Forum artHighlights From the Forum

September 10 through 16, 2000
(page 2 of 2)

(click on the number to go directly to that message)
18 Re: Angled Pitot Tube Questions 27 Re: AE’s Proficiency in the 10E
19 Re: Takeoff Distances 28 Re: Takeoff Distance
20 Re: Takeoff Distances 29 Earhart’s Ability
21 Re: Fact-finding trip to Lae 30 Re: Earhart’s Ability
22 Re: Gerald Gallagher 31 Re: Earhart’s Ability
23 Lae Takeoff 32 Re: Earhart’s Ability
24 AE’s Proficiency in the 10E 33 Earhart’s Accidents
25 Re: Lady Be Good Exhibit 34 Re: Earhart’s Ability
26 Re: Lae Takeoff 35 Re: Earhart’s Ability

Message: 18

Re: angled pitot tube questions

Date: 9/13/00
From: Kent Vanderwaal

I’m new to the forum, I’ve been reading the TIGHAR web site for the good part of the year but I’ve tired of waiting for the forum highlights to show up and decided to jump into the fray.

First, kudos to the entire crew, the research and web site are great reads and very fascinating. It really brings the past to light.

My question is this:

The captured frame from the takeoff film footage on the page The Lost Antenna II shows what looks like a pitot tube angled back from its original position. This captured frame is taken from the film before the plane reaches that "Y" shaped tree and after the puff of dust.

Compare with the photo from page The Lost Antenna that shows the plane as it just about reachs the "Y" shaped tree. It appears that there is a visible pitot tube that is in the original position. The photo analysis of this shot only discusses the belly antenna, did they look at the pitot tube? Is it just the other, unbent pitot tube that we’re seeing?

My dad had a tail dragger years ago (Taylorcraft) and it’s easy to imagine a heavy, taxiing, bouncing taildragger on a bumpy, rough strip bellying out in a dip.

Kent Vanderwaal

From Ric

Welcome to the fray. That’s the same photo you’re seeing in both bulletins. The second one is just a blowup. It’s not a frame captured from the film but a separate photo taken with a still camera. Captured frames from the film don’t provide nearly enough resolution to see this kind of detail.

Here’s how it all went down. When I first saw the takeoff film I noticed the puff of dust and thought it looked very odd. Dust or water kicked up by the prop, or by a wheel? I looked at newsreel film of the Electra taking off from other runways, including a puddle-dotted runway at Oakland. Not at all like the event in the Lae film. What could it be? I then remembered the story about wire being found on the runway and wondered if what we were seeing might be associated with a loss of the belly antenna. Jeff Glickman at Photek agreed to look at the film, frame by frame, with forensic imaging software. His conclusion was that the antenna was there in the taxiing sequence but was not there in the takeoff sequence -- now you see it, now you don’t. Based on Jeff’s conclusions I developed the hypothesis that the aft antenna mast had suffered a ground strike, probably during the turn around at the far end of the runway, and that the puff was the dragged mast snagging in the dirt and ripping the wire free. That was all in 1995.

Just last year we got our hands on the still photo taken during the takeoff run and asked Jeff to look at it to see if he could confirm his earlier findings. We published his response in the first Lost Antenna bulletin. Jeff never looked at the pitot tube because I never noticed that it looked funny until just a month or so ago when somebody on the forum requested that we put up a higher resolution copy of the photo. The neat thing about the bent pitot is that you don’t need to be a forensic imaging guru to see that it’s bent.


Message: 19

Re: takeoff distances

Date: 9/13/00
From: Oscar Boswell

Those interested in a quick approximate answer can estimate as follows: Five knots = 9.4 feet per second. The headwind will act on the airplane for a period equal to the time elapsed in the normal (no wind) takeoff roll, and will retard its progress (shorten the takeoff roll) by 9.4 feet for each second. Normal takeoff speed was about 65 mph -- let’s estimate about 100 mph @ 15,000 pounds. Average (air) speed (= ground speed with zero wind) throughout the roll would be (say) 50 to 60 mph. At 60 mph average, the 2900 foot no wind roll (as calculated by Birch) would take 33 seconds (2900/5280=.5492x60=32.95). At 50 mph average, the roll would take about 39.6 seconds. Multiplying the time by 9.4 gives the approximate reduction in distance. At 60 mph average, it would be about 310 feet; at a 50 mph average, about 372 feet. Call it 350 feet, plus or minus 20%, to allow for other factors and the rather sloppy math.

From Ric

And 2900 feet minus 350 feet is - wait for it - 2550 feet which matches Eric Chater’s 850 yards and appears to be consistent with what is shown in the film. Your weight calculations are looking pretty good Birch.

Message: 20

Re: takeoff distances

Date: 9/13/00
From: Oscar Boswell

My quick calculation was a little too quick. Five knots is 8.4 fps, not 9.4. This makes the distance reduction 277 feet at 60 mph average, and about 333 at 50 mph. Make it 300 feet, plus or minus. My apologies.

From Ric

"Measure with micrometer, mark with chalk, cut with an axe."
- Capt. Skeet Gifford

Whaddya wanna bet we find that a slight downslope to the runway gives us the other 50 feet?

Message: 21

Re: Fact-finding trip to Lae

Date: 9/13/00
From: Frank Westlake

Janet Whitney asks:

> ... why not go Lae and try to interview the people and the
> descendants of the people who were on the scene between
> the time Earhart and Noonan arrived at Lae and time they
> departed Lae for Howland?

Perhaps this statement shows us where Janet’s misunderstanding is. Janet, TIGHAR is not engaged in an endeavor to research every detail of the world flight attempt and to discover if it was a causal factor in the flight’s failure. The reason for that failure is secondary, I presume, to determining where the flight ended. As Ric advises us in his message welcoming us to the forum, "Specifically, we want to further our investigation of TIGHAR’s hypothesis that Earhart and Noonan, and probably the airplane, ended up on Gardner Island (now known as Nikumaroro) in the Phoenix Group."

Frank Westlake

Message: 22

Re: Gerald Gallagher

Date: 9/14/00
From: Gerard Gallagher

Yes, indeed I am intrigued in regards to the Earhart twist to the story of Gerald’s time at his post in the Phoenix Island Group. I am sure he would be equally intrigued that so many are interested in him 59 years after his untimely death.

I look forward to working along with TIGHAR closely to research and hopefully prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the bones that Gerald Bernard Gallagher (galla - her) found on Gardner Island (Niku) are indeed those of Amelia Earhart.

Please, (All TIGHAR Members) give me some time to brush up on the Amelia Earhart saga, facts and scenario of events. My quest to research and find a family member that was, until now, simply a word of mouth family story of a long lost relative who worked in the South Pacific has now taken on an aura of unbelievable intrigue!

Has anyone come across any information relating to a Sir Hugh Clifford? I have some family references that associate him (Sir Hugh) with Gerald’s father Dr. Gerald Hugh Gallagher. Sir Hugh Clifford later become the Governor of Malaysia/Singapore. Gerald’s Father would have served under Sir Harry Clifford in Togoland (Western Africa) trying to tie up how Gerald got involved with the Colonial Service ... perhaps influenced by Sir Hugh Clifford?

Anyway thank you for the email. I promise to keep a back seat as I fully understand that your initial quest is Amelia Earhart and my goals are related to a branch of the family tree ... but it is fabulous that the two have through time become entwined.

Thanks Again .... Gerry Gallagher.

From Ric

Gerald’s paperwork in the WPHC files indicates that his father, Gerald Hugh, was a physician in the "West African Medical Service" which agrees with your information that he served under Sir Harry Clifford. Sir Hugh Clifford is not a name we’ve come across.

The series of events that resulted in Gerald joining the Colonial Service has long intrigued and puzzled us. In the context of a debate over whether Gerald might properly be termed a "martyr" I recently wrote a posting to the forum in which I made some observations and engaged in some speculation that you should see. I’ve reproduced that posting below:

It’s very apparent from the official record that Gallagher quite literally, and one could argue, almost deliberately worked himself to death. He often didn’t take advantage of the medical care that was available to him and he demonstrated a wanton disregard for his own health and safety. His final decline when he returned to Gardner was precipitated by his disregard for Macpherson’s instructions in "swallowing some purgative tablets which he was in the habit of using and which I had refused to let him have."

I think Gallagher was a "martyr" in the same sense that religious martyrs actually seek to achieve some kind of redemption by sacrificing themselves for a cause. Gerald Gallagher was a Roman Catholic -- very unusual in the Colonial Service. He was the elder son and namesake of a prominent physician in government service. He distinguished himself at the best schools (Stonyhurst and Cambridge) before beginning medical school at illustrious St. Bart’s, but he only lasted one semester there before suddenly going to Ireland for a year to "study argiculture." He then applies for a posting in the Colonial Service and when he gets to the Pacific he throws himself into his work with a passion. The PISS becomes his crusade. He sounds to me like an overachiever who burned out, failed to follow in his father’s footsteps, is ridden with guilt, and martyrs himself to achieve redemption. He is Kipling’s "White Man’s Burden" taken to its ultimate extreme.

It would be very interesting to know whether the family can support or refute these speculations about why Gerald made such an abrupt change in his career course. Why did he drop out of medical school? His year in Ireland was spent at the farm of "Mr. G. Butler, Maiden Hall, Bennetts Bridge, Co. Kilkenny." Friend of the family perhaps? A letter from an older woman friend in Malvern, Ruby Margetts, suggests that Gerald might have ridden to hounds for a time. Did he pick up that pastime in Ireland? Might it have been in Ireland that he learned to fly? Questions, questions,....


Message: 23

Lae Takeoff

Date: 9/14/00
From: Doug Brutlag

It’s being argued that AE had somewhere around 300 hours in the Electra when she disappeared. For some aviators, 300 hours multiengine time can make them a decent multimotor pilot. For others, they aren’t any safer at 300 hours than they were at the beginning. Proficiency is one aspect..Judgement is quite another. Years ago, when I was a full time flight instructor I did my best to give students the best training I could to the best of my ability to teach. The one thing I couldn’t teach was judgement. You either have it or you don’t. I still tried to impart a sense of the word by example and lecturing future pilots to be conservative and always leave yourself a way out or plan B or C. I never go into a flight, even a local "once around the patch" without knowing in my mind what I’m going to do normal & also the abnormal should it arise. Plan A is your destination, plan B is your alternate or diversion, and usually plan C is the Abort.

I stand by my opinion questioning her proficiency in the Electra knowing it is a demanding aircraft to fly, and I’m just not convinced she knew what she was doing in that thing. Her judgement I don’t think anyone will disagree, was just plain not there. If she had any, it was diluted by the glory, George Palmer Putnam, and the news cameras. While the worldflight attempt at that time was dangerous for any aviator on the planet to have tried , I cannot believe she was ever really up to the enormous quest she put herself into.

Doug Brutlag #2335

From Ric

In a former life, part of my job was to be an aviation insurance underwriter -- that is, I had to determine what pilot was insurable in what airplane and at what price. In most fields of insurance such criteria are set by actuarial tables but in aviation the "law of large numbers" is not reliable because the numbers just aren’t large enough. Aviation underwriting is, therefore, a judgement call and many underwriters are, themselves, pilots who call upon their own experience in deciding what is reasonable and what is not. Total time and time in type are by no means the only factors considered. Age, ratings, accident record, and what kind of flying the person has been doing (mostly local? cross-country? instrument?) are major factors. On a difficult call I always asked myself, "Would I let this person take my kids for a ride in this airplane?"

Bottom line: I would not have put Amelia in that beast for love nor money.


Message: 24
Subject: AE’s Proficiency in the 10E
Date: 9/14/00
From: Oscar Boswell

Before we get too carried away with AE’s lack of proficiency as a multi-engine pilot in a demanding airplane, let’s remember that we have zero proof that that lack of proficiency caused her loss. (And we should at least give passing attention to Kelly Johnson’s remark that "she was a good pilot when I knew her.")

The most poignant thing to me is reading her attempts to tell others what she wanted in the way of radio assistance. She knew how to write, and to express herself, but when faced with a cable form she lost that ability: "Report by voice not code especially while flying ..." she sent. What was her recipient supposed to make of that? "We cannot send or understand Morse code" was what she should have said. It’s even one word(and 56 cents?) shorter.

From Ric

Interesting point.

Message: 25
Subject: Re: Lady Be Good exhibit
Date: 9/15/00
From: Tom King

Wes Smith says:

>I eagerly await the discovery and recovery of the Electra and even of
>AE and Noonan.

Well, let’s think about that. Assuming that what we find are lots of little pieces of airplane, the most sensible thing to do is probably to put them someplace where people can see them -- i.e. in a museum. But if we find a big hunk of wreckage that can be interpreted in place, it might very well be best to leave it there. Best for Kiribati, among others, as a tourist destination. Or suppose we find the bones of AE and FN. What’s the best thing to do with them? Or suppose the Seven Site turns out to be their camp. Do we excavate it all and bring it home (assuming the Kiribati authorities allow it), or do we leave it where it is and help develop a plan for in-place interpretation? If we bring everything home, what opportunities does Kiribati miss for in-place interpretation? If we leave it there, what danger is there of vandalism? The fact is that if we find AE, FN, and/or the Electra, we and Kiribati are going to have to face those kinds of decisions, and they’re not cut and dried; there are a bunch of factors to be weighed. Presumably the same could be said for the LBG.


From Ric

Although these kinds of questions are definitely in the realm of poultry enumeration, they need to be thought about and discussed. I agree with Tom’s comments about the recovery -- or not -- of aircraft wreckage. As with the Lady Be Good, the historical significance does not reside in the aircraft itself but in what happened to it and to its crew. Recovery of at least some components would probably be necessary if only for positive identification.

If all that’s left is a scattering a small pieces that could be easily carried off (once you know where to look), it would probably be unrealistic and irresponsible not to recover them to a protected environment.

Human remains are a different issue. Once positively identified, I would think that the ultimate disposition of human remains would be up to the next of kin.


Message: 26
Subject: Re: Lae takeoff
Date: 9/15/00
From: Ross Devitt

Ric says:

> Bottom line: I would not have put Amelia in that beast for love nor money.

I think that’s a little unfair as a judgment, since none of us actually remember flying with her.


From Ric

I should clarify my remarks about underwriting Earhart’s flying. My point was that, as a trained and experienced aviation underwriter, I would not have insured Earhart in the Lockheed 10E (period--forget the World Flight) regardless of premium. No, I have never flown with her but neither have I flown with most of the thousands of pilots I have approved or disapproved in various aircraft. Her total time was probably okay (ballpark 2,000 hours?) and all of it was tailwheel time. At the time she started flying the Electra she had (as far as we know) minimal to zero experience with adjustable propellers, retractable landing gear, and more than one engine. By the time she was ready for the second World Flight attempt she probably had around 150 hours in type, but she had wrecked the airplane in a pilot-error accident. She had BAD RISK written all over her.


Message: 27
Subject: Re: AE’s proficiency in the 10E
Date: 9/15/00
From: William Webster-Garman

Oscar Boswell cited that Amelia wrote,

"Report by voice not code especially while flying ..."

But probably meant...

"We cannot send or understand Morse code"

Ego. A book-selling, celebrity "aviatrix" attempting a nominally dangerous equatorial circumnavigation of the globe in 1937 in a sophisticated (for the time) aircraft was probably not anxious to state plainly that she didn’t know Morse code.

This would be like an astronaut admitting that he couldn’t solve a simple algebra problem.

She and Noonan must have both been at least a little apprehensive about their weakness with code, and perhaps over-confident about their ability to navigate without it in an emergency.

william 2243

From Ric

Perhaps, but she and Noonan were certainly not bashful about telling the folks at Lae that they were morsely challenged. AE was a romantic and her communication style reflected her view of the world. It made for some nice images but sometimes got in the way of actually getting her message across. How many people, for example, understood her reference when she began a press release sent from Lae with "Denmark’s a prison"? You won’t even find that in Bartlett’s. Amelia, who never completed any course of higher education, pulled the quote out of her head and assumed that everyone would know what she meant.

On the off chance that some forum subscribers don’t have it memorized, here’s the complete exchange from Act II, Scene II.

Hamlet: ...What’s the news?
Rosencranz: None, my Lord, but that the world’s grown honest.
Hamlet: Then is doomsday near. But your news is not true. Let me question more in particular. What have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of Fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?
Guildenstern: Prison, my Lord?
Hamlet: Denmark’s a prison.


Message: 28
Subject: Re: Takeoff Distance
Date: 9/15/00
From: Nick Murray

Frank Westlake said:

>I don’t think it would take much of a slope. Using the reference cited
>below, and throwing in 80.66ft/s for take-off speed (55mph), 2550ft for
>actual roll, 2500ft for necessary roll, I get an angle of 0.46 degrees as
>being the necessary downslope. But I am only using the formula without a
>complete understanding of the engineering involved, so someone please check it.

I checked Frank’s math, and I came up with an angle of 0.046 degrees, not 0.46. Solving the equation for the angle "a" results in:

a = arcsin (V^2 • (S/L - 1)/2 • g • S)


L=takeoff distance corrected to level runway
S=measured takeoff distance on sloped runway
g=acceleration of gravity
a=runway slope angle (not percent slope), measured from horizontal (+ for uphill, - for downhill)
V=liftoff ground speed

I am not a trained pilot, but a 0.046 degree downslope is about 2 feet over a 2500 feet distance. I am sure any downslope helps, but would a 2 foot drop really add that much to the performance during a takeoff?

I also read through the paper that Frank references for this formula, and there are also corrections for wind, weight and air density. The paper also mentions that these formulae are for fixed pitch propellers, and additional corrections are required for constant speed propellers (engine RPM and brake horsepower). I would be cautious in taking part of the equation(s), and not using all of them together, as was obviously intended.

Nick Murray

Message: 29
Subject: Earhart’s Ability
Date: 9/15/00
From: Don Neumann

Regarding the many comments that still are being expressed concerning AE’s experience &/or lack of same, in piloting the Electra 10E, I’ve always found it curious that some of the worst commercial airline crashes that I read about, often involve pilots with lengthy flying time to their credit & impeccable resumes as to their ability to exercise sound judgement in critical situations.

Admittedly, not being a pilot or navigator, makes me reluctant to express any opinion about the technical abilities of either AE or FN. However, having spent over two years reviewing the information that has been developed by Forum members & other sources about AE/FN & their final flight, I can recall no evidence offered to support the claims that lack of piloting/navigational skills were demonstrated by either AE/FN at any stage of the flight, including what little information we have about the last leg of that flight from Lae to Howland.

Ah, but the question of always exercising good sound judgement in critical situations? That is a very fair & different question & almost always involves a very critical examination of all the facts involved in analyzing the immediate situation at hand & in this particular case (AE/FN last flight) a post mortem being offered over 60 years after such facts occurred.

Noting the fact that even the most experienced of well trained lawyers would hire another lawyer of at least equal training, ability & reputation to defend them in any serious legal action brought against themselves, seems to emphasize the point that even the best trained & experienced persons can often be prone to exercising poor judgement in crucial situations, where their human emotions & self judgement are key factors in making sound decisions & where the ’human’ factor(s) often seem to over ride whatever determinations their own training & long experience would seem to otherwise dictate in deciding the outcome in any given situation.

I recall reading somewhere the story of the last mission flown by Tommy McGuire, one of the most experienced & decorated, top ’aces’ of the Pacific theatre (who also flew a Lockheed P-38) in WWII.

According to the writer of this article, his untimely death was not due to enemy fire but rather the fact that he totally disregarded the three basic rules that his experience in flying P-38 Lightnings had taught him, (never attempt to engage an enemy at a low altitude, while at low speed or with wing tanks still in place) when his wingman was suddenly ’jumped’ by a ’zero’ shortly after takeoff. While attempting to ’rescue’ his wingman, McGuire’s plane stalled & crashed into the jungle immediately beneath his wings.

(Might also add to the list, the captain of the Titanic, who was one of the most experienced & respected ship masters of his era!)

And last, but not least, some of the ’dumbest’ decisions I’ve ever made were in situations where I’d had the most experience & the most training!

Don Neumann

From Ric

So was Amelia Earhart a world-class pilot who became a victim of circumstances beyond her control, or was her demise the inevitable end of a career in which she consistently pushed for accomplishments that exceeded her abilities?

Message: 30
Subject: Re: Earhart’s Ability
Date: 9/15/00
From: Marty Moleski

Ric writes:

> So [A] was Amelia Earhart a world-class pilot who became a victim of
> circumstances beyond her control, or [B] was her demise the inevitable end of
> a career in which she consistently pushed for accomplishments that
> exceeded her abilities?

If this is a poll, here is my answer.

Credentials first: I only fly radio-controlled airplanes. I have never done any training in full-scale aircraft, though I have read about flying on and off since the 1960s. So (for those who know Gilbert and Sullivan), I’m basically a "terrified amateur."

Judgment: I reject both option A and option B. I’d like to invoke the Peter Principle: she rose to the level of her incompetence. As an amateur, I’m impressed by the flying that she learned to do and by the records she set. It seems to me that she may have been too successful for her own good. She does not seem to have taken time to learn her equipment, to practice Morse code, to double-check that the Coast Guard understood all her plans, or to find out why she could not get a bearing on the Lae station during her test flight (when, presumably, all antennas were intact and in working condition). My view (for the time being) is that it is her poor radio skills that killed her and Fred.

What I don’t like about Ric’s statement of [B] is that (apart from wrecking the plane on the first world-flight attempt) most of her career was conducted within the envelope of her abilities. I admire her willingness to take risks and learn from experience. I also grieve her bad judgment about her radio equipment.

If it wasn’t a poll, then you can disregard what I just said.


From Ric

In defense of Option B I’ll point out that, unlike other famous fliers of the Golden Age, Earhart did not rise to fame because of her flying accomplishments but because she was selected to ride along as the first woman transatlantic passenger. She got that job because she was attractive, bore a striking resemblance to Charles Lindbergh, had a perfect name (Air Heart) and, very much by the way, had a pilot’s license. The public’s impassioned response to her safe arrival, and George Putnam’s masterful exploitation of her popularity, presented her with opportunities she never would have had otherwise. If Charles Lindbergh was The Beatles, Amelia Earhart was The Monkees -- a manufactured celebrity.

To her credit, she was determined to earn the praise that was heaped upon her, but her career was plagued with accidents (at least 8 prior to the final one) and blunders that were either blamed on weather or imagined mechanical failures, or spun into successes. Her most famous accomplishment, and certainly her most noteworthy flight, was her 1932 solo Atlantic crossing - the first successful crossing in the five years since Lindbergh’s NY/Paris feat. That it was a genuinely courageous thing to try is beyond question, but the popular perception that she duplicated Lindbergh’s feat is fiction. Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris -- 3,700 miles Earhart flew from Newfoundland to Ireland -- 1,700 miles (less than half the distance) Lindbergh reached his intended destination. Earhart intending to fly to Paris, strayed far off course and landed in northern Ireland.

I do not mean to minimize the bravery it took to make the flight. Earhart was immensely brave. There is no question about that. But bravery alone isn’t enough. The old saying could have been written for Amelia -- "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there ain’t no old bold pilots."


Message: 31
Subject: Re: Earhart’s Ability
Date: 9/15/00
From: Oscar Boswell

Ric wrote:

>The old saying could have been written for Amelia - "There are
> old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there ain’t no old bold pilots."

Lindbergh, readers of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s books Listen to the Wind and North to the Orient will remember, weighed the emergency equipment in their Lockheed Sirius down to the last ounce (literally) and made detailed lists of it. He listed a package of 17 fishhooks, weighing "one ounce". But he carried no sinkers, because these could be "improvised" from nuts and bolts. And yet he allowed 47 POUNDS for a battery-powered emergency radio in a shockproof alluminum case, in addition to the plane’s regular radio equipment (with which AML maintained CW contact with ground stations sometimes as far as 4000 miles away). He was a pilot who by his own standards took no risks whatever -- other than the risks inherent in the flight itself. Having decided to make a flight, he did what he could do to manage the risks and insure a successful outcome. He understood the importance of radio, even though the Sirius flights were nowhere near as dependent on radio as AE’s flight to Howland.

From Ric

If one were prone to be sensitive about such things, one could get truly incensed when Earhart is mentioned in the same breath as Earhart and Doolittle as "aviation pioneers."

Message: 32
Subject: Re: Earhart’s Ability
Date: 9/15/00
From: Marty Moleski

Ric wrote:

> ... She got that job because she was
> attractive ...

Well, photogenic. The camera loved her. She knew how to strike a pose.

>... bore a striking resemblance to Charles Lindbergh, had a
> perfect name (Air Heart) ...

That subliminical stuff does work!

> ... If Charles
> Lindbergh was The Beatles, Amelia Earhart was The Monkees -- a
> manufactured celebrity.

Ouch! That hurts! I’m working on forgetting that you said that.

> ... her career was plagued with accidents (at least 8 prior to the
> final one)

Nothing like the facts to spoil beautiful theories.

> ... her 1932
> solo Atlantic crossing -- the first successful crossing in the five years
> since Lindbergh’s NY/Paris feat.

I presume you mean "successful SOLO crossing," since she had already been hauled across as photogenic luggage. It’s surprising that she was the second successful soloist.

> ... Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris - 3,700 miles
> Earhart flew from Newfoundland to Ireland - 1,700 miles (less than half
> the distance). Lindbergh reached his intended destination.
> Earhart intending to fly to Paris, strayed far off course and landed in
> northern Ireland.

More dull, unromantic (persuasive) facts. I will try to use them to take the luster off of St. Amelia’s halo.


From Ric

It breaks my heart to be the bearer of such tidings.

Message: 33
Subject: Earhart’s accidents
Date: 9/16/00
From: Ron Reuther

Further to the comments about Earhart’s abilities as a pilot. Many other pilots of her day had a similar record of accidents. Check out the records of Jimmy Doolittle, Eddie Rickenbacker, and Lindburgh (3 bailouts! plus other incidents, for starters.

Ron Reuther

From Ric

Yes, Doolittle, Rickenbacker, Lindbergh and others had accidents but all accidents are not created equal. Doolittle was a test pilot and racing pilot on the ragged edge of technology. Rickenbacker was a fighter pilot in a combat environment. Lindbergh’s accident history was really very good and none of his bailouts was the result of him losing control of the airplane (two weather-related precautionary abandonments and one midair collision). Amelia’s mishaps, by contrast, were almost exclusively pilot-error landing and takeoff accidents.

August 31, 1928 - Avro Avian
Pittsburgh, PA
Landing accident. No injuries, substantial damage to the aircraft.

September 30, 1928 - Avro Avian
Tintic, UT
Forced off-airport landing. No injuries, minor damage to the aircraft.

August 19, 1929 - Lockheed Vega 1
Yuma AZ
Landing accident . No injuries, minor damage to the aircraft.

September 30, 1930 - Lockheed Vega 5
Norfolk, VA.
Landing accident. Minor injuries, severe damage to aircraft.

June 1931 - Pitcairn PCA-2
Abilene, TX
Takeoff accident. No injuries, totalled aircraft, letter of reprimand from Department of Commerce.

July 1931 -Pitcairn PCA-2 ( replacement aircraft)
Camden, NJ
Landing accident. No injuries, minor damage.

September 1931 - Pitcairn PCA-2
Detroit , MI
Landing accident. No injuries, totalled aircraft.

March 20, 1937 - Lockheed 10E Special
Honolulu, HI
Takeoff accident. No injuries, extensive damage.

May 21, 1937 - Lockheed 10E Special
Tucson, AZ
Engine fire on ground. No injuries, minor damage.

Having crashed her way to an adequate level of competence in the Vega, she had five accident-free years (1932-1936) during which time she was flying the single-engined Lockheed exclusively. When she up-graded to the Electra the same pattern began all over again. The facts speak for themselves.


Message: 34
Subject: Re: Earhart’s ability
Date: 9/16/00
From: Marty Moleski

Herman De Wulf writes

> ... She may not have been the best of pilots but from what I have
> read so far on flying in the Thirties, it looks like she was just
> an average pilot. ...

Does anyone know of a web site that lists all of the people killed in the early days of aviation? I have the impression that it would be a substantial list. Is there a room dedicated to the pioneers at the National Air and Space Museum? I haven’t been there since 1987 or 1988, and my memory is playing tricks on me. Perhaps I just thought there should be such a room.

At Old Rhinebeck this weekend, I saw a brief bio of a woman pilot who flew and died prior to Earheart. She was giving a ride to a friend. Something happened. The plane bobbled and threw him out. Then she fell out, too. I guess this was before seat belts were widely used.

At any rate, Earhart’s mishaps, accidents, and death may not look so bad when situated in the context of her own day.

I’m not arguing that she belongs at the top of the pilots’ list; I’m agreeing with Herman that she may have qualified for "average" status.


From Ric

I don’t recall one special room at Air & Space dedicated to pioneers. It would have to be a big room. There were hundreds. There were also dozens of woman pilots trying to make a name for themselves in the ’20s and ’30s but only one of them was married to George Putnam.

The thing to remember is that airplanes and flying have always been very, very expensive -- especially so in the depths of the Great Depression. Other pilots, male or female, didn’t get a chance to build up the portfolio of wrecks that Amelia did because bashing up airplanes tends to reduce a pilot’s employment opportunities. Earhart, on the other hand, did not get paid to fly. Her income came from talking and writing about flying, so as long as she continued to get speaking gigs, magazine articles, book royalties, and product endorsements she could afford to continue to fly -- which gave her more to talk and write about. Many of her contemporaries hated her guts because they saw her as a phoney, but she was simply playing by different rules than they were.


Message: 35
Subject: Re: Earhart’s ability
Date: 9/16/00
From: Rick Seapin

There is no doubt, at least in my opinion, that Amelia was at best a mediocre pilot. However, she managed to do some fantastic things when aviation was still in its infancy. Yes, she was lucky, she was groomed by Putnam and maybe her ego got in the way. But she also got some bad raps, was it her fault that she crashed in Hawaii? I understand that Mantz, the day before the crash, made a rather hard landing and may have cause some strut damage to the Electra.

From Ric

I want to make it clear that I’m not on an Amelia-bashing campaign here, but after 60 some odd years of folklore and veneration I do think it’s way past time for a more realistic assessment of Earhart’s place in history.

Yes, the wreck in Hawaii was her fault. The hard landing story is total bunk. The Army Air Corps did an exhaustive investigation of the accident and published a 65 page report that detailed everything that happened from the preparations for her arrival from Oakland until she sailed home. There was no pre-loss strut damage. There was no blown tire that caused the groundloop (as AE tried to claim). She just plain lost control of the airplane.


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