may be wondering how, after saying she had only half an hour of fuel left, Amelia could still be flying and not screaming out that she was running on fumes an hour later....

>EARHART CONTACT 0742 REPORTED ONE HALF HOUR FUEL AND NO LAND FALL
>0843 REPORTED LINE OF POSITION 157 DASH 337 BUT NO REFERENCE POINT

There was a lot of speculation that Earhart ran out of fuel early and crashed. Exhaustive fuel calculations by myself and others using recommended fuel consumption figures, and estimated worst case fuel consumption figures suggested that earhart could have somewhere up to 250 gallons of reserve fuel on arrival at Howland. The most likely bet is that she had considerably less than that however.

The quotes from Itasca’s log would tend to bear out the existence of reserve fuel (something ALL pilots allow when planning a long flight - especially when weather conditions or landing conditions are uncertain at the other end).

At 0742 AE reported "one half hour fuel". Why then was she still flying at 0842 -- an hour later?

The "one half hour fuel" was to the end of the calculated fuel required for the trip. Somewhere around 0815 (or earlier or later, depending on her fuel management) she started using her reserve. At this point she had at best, 4 to 5 hours flying time, and at worst, no-one can know, but probably in excess of two hours.

If she used the figures Lockheed suggested she should have had around 26 hours flying time available to her on her 1100 gallons, based on:

Something that has bothered me for ages though. There were 654 imperial gallons (785 US gallons) loaded into the tanks at Lae.

Lae was about 7.7 hours from Darwin in the Electra (1012 miles). That means that if Earhart fueled up at Darwin, she was averaging 130knots (150 miles per hour) and using around 100 gallons per hour on that trip!

Did she in fact fuel up in Darwin?

Th’ WOMBAT


From Ric

I don’t know what forum you were on last year but Kelly Johnson’s numbers applied directly to the 1,100 U.S. gallon load go like this:

1 hour at 100 gph (100 gals)

3 hours at 60 gph (180 gals)

3 hours at 51 gph (153 gals)

3 hours at 43 gph (129 gals)

14.1 hours at 38 gph (538 gals)

Total time 24.1 hours.

A 20 percent reserve (4.8 hours in this case) was standard for long distance flights, so when Earhart said "gas is running low" at 19 hours and 12 minutes into the flight she was just beginning to burn into her reserve. She almost certainly never said that she had only a half hour of gas left. That quote ap pears only in the log being kept by Radioman 3rd class Thomas O’Hare whose job was to handle the ship’s non-Earhart radio traffic. He also stuck overheard transmissions from Earhart into his log but, not surprisingly, his entries are less complete and often differ slightly from what the primary Earhart log recorded. Earhart was making references to things she wanted Itasca to do "on the half hour" and O’Hare probably just got it mixed up.

Earhart did refuel at Darwin with 365 (presumably Imperial) gallons of 87 octane. We have a copy of the receipt. However, we have no way of knowing how much total fuel was aboard when she left Darwin except to say that is seems safe to assume that it was nothing like the humongous load she carried for the Lae/Howland leg. We have no way of knowing what her fuel consumption was like on the Darwin/Lae leg.

LTM,
Ric

3 hours @ 58gph = 175 gallons
3 hours @ 49gph = 150 gallons
3 hours @ 43gph = 130 gallons
sub total = 455 gallons
Take that from 1100 gallons, leaves balance = 645 gallons
Divided by 38gph = 17 hrs (full throttle, 10,000ft)
Plus our first 9 hours = 26 hours total time.

Something that has bothered me for ages though. There were 654 imperial gallons (785 US gallons) loaded into the tanks at Lae.

Lae was about 7.7 hours from Darwin in the Electra (1012 miles). That means that if Earhart fueled up at Darwin, she was averaging 130knots (150 miles per hour) and using around 100 gallons per hour on that trip!

Did she in fact fuel up in Darwin?

Th’ WOMBAT


From Ric

I don’t know what forum you were on last year but Kelly Johnson’s numbers applied directly to the 1,100 U.S. gallon load go like this:

Time
Rate
Amount
1 hour 100 gph
100 gals
3 hours 60 gph
180 gals
3 hours 51 gph
153 gals
3 hours 43 gph
129 gals
14.1 hours 38 gph
538 gals
Total time 24.1 hours.
1,100 gals

A 20 percent reserve (4.8 hours in this case) was standard for long distance flights, so when Earhart said "gas is running low" at 19 hours and 12 minutes into the flight she was just beginning to burn into her reserve. She almost certainly never said that she had only a half hour of gas left. That quote appears only in the log being kept by Radioman 3rd class Thomas O’Hare whose job was to handle the ship’s non-Earhart radio traffic. He also stuck overheard transmissions from Earhart into his log but, not surprisingly, his entries are less complete and often differ slightly from what the primary Earhart log recorded. Earhart was making references to things she wanted Itasca to do "on the half hour" and O’Hare probably just got it mixed up.

Earhart did refuel at Darwin with 365 (presumably Imperial) gallons of 87 octane. We have a copy of the receipt. However, we have no way of knowing how much total fuel was aboard when she left Darwin except to say that is seems safe to assume that it was nothing like the humongous load she carried for the Lae/Howland leg. We have no way of knowing what her fuel consumption was like on the Darwin/Lae leg.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: The Key
Date: 9/7/00
From: Mike Everette

I had forgotten the Gurr connection with the telegraph key. It’s been a while since I last read over his letter to Goerner.

Joe Gurr could have very easily made the necessary mods to the radio to jumper the switch function and therefore keep the radio in "Phone" mode. But! Here is a reason why he would NOT have done so, and one that raises credibility issues.

Gurr was trying to "help" AE (yeah, right)preserve her transmitting capability on 500 KHz, by reconfiguring the dorsal antenna to serve on 500 instead of using the much more efficient trailing wire. AE apparently wanted the trailing wire removed, and radio operation simplified, after Harry Manning bolted from the second flight attempt... Manning was to have been the radio operator, and one of his jobs would be to manually reel out and in the trailing wire (as well as to throw the antenna selector switch, located in the aft section).

So, AE knew (we believe) that she needed to preserve the 500 KHz capability. In those days, 500, or "600-meters" (wave length) was the only emergency universally guarded by ships.... and she would be over water quite a bit.

NOBODY used voice on 500! It was then, and continued so until the mid 90s when the regulation requiring ships to guard it was phased out, a CW frequency only. Even Joe Gurr would have known this. He would have come on very strong to AE, I think, about this and the necessity for keeping her CW key.

No one monitoring 500 would have been listening for/expecting a voice signal on 500.

HOWEVER, was AE so strongheaded that she disdained all Gurr’s (and others) expert advice? Could have been. Very likely. ("I don’t care...")

If Joe Gurr had that key I for one would like to know what happened to it. What happened to Gurr’s estate? Did he have heirs? Or was the contents of his house trashed, like I saw happen to the stuff of a recently deceased old time Ham in Durham, NC last month? Wonder if that key has ever turned up at a Hamfest someplace? Wonder if the person who has it now is aware of its origin and significance (and value)?

I think, when I go to Hamfests from now on, I’m gonna look even closer at the telegraph keys et al on the flea market tables. And this one will be unusual to say the least.

(I collect keys, when I can afford them, which is not often any more.)

This key would be second only in value to the key from the Titanic... and, that one has been photographed by a robot submersible fairly recently.

LTM (who tended to get keyed up) and
73
Mike E.


From Ric

In Amelia My Courageous Sister Carol Osborne reproduces the text of a 1962 letter from W.C. Tinus, Vice President of Bell Telephone Laboratories:

I was the radio engineer who was responsible for the design and installation of her radio communications equipment [at the Newark Airport, New Jersey in February, 1937] and since there is apparently still some doubt as to what her equipment consisted of, perhaps I can clear up one or two points ...

I had been a radio operator aboard ship in my younger days and knew the importance of being able to communicate at 500 kc over the oceans. I persuaded Miss Earhart and Mr. Putnam on this point and modified a standard three-channel Western Electric equipment of the type then being used by the airlines to provide one channel at 500 kc and the other two at around 3000 and 6000 kc ... A simple modification also enabled transmission to be made on CW or MCW, as well as voice, and a telegraph key was provided which could be plugged in, in addition to a microphone for voice communication. It was my thought that many ships throughout the world had 500 kc radio compasses and could probably better obtain bearings if the key were held down for an extended period while radiating modulated CW (MCW).

I was less successful in persuading Miss Earhart of the importance of having a qualified radio operator in her crew. I had only a short period one afternoon at Newark Airport to show her and captain Manning (of the United States Lines Sea Rescue fame) how to operate the equipment.

... I did not see her equipment during the period between the first and second starts, but had no reason at the time to believe it had been changed.

Several months after her disappearance we received a small package from Pan American Airways at Miami containing her telegraph key, cord and plug, which she had left in their hangar there. Without these items she could have communicated on 500 kc by voice and could have sent out a suitable signal for direction finding by simply holding the microphone button down for a time. The remainder of her equipment peculiar to the low frequency 500 kc channel probably weighted five or ten pounds, but apparently she did not leave it in Miami or it, too, would have been returned to us.

He ended:

... She was equipped for 500 kc communication originally and she did leave one item, her telegraph key, behind when she departed from Miami.

LTM,
Ric

Subject: Re: Fuel Reserves
Date: 9/8/00
From: Ross Devitt

Ric writes:

> I don’t know what forum you were on last year but Kelly Johnson’s numbers
> applied directly to the 1,100 U.S. gallon load go like this:

The only Kelly Johnson numbers I have access to are the ones on TIGHAR’s site. I found nothing at all on 100gph at Kelly Johnson Telegrams. I did however find the figures I quoted in my post! starting with

WE RECOMMEND FOLLOWING POWER AND CAMBRIDGE SETTINGS ON FLIGHT STOP THREE HOURS EIGHTEEN HUNDRED RPM TWENTY EIGHT INCHES FOUR THOUSAND FEET AT CAMBRIDGE SETTING ZERO SEVEN THREE AND FIFTY EIGHT GALLONS HOUR STOP

Followed by:

REVISED FLIGHT DATA FOR EIGHT THOUSAND FEET AT BEGINNING OF FLIGHT AS FOLLOWS STOP CLIMB AT TWO THOUSAND FIFTY RPM TWENTY EIGHT AND ONE HALF INCHES AT ZERO SEVEN EIGHT TO EIGHT THOUSAND FEET STOP FIRST THREE HOURS AT NINETEEN HUNDRED RPM TWENTY EIGHT INCHES AND ZERO SEVEN THREE AT SIXTY GALLONS HOUR STOP

Not one mention of 100gph anywhere!

Obviously you have documents I haven’t seen, but that’s no excuse for your sarcasm.

Th’ WOMBAT


From Ric

No need to get your fur ruffled Wombat. We’re both wrong.

The Johnson telegrams are admittedly awkward to decipher and I’m afraid you haven’t accurately sorted them out. Even so, you are correct that the telegrams do not make specific reference to 100 gallons per hour. That number comes from a 1988 article in Lockheed Horizons, an internal company publication, by editor Roy A. Blay.

You’ll note that Johnson’s telegram does not provide a fuel consumption figure for the recommended initial climb to 8,000 feet at 2050 RPM, 28.5 inches, and 078 on the Cambridge Analyzer. That’s a critical period because the airplane is going to be burning fuel like mad. Apparently it was Blay, or somebody Blay consulted at the company (possibly Kelly himself), who decided that a power setting that high would burn 100 gph. Looking at the published specs for the standard 10E, fuel consumption at 75 percent "cruising" power and 2000 RPM would burn 71 gph so 100 gph for the higher setting seems in the ballpark. Blay also seems to assume that it will take the airplane an hour to climb to 8,000 feet. That’s only 133 ft/min but that might not be unreasonable under the circumstances.

Blay’s representation of Johnson’s figures for the rest of the formula agree entirely with Kelly’s telegrams.

Time
RPM
Manifold
Pressure
Cambridge
Setting
Fuel Burn
Rate
3 hours
1900
28 in.
073
60 gph
3 hours
1800
26.5 in.
072
51 gph
3 hours
1700
25 in.
072
43 gph
AFTER 9 HOURS
1600 or full throttle
24 in. at 10,000 feet
072
38 gph

Perhaps Birch Matthews, Skeet Gifford and others can help us determine a key question:

How much fuel can that beast be expected to have burned by the time it reached 8,000 feet?

To know that we’d have to know:

  • What will it burn at balls-to-the-wall full power?
  • How long will they have to keep those Wasps humming at full power before they can come back to Johnson’ recommended climb power?
  • What will it burn at climb power?
  • How long will they have to stay at climb power to reach 8,000 feet?

We’re not going to get anything approaching accurate numbers because we just don’t know some key variables but we should be able to get a general idea.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Electra instruments
Date: 9/9/00
From: Ron Bright

Re Janet Whitney’s inquiry re functional instruments and your reply that there was no indication that any of those instruments were malfunctioning.

On 15 June, some 15 days before the fatal flight, AE reported serious problems with two instruments that if they occurred again may account for excessive fuel consumption enroute to Lae.

In Last Flight Amelia reported that her manual mixture-control lever jammed and she could not regulate the fuel consumption to the right engine, "...which gulped gasoline unconscionably." She was afraid she would run out of fuel on the Assaba to Karachi hop of 1,920 hours.

Later that night in a telephone conversation (recorded) with GP she reported that there has been " a little trouble with the fuel flow-meter and the analyzer..." She hoped that they could be fixed.

Of course she wouldn’t leave Karachi unless she thought the problems were resolved, but are these instruments tricky, sensitive little devils that are difficult to fix and prone to malfunctioning. Any repair docs, etc or statements from other sources that these problems were fixed. She doesn’t mention any further problems enroute to Lae nor does she broadcast any malflunctions to Itasca that I’m aware of.

But you and forum experts on these instruments might be able to speculate on the fixability by Karachi mechanics of these instruments.

LTM
Ron Bright


From Ric

What you’re suggesting was the initial Data Quality premise -- that you could establish a Mean Time Between Failures for critical instruments and then determine if instrument failure was a factor in the disappearance. I don’t buy it.

Sure, the airplane had maintenance problems on its flight around the world and some instruments proved more bothersome than others. On the other hand, Earhart had good mainentance facilities available at Karachi and Bandoeng and it’s quite apparent that she insisted that things be fixed and working right before continuing her trip. We don’t have nearly enough information on the failure rates of the instruments in question to make any kind of judgement about what might have failed when. We do know that the airplane was thoroughly inspected at Lae by mechanics who regularly maintained other Electras and we have a list of maintenacnce items and minor repairs that were accomplished (see the Chater Report).

I’ll say it again -- there was no indication that any of those instruments were malfunctioning.

LTM,
Ric


Subject:

Climb Performance

Date: 9/9/00
From: Birch Matthews

In partial response to your question concerning fuel consumption during climb, I checked my files to remember what I calculated. I haven’t reviewed this stuff for almost a year so please keep that in mind. Items 1 and 2 were based on the Pratt & Whitney Wasp (S3H1) operating manual power setting recommendations. I cannot remember the basis for the number 3 power setting at the moment. Memory tells me the climb power setting came from Kelly Johnson’s recommendations. In any event, I calculated the following two engine fuel flow rates:

Action
Fuel burn rate
M.P.
RPM
Engine start & warm up 41 gph 30 inches Hg 1,000 rpm
Takeoff & stabilize 109 gph 34.5 inches Hg 2,200 rpm
Low level departure 94 gph 32.5 inches Hg 2,000 rpm
Climb to 7,000 feet 78 gph 28.5 inches Hg 2,050 rpm

I also calculated time-to-climb in increments of 2,000 feet, as well as power required and available. These calculations need to be checked again as to assumptions and process. Some refinement is in order to take into account fuel weight burn off, for instance. Hopefully I can get back into this effort in the near future. I have also recently received considerable Lae temperature history data from Michael Real in Australia. Using an adiabatic lapse rate, I can reasonably estimate altitude temperatures instead of relying on a standard atmosphere.

Best I can do for now, Ric. Hope this helps in the interim.

Best regards,
Birch Matthews


From Ric

Thanks Birch. Those numbers certainly appear to be in the range of what one might expect given the other information we have. I’ll stick my neck out and arbitrarily assign durations to each of those stages and see what we come up with for total fuel burned at the moment they leveled at 7,000 feet.

Action
Fuel burn rate
Time
RPM
Consumption
Engine start & warm up
41 gph
20 minutes
1,000 rpm
14 gallons
Takeoff & stabilize
109 gph
5 minutes
2,200 rpm
9 gallons
Low level departure
94 gph
20 minutes
2,000 rpm
31 gallons
Climb to 7,000 feet
78 gph
35 minutes
2,050 rpm
45 gallons
Total time since takeoff
60 minutes
Total gallons burned
99

Note: I did not back into those numbers. I just went through the execerise based upon my own experience flying overgross airplanes. I was shocked (shocked!) to see how close I came to Roy Blay’s 1 hour at 100 gph.

LTM,
Ric


Subject:

RDF According to Gurr

Date: 9/9/00
From: Vern Klein

This is a re-hash of old information for many of us. It includes some remarks relative to the receiver and its antenna that may be of some significance to some more recent discussions.

I guess we have to remember that what Joe Gurr had to say in his communications with Fred Goerner was all relative to the way the radio equipment was when he last knew of it in Burbank.

Gurr describes his first encounter with the radio equipment on the Electra. He says they had just flown in from New York with the radio receiver not working and he had somehow been suggested as the person who could fix it. Amelia and Putnam were frantic that radio equipment installed by so prestigious an outfit as Bell Labs. had failed. It seems to me that would be the Western Electric receiver.

It took a while for him to find the receiver under the co-pilot’s seat. The antenna lead was laying there not connected. When Gurr connected the lead, the receiver came to life. In the eyes of Amelia and Palmer, he had performed a miracle. He points out that people with radio experience were not easy to find in those days.

Of course, Gurr talks some about improvising to give Amelia some 500 kc transmitting capability without using a trailing-wire antenna. Nobody used voice on 500 kc. It was regarded as strictly CW.

Then he talks about that "fine multi-frequency receiver that arrived in a box marked: U.S. Navy." The receiver covered frequencies up to 20 megaherttz and "could be useful in radio communication and even in direction finding. While the direction finding loop was designed for the lower frequencies, I found that I could get a fairly good null on AM broadcast stations up to 1500 kc. I figured it would probably be useful even at 3105 kc if the signal was strong enough."

Did this replace the WE receiver, and what was it?? Gurr says he never knew a model number and that it was installed by Lockheed with some suggestions from him.

Gurr says he tried to catch Amelia long enough to get her checked out on the use of the radio equipment, especially the direction finder, but had little success. Harry Manning had the operation down quite well and they would have time to work with it enroute.

"Harry and I covered such things as ambiguity of bearings and flying triangular courses in order to obtain a proper signal source direction." This suggests that there was no thought of a "sensing antenna" to resolve the ambiguity.

On a trial flight out to about 400 miles, Gurr operated the radio equipment while other checks of the aircraft were being done. Radio performance was not good at that distance but got better as they got closer on the way back.

"I was able to take bearings on broadcast stations using the belly antenna, and then switching over to the loop." Note that he says "switching over" not "switching in." I think he used the belly antenna only to get a station tuned in with that more efficient antenna, then "switched over" to the loop to take a bearing -- an ambiguous bearing except that he knew the station was up ahead, not behind.

To me, this suggests that the belly antenna was the receiving antenna and the "V" on top was the transmitting antenna. The T/R relay in the transmitter was not involved and the transmitter could have been heard by the receiver -- if it was not totally "blocked" by the strong signal.


From Ric

Good work Vern, and a strong argument for an antenna set up that matches the antenna loss at Lae with the problems encountered at Howland.

It is very difficult for me to believe that Gurr’s account of Earhart receiving a multi-frequency receiver in a box marked "U.S. Navy" is accurate.

To accept that we’d have to accept that:

  • it transpired without supporting paperwork that has survived (We have the messages documenting the Navy’s loan of a bubble octant which arrived, probably in a box marked "U.S. Navy" at about the same time Gurr says the receiver arrived.)
  • its presence aboard the airplane went unmentioned by the press or by Earhart herself even when specifically describing the radios in the airplane.

It looks, to me, increasingly like Earhart removed the Hooven Radio Compass, which entailed a separate receiver and a sense antenna, and replaced it with the new Bendix loop and coupler which used the existing WE20B receiver and did not employ a sense antenna. The belly antenna was the receiving antenna. When it was lost on takeoff at Lae, Earhart lost her ability to receive until the one brief moment when she "switched over" to the loop and heard the "A"s on 7500. She then switched back to the missing belly antenna and again heard nothing.

LTM,
Ric


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