Forum artHighlights From the Forum

September 26 through October 2, 1999

Subject: Re: Reef Landing
Date: 9/27/99
From: Mike Meunich

I have been following with much interest the issue of the ability of the Electra to land on the reef. Just finished the recent post, 9/25 re water depths, height of the Electra, and condition of reef surface. In order for AE to land on the reef it would have to be exposed. Do we have any elevation data for the reef or portions of the reef. Do we have sufficient data for someone to do the calculations necessary to determine the tidal cycles and elevations for the date and time frame AE could have landed given the Great Fuel Dabate and other issues? As I understand it, she could have arrived/landed between about 8:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. If tidal tables establish low tides and resulting reef exposure during this period, theory is possible, if not, theory questionable since I feel damage to aircraft would have been substantial.

From Ric

Direct observation of the reef flat in that area leaves little doubt that it drys sufficiently at low tide to permit a safe landing. There are no tide tables for Nikumaroro and it is not, unfortunately, possible to hindcast the tidal state at the island 62 years back with sufficient certainty to say anything meaningful about the tidal state at the possible time of arrival. Even today, experienced mariners have a hard time predicting the tides at Niku. Extrapolating from the nearest place for which tables are available (American Samoa) has resulted in embarrassment for more than one captain during TIGHAR expeditions.

Also, the theoretical arrival window is quite a bit smaller than you state. In local time, the last transmission heard by Itasca came at 08:43, at which time the aircraft was close enough to Howland to be heard at maximum strength. This has been interpreted to mean that the plane was within 100 miles - maybe as much as 150 miles - from Howland. To be generous, let's say the airplane was 150 nm southeast of Howland at 08:45. That's still 200 nm from Niku or about an hour and a half of flying time. That makes the earliest realistic arrival at something like 10:15. On the other end, it's hard to see how their fuel could have been stretched past about 12:30, so we have a total window of perhaps two and a quarter hours.

Subject: Reef and Tide?
Date: 9/28/99
From: Warren Lambing

Here is a question I am wondering about. For the Electra to land on a dry reef and to send radio messages several days, then you have to assume that the part of the reef it landed on was staying somewhat dry during high tide and that a swell occur to submerge the aircraft, or at least push it off the dry part of the reef. My question is the approximate area where Emily has seen the aircraft wreckage, is part of that reef area dry during hide tide?

Regards to the Forum.
Warren Lambing

From Ric

No part of the reef is dry at high tide. Some parts of the reef are dry at low tide. The part of the reef where Emily says she saw wreckage is dry at low tide. If the ocean is calm there is about four feet of water standing on that part of the reef at high tide - which is not enough to reach any of the radio components on the Electra. If the ocean is not calm there is sufficent surf running over that part of the reef to destroy a Lockheed 10.

Subject: Tidal Data
Date: 9/28/99
From: Mike Meunich

It is my understanding that tidal calculations are functions of moon, sun, and earth with some other witchcraft thrown in. I found several programs on internet that will calculate forward. NOAA has a site that does tidal calculations and list one for the Phoenix Group, Canton. Site also has a contact for custom work at It appears that NOAA might be able to calculate tidal times and elevations for any site.

From Ric

I really wasn't making it up when I said that we've looked into this at great length. We have concluded that while you can get people (including NOAA and others) to give you various opinions about what the tide should have been at a given moment at Niku 62 years ago, the fact is that everybody has to extrapolate from someplace else (Canton 200 nm away, or Samoa 700 nm away) and real life experience at the island has taught us that you just can't do that and achieve the kind of acuracy that woulod be meaningful. Remember, you only have to be off 6 hours in 62 years and you're 100 percent wrong about the state of the tide.

I wish it was something we could know but we're much better off accepting that we can't know it than we are kidding ourselves into thinking we can.


Subject: Media and Earhart
Date: 9/30/99
From: Phil Tanner

Ric wrote:

>One of those lessons we've learned is that the public/media fascination with
>the Earhart mystery is because of, not in spite of, the controversy
>surrounding it.

The controversy was aired, albeit briefly, here in the UK yesterday evening ion our version of the History Channel. Afraid I missed most of the Earhart section in what proved to be a programme called something like "Puzzles of the Century", but I did catch it in time to see Ric demonstrate the possible site for a patch of aluminium (as we call it) suspected to come from the underside of AE's plane, and the piece of plexiglass. Regrettably, the caption on a graphic demonstrating Noonan's line of position referred to "Gardiner" Island.

I suspect from subsequent elements that it would have kicked off with a conspiracy theorist and brought in Ric to represent the logical view of things. The idea seemed to be to give a hearing to all the various theories on any particular mystery, however mad or plain silly. I'd say that even having people argue against the existence of the Bermuda Triangle gives the myth some sort of credence which it doesn't deserve.

Fortunately, each particular puzzle was sectioned off by commercial breaks - some of the others included lunatic accounts of abduction by aliens and a guy who thought Glenn Miller staged his own disappearance.

LTM, Phil 2276

From Ric

It's just a fact of life that nobody---not us, nor Elgen Long, nor the conspiracy crowd---is going to get a critical airing of the evidence on television. Television is the great equalizer, painting meticulous historical research with the same brush as pure opinion. In the jargon of the trade this is called "balance."

All television does is keep the names and faces in front of the public. The Earhart mystery at the turn of the milennium is basically what the Earhart World Flight was in 1937 - entertainment.

Subject: A.E.'s Flying Skills
Date: 9/30/99
From: Alexandr V. Mandel

This is an email which was not submitted to the Forum, because the correspondent doesn't have an email account with which to subscribe. His mailing address is included.

Alexandr V. Mandel

Dear A.E.S.F. subscribers! Unfortunately I am not subscriber of A.E.Search Forum by technical reason (I have not my own E-Mail and Internet connection), but I am very interested in A.E./F.N. story many years. I don't know, which version is correct, but in my opinion TIGHAR's version is very convincing, well proved and only one that is truly scientifically researched. By this reasons I try to track yours researches and to study yours WebSite in any occasion.

Subscribers of A.E.Forum discuss many interesting questions in their messages. But one from this questions, discussioned frequently, is very strange for me. This is a question about Earhart's flying skills. I have read (I hope) about it all, that is available in our country and in Net, and now I think, that this question is primely artificially created.

There were many points of view about this matter - from very admirable to critical, both from our and Earhart's contemporaries. About these lasts we now cannot know correctly in all cases, what is real origin of critics - real facts, or competition and envy, or maybe method of opposition to ideas, advanced by A.E.. All talkings about all that has emotional character and they will be only rhetorical. By this reason, for correct conclusion it is needed to forget for a moment all, that was written about this question in sense of discussion, and to make the short non-emotional analysis of the several initial facts.

So, A.E. flied 16 years on planes of very much (it is important!) different types. In this period she had (as writes Mr.Dennis McGee, for example) eleven accidents. A part from them (2-3, as it seems) had an only mechanical origin (motor cut, etc.). A part is linked with a poor state of air stations and ground services in that time. Remains permissible 6-8 cases. And now we must only to look: is it really too much, relatively normal or small quantity in the given conditions (specificity of A.E .'s flying work)?

The quantity of A.E.'s accidents is usually trying to compare with the quantity of accidents of conditional "average pilots". But work of average pilots has a fully different nature. For example average pilots on airlines, both now and then, fly many months and years between the same points and by same routes. For the military pilots these points are their stationary air bases and firing grounds. Naturally they become very experienced on these routes and regions near it. They know all nearest airstrips (and these airstrips usually has a good quality), radio stations and beacons, features of weather conditions, etc. Therefore quantity (and "quality") of their accidents is relatively little and tends to decreasing by time.

A.E., by her own words, was "air vagabond" a considerable period of her flying career. She flied by the very different routes across all the country and everytime arrives to new points. Thus she did not keep close to the ways, on which the resort services for flights were well developed (or were developed at all). Reading about A.E.'s flights, we - on the contrary - everytime meet with the facts of landings and takeoffs in doubtful conditions, at poor irradiating, on unfamiliar terrain such as meadows (sometimes sloped), pastures, polo fields, or as the best cases - small flying fields in small cities. Both then and now such flying (and especially landings) considered as situations of increased risk in aviation, and them pilots try to avoid it, when it is possible. And Locheed-Vega or even Avro-Avian are not the JumboJets of course, but all the same they are not a deltaplanes. But in A.E.'s career in the overwhelming majority of cases all this "escapades" transited succesfully.

All these facts must be remembered when we answers on a question: is it too many of it or a little - 6-8 accidents in 16 years. In my opinion it is clear, that it is not simply little, but it is surprisingly little for noted conditions. And this impression becomes even more stronger, if to consider the "quality" of these accidents.

As in yours WebSite is noted, "her mishaps, however, tended to be relatively minor". And, also, "she does not run into hills while trying to push through in bad weather. She doesn't get hopelessly lost and wander around until she runs out of gas. She has no mid-air collisions or in-flight structural failures. She never has to use a parachute. And she doesn't get hurt. The only injury she ever received was a cut on the scalp when she flipped her Vega onto its back in Norfolk" (end of citate).

And it must be added, that very few relatively more serious accidents (Vega flipping, autogiro crash and Electra groundloop) take place in different places and times, in different plane's types and by technically different reasons - and no repeats. So there were no regularity or dependence between them, and there is not a base for conclusions about A.E.'s principal deficiences in some aspects of flying. If one fly more time in non-standart situations (strongly overloaded planes as the Electra, or the pioneering constructions as the autogiro, etc.), and experimenting again and again, - one will have more accidents. It is clear. This is a question of statistics - not skills. In these conditions the skills consists in keeping situations under control, and exits from it without fatal consequences for pilot, another people and a planes. End we can see, that even in this situations no one was killed or seriously injured, and planes not fatally destroyed (if I remember correctly, Atlantic Crossing in 1932 maked after repair on same Vega!).

Thus it is clear for me, that basically A.E.'s accidents were little incidents, which take place in aviation frequently (especially in her time), and which generally received a publicity only due to the fact, that it happens with woman-pilot, and not simply woman-pilot but A.E.. A nature of such publicity is explained in several words in "The Fun of It", for example - when manufacturer explains to A.E., why he couldnt risk hiring woman pilots: "Because of the way accidents, even minor ones, were played up in the newspapers. A man can damage plane and hardly a word be said...but that doesnt apply when sister stobs her toe". For Amelia, with her persistent struggle for woman pilots acknowledgement, this rule works "in square degree". Really, we can remember for example, that another great aviator - Colonel Charles Lindbergh - has a 4 emergency parachute jumps in his career (as I read), but in this case all understands that this is not a reason for quick conclusions about "poor piloting skills" of this famous pioneer. But Earhart's flying career has a same pioneering nature!

The same conclusions can be drawn about her navigating skills, and by the same reasons. Already so much is written everywhere about it, that soon remains only to be surprised, how A.E. at all sometime in her career could reach the planned destinations - if to perceive all this seriously. THESE are TALKS.

But she really did it in all mentioned before conditions, and succesfully did many long distance flights with primitive equipment and make errors (minor, not fatal) seldom. THESE are FACTS.

A series of myths, which was arisen by the various reasons, by the way, are effectively exposed now by TIGHAR members. For example this is "Africa Coast Episode" during the Last Flight (that really is practically fiction - in kind in which it usually states). Also this is a myth about A.E./F.N. full incompetence in radioexchange with "Itacka" (that is, as follows from yours researches, a result of direct hoax), and anothers. Good example is standart statement about Electras' grounloop. It speeks, that usually in takeoffs the help of co-pilot (Paul Mantz) was needed for A.E. to control steering gear and throttles simultaneously, and as if this is the evidence of A.E.'s poor piloting technics. But really it is important, that L-10 is a multi(twin)engine plane with two pilots seats. And such cooperation of pilots in takeoff process is a normal procedure on these planes - no more. Especially - in difficult conditions (when plane is overloaded so heavily, for example). You simply can see any serious literature or films about work of bombers in World War II, for example. If plane is more heavier (4-motors), even the third crew member (flight engineer) is needed for safe takeoff process. A.E. make all work solely, and in Hawaiian accident - in conditions of essential side wind, as I remember. This is hard work for any pilot, and this simple Hawaiian incident in any case is not a ready material for quick and categorical conclusions, - especially if recall, that correct technical origins of accident were not ascertained fully.

FACTUALLY: A.E. and F.N. succesfully makes biggest part of their voyage, partially in very difficult weather conditions, without serious piloting, landing or navigational problems. All this - in wild rate and in not very good A.E.'s health state. So don't forget about this FACTS, that now some try to substitute by the strange (sexist's?) theoryes, that were constructed on sand.

And now we can draw a conclusions. In my opinion, all conversations about principal deficiencies in A.E.'s piloting and navigating skills are only results of latter (mainly posthumous) legends, produced mainly by the fact of disappearence of L-10E and its crew. It was only direct and very easy way to explain this situation (and it was a very advantageous way for many). So, in general - this is result of very adjustable conclusions from the unverified facts, direct errors, which began to transfer from a book to a book, from a movie to a movie and from one article to another. And this is also a form of passive counteraction of many to ideas, which were persistently advanced by A.E., for comprometation of it. And it seems that real A.E.- OK, maybe not Best Woman Pilot In The World, but simply definitely very good pilot - "fall" twice. Firstly - as pilot in her Electra, and secondly - as victim of insinuations, mainly not connected with aviation at all.

And finally I agree with Mr. Ric Gillespee when he speaks that the reasons of disappearance of NR 16020 must be searched by studying of the CONCRETE FACTS (NOT MYTHS!), which took place in last hours of flight.

Please, accept my great apologies for big volume of the letter and my English.
Bless You.
Sincerely yours - Alexandr

Subject: Question for Loran vets
Date: 9/30/99
From: Tom King

I'm working on the part of the 8th edition that describes findings in the colonial village on Niku, and need to check some of our assumptions about stuff from the Loran station with those who know. I'll have more questions later, but right now, I need to ask about sections of creosote-empregnated posts, about telephone-pole diameter or a little bigger, that we find in the "new" (i.e. post-48) village, sometimes in lengths about 30 feet long, more often in sections about 2-3 feet long. We've assumed that these were antenna masts, hauled to the village and cut up after the station was abandoned. Is this true, Loran vets?

I'd also appreciate anything anyone can tell me about food service items at the station -- what did you eat off of? Also fire extinguishers: what kinds did you have?

Thanks in advance...

LTM (who insists that we verify our hypotheses)
Tom King

Subject: Re: Question for Loran Vets
Date: 10/1/99
From: Chuck Boyle

I have a copy of a report written by the UCCG shortly after the Phoenix Loran Stations were built which includes Gardner Island. I obtained it from the NW United States Coast Guard Museum located in Seattle, WA several years ago. It is a 26-page report and gives details of the work done at the four Stations. Statements made in the building of the Gardner Island Station are listed below which may help in preparing your report.

"Work on the equipment hut and the power hut went on simultaneously, while a pole gang erected the radiator and the six 75-foot poles." (Used for antennas.)

"Two storage huts, a galley and a mess hall, the crew's quarters and the officers' quarters and a tower of creosoted piling 20 feet long, for two 3000-gallon wood storage tanks was erected as a water supply system."

If I remember correctly, we were served meals on regular dinnerware (not metal trays).

To verify Ric's statement from time to time as he mentions the Tighar Team, on the trips to Gardner Island, because of the heat and humidity how difficult and exhausting it is to perform their work. This report tells, "The men (Young Coast Guardsman) could not stand up under the terrific tropical sun. Gardner is only four degrees from the equator. These men, who were picked for their physical stamina, found themselves exhausted after a few hours in the jungle." Thank you Ric and your team for what you go through on these trips so we can know more of what happen to AE and FN.

Lee (Chuck) Boyle 2060

From Ric

Thanks Chuck. Yes, we have a copy of that report but I hadn't remembered that it was so detailed. One of the problems with a research project that spans more than a decade is that you don't always remember what information you already have.

Subject: Re: A Ukrainian Opinion
Date: 10/1/99
From: Herman de Wulf

Alexandr is absolutely right. Aviation being what it was in the Thirties, there is no reason to believe today that Amelia Earhart was a worse pilot than anyone else. Today everybody remembers Louis Bleriot for having being the first man to cross the English Channel in an airplane, not for the way he crashed it when landing near Dover. History tells us that Alcock and Brown were the first men to cross the Atlantic non stop in an airplane in 1919, but the picture of their Vickers Vimy standing on its nose after their arrival in Ireland reminds us they actually crashed in a bog. Maybe that is how the expression saw light that "any landing you can walk away from is a good landing".

AE may have been involved in a number of incidents, never in an accident. As for flipping a Vega on its back, well, with the kind of taildraggers they flew in those days it could happen to anyone. There are even reports of experienced airline pilots flying scheduled services flipping a DC-3 on its back in the Thirties. And those were "experienced" pilots, probably more experienced than AE.

The fact of the matter is that accidents will happen. Thankfully they are few these days. But back in the Thirties airplanes did not have the degree of safety and reliability we take for granted today. To begin with pilots could not rely on all that modern equipment airplanes carry today. Radar did not exist. Neither did GPS. Radio beacons had yet to be invented. With all the wonderful equipment pilots rely on today one wonders how pilots in the Thirties even found their destinations by using only a compass, a stopwatch and a map. And in the case of AE/FN by watching the sun.

That's why people like AE and FN should be remembered as daring pioneers. And all the myth spinning about AE being "a poor pilot" or FN being "not the good navigator he was said to be" has to be considered backbiting and slander.


From Ric

I think it's interesting to note that in the past 24 hours we've had input from the Ukraine with a supporting opinion from Belgium and a new suggestion from Papua New Guinea. Maybe TIGHAR is the New World Order everyone is worried about.

Subject: Landlubbers Ahoy!
Date: 10/2/99
From: Phil Tanner

I'm not trying to re-open the radio debate, and apologies to navigators out there to whom this is as simple a matter as a description of how to tie a pair of shoes, but I found this brief idiot's guide to radio direction-finding in a report at the site of the Placerdome mining company, originators and finders of the Chater Report. I found it helpful as a technophobe layman landlubber:

The radio direction finder navigation technique was based on a loop antenna fixed above the Lockheed's cockpit. Upon receiving a signal from the ground station, the pilot would slowly rotate the antenna. Because of its circular shape, a pronounced fade in the signal, known as a "null", would be heard by the pilot when the loop was oriented edgewise to the source of the signal. The loop was geared to a compass rose in the cockpit. When the pilot "got a minimum" (i.e. the "null") the pointer on the compass gave a relative bearing to the station.

LTM Phil 2276

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