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Author Topic: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland  (Read 244164 times)

Gary LaPook

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Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« on: February 04, 2012, 01:53:12 PM »

Jeff Hayden asked the question, "Did they carry parachutes?"


In her book, Last Flight, Earhart wrote that they left their parachutes at Darwin, to be shipped home, so that should be the end of it. (I have attached an excerpt.)

Or is it?

I must point out that I have found errors in her book, possibly originating with Earhart herself or possibly with the editor of the book, George Putnam. Is this another error?

The reason I am asking this question is that I found two Australian newspaper articles reporting her arrival in Darwin that calls this into question. Both articles state that the first thing Earhart did when she arrived in Darwin was to inquire whether her parachutes had arrived from the U.S. so that she could load them into the plane and take them with her to Lae and, presumably, on to the U.S. Each article contains a lot of detail giving them, what lawyers call, "indicia of reliability," they appear trustworthy. And each article states different facts supporting this explanation so it wasn't just one guy copying from the other guy, it appears that two guys checked these facts themselves. I have attached these two articles.

Here is the photo, taken in Darwin, showing the two seat pack parachutes on the ground.


gl
« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 01:55:50 PM by Gary LaPook »
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2012, 03:12:48 PM »

Now that's interesting Gary.  A photo with the pilots wheel removed and stacked on a pile of parachutes. Were they coming off the plane or going on?  could go either way.
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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Harry Howe, Jr.

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2012, 03:29:11 PM »


Newspaper accts are pretty clear
Parachutes had been shipped to Darwin and were there when AE/F N arrived.
Photo appears to be pretty clear
Parachute is being loaded onto plane at Darwin takeoff for Lae.
Conclusion: Chutes weren;t left behind at Darvin.

Question?  Were the chutes taken off at Lae?  I dounbt it.
No Worries Mates
LTM   Harry (TIGHAR #3244R)
 
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Harry Howe, Jr.

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2012, 03:36:30 PM »


IRV
Perhaps AE was in the habit of removing the control wheel at each layover and to keep it with her in order  to insure that noone could steal her precious plane?  It represented her entire fortune and had no insurance.
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LTM   Harry (TIGHAR #3244R)
 
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2012, 04:19:08 PM »

Hi Harry. The wheel being out on that pile is interesting. I am not a pilot so I ponder the reason why it would be removed. Is the wheel normally removable?  I always thought they were permanently fitted. You racing car drivers with removable steering wheels but planes?  When I first looked at the picture I thought it was a pile being loaded but then I thought this could also be a pile being unloaded. The key may be the wheel. If loading why it is the wheel on top?  Wouldn't that be last on and reinstalled when AE is getting ready to go. If unloading it may be that everything else came out first and AE came out last and put the wheel on the pile top. What do you think Harry?
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2012, 04:32:41 PM »

Hi Harry. The wheel being out on that pile is interesting. I am not a pilot so I ponder the reason why it would be removed. Is the wheel normally removable?  I always thought they were permanently fitted. You racing car drivers with removable steering wheels but planes?  When I first looked at the picture I thought it was a pile being loaded but then I thought this could also be a pile being unloaded. The key may be the wheel. If loading why it is the wheel on top?  Wouldn't that be last on and reinstalled when AE is getting ready to go. If unloading it may be that everything else came out first and AE came out last and put the wheel on the pile top. What do you think Harry?
In many aircraft you can remove the control wheel simply by removing a single pin. It is useful to remove the right side wheel to make room for dropping parachutists, to make more room for a front seat passenger, or to make more room for Noonan to use his octant to take the anticipated observations of the sun which would be almost directly in front of them as they approached Howland. We know that Noonan took sights from the co-pilot's seat on the flight to Dakar and also on the flight to Hawaii.

It looks like a spare tail wheel tire on the pile under the control wheel.

gl
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2012, 04:44:16 PM »

Thanks Gary. That's very helpful. Do you think it's loading or unloading?  Getting rid of extra weight for the full fuel tanks?  The newspapers are pretty clear but the photo could verify one way or the other.

That's definitely a spare wheel.  How do you know the picture was taken in Darwin?  If chutes were loaded at Darwin then does this mean she flew without parachutes to this point?  I'm stumped on why parachutes would be loaded at Darwin.  Why feel the need for them now and not before?  If yes then why?  Is it likely then that the chutes would have been unloaded at Lae. (Good point Harry).

Would a 1937 era parachute have metal parts that TIGHAR may have in its possession already?  Sorry about all the questions but I know very little about the field of aeronautics.
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2012, 04:55:27 PM »

Thanks Gary. That's very helpful. Do you think it's loading or unloading?  Getting rid of extra weight for the full fuel tanks?  The newspapers are pretty clear but the photo could verify one way or the other.

That's definitely a spare wheel.  How do you know the picture was taken in Darwin?  If chutes were loaded at Darwin then does this mean she flew without parachutes to this point?  I'm stumped on why parachutes would be loaded at Darwin.  Why feel the need for them now and not before?  If yes then why?  Is it likely then that the chutes would have been unloaded at Lae. (Good point Harry).

Would a 1937 era parachute have metal parts that TIGHAR may have in its possession already?  Sorry about all the questions but I know very little about the field of aeronautics.
But it would not have made any sense to pay to ship them to Darwin and then ship them back. They must have considered the weight constraints for the Lae to Howland leg earlier and had decided that they could take parachutes. The plane was only about 500 pounds heavier at Lae than it was when it took off from Oakland for Hawaii. Is there any record of the chutes showing up back in the States?

The picture was taken at Darwin according to the Purdue archive.

It is much safer to bailout over the ocean than it is to ditch (half the time you can't get out of the plane after it hits the water) because a parachute is guaranteed to work, if it doesn't they will give you your money back.

gl
« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 04:59:02 PM by Gary LaPook »
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2012, 05:19:28 PM »

Thanks Gary. Why ship them to Darwin?  Why wouldn't they have carried them since the start of the trip?
Because of the internal fuel tank would AE have gone out through the roof hatch?. 

Would they wear them in flight or just if they decided to use them?

My brother is a volunteer firefighter in a small community that has a parachute club. He has seen someone who should get their money back. Landed in a shopping mall parking lot. Not pretty.
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2012, 05:27:32 PM »

Thanks Gary. Why ship them to Darwin?  Why wouldn't they have carried them since the start of the trip?
Because of the internal fuel tank would AE have gone out through the roof hatch?. 

Would they wear them in flight or just if they decided to use them?

My brother is a volunteer firefighter in a small community that has a parachute club. He has seen someone who should get their money back. Landed in a shopping mall parking lot. Not pretty.
You would think they would have had them for the whole trip, which is what Amelia said, but the newspaper stories are pretty clear. These are seat type chutes that you sit on like a seat cushion so it would not be surprising if the sat on them for the comfort, if nothing else. I wouldn't expect them to have the straps hooked up since they should have had plenty of time to prepare to bailout, not like getting shot down by a Zero.

gl
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Harry Howe, Jr.

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2012, 05:36:17 PM »


IRV
I think that the picture is of them loading at Darwin for the leg to Lae, here's why:
Yhey dodn't have the chutes on board on the leg to Darwin (Remember AE asking whether the chutes had arrived when they landed?)  After Lae they would be over water for the rest of the trip to Hawaii and beyond.  Better safe than sorry.  Pity that they didn't keep the trailing wire antenna and toss AE's freckle cream jar and FN's sextant box.
No Worries Mates
LTM   Harry (TIGHAR #3244R)
 
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2012, 06:31:54 PM »

Thanks Gary. As always you are a font of knowledge. And a gentleman for sharing it.

As a survival tool it would provide shade during the day and as a blanket at night. Would a 1937 parachute hold water if it rained?

Harry. Very good point. If they weren't on board when landing at Darwin then how could they be unloading?   Definitely interesting thread here.

What would remain of a parachute today?  Metal parts.  If metal parts belonging to a 1937 era parachute were found then how else would they have arrived on the island?  Coast guard?  Not likely.  Natives?  Brought old parachute parts from another island?  Settlers?  Not likely.  Other aircraft? None crashed, that has been reported, and not likely aircrew would give someone a perfectly good parachute. 
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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Harry Howe, Jr.

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2012, 07:08:50 PM »


IRV
I think that the material used for chutes before and during the War was Silk. a good, strong material and therefore expensive.  Close weave therefore would prolly catch water and certainly could direct it into a container of some kind, like a sextant box perhaps?

Could be staked out and provide some shelter from the sun.
No Worries Mates
LTM   Harry (TIGHAR #3244R)
 
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2012, 07:21:52 PM »

Thanks Harry. What about as a signal to passing aircraft.?  Spread it out for shade and it would also be a big signal that should be recognizable to pilots. It would have to be erected in the clear.
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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John Ousterhout

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Re: Did Earhart carry parachutes on the flight to Howland
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2012, 07:28:56 PM »

Parachute silk wasn't waterproof, and was rather porous. Think of dainty handkerchief-weight material - it's actually pretty absorbant, until it's sealed with dope or lacquer as used for model aircraft covering material.  'Makes good sun shade, riser lines are handy for lots of uses, and a parachute spread on the ground or over bushes is an excellant signal for help.  I cannot imagine a parachute being mistaken for "recent signs of habitation" though.
I recall some confusion over the parachutes - some reports were that they were shipped to Darwin, and a different report that they were left at Darwin.  I'll search for the references.
Cheers,
JohnO
 
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