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Author Topic: Beach the Electra - what if?  (Read 62892 times)

Malcolm McKay

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #45 on: August 08, 2012, 10:18:14 PM »


I am really not trying to bust your chops; I fell into the same trap "assuming" that they would do the logical thing.  It is obvious that was probably not the case.  ...

G'day Don - another point worth considering is where was Noonan seated if the aircraft did land on the reef. As far as I can make out the navigator's position aft is not a very secure place for anyone to sit in the circumstances of a rough landing on the outer reef, or for a hypothetical landing on the beach or a wheels up ditching. He'd be bounced around worse than a rodeo rider. Would he have been able to crawl over the tanks and get into the co-pilot's seat next to Earhart.
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pilotart

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #46 on: August 08, 2012, 11:21:16 PM »

Bill--we are thinking alike. Having flown quite a bit around the waters of Beaufort County, SC (Hilton Head, Parris Island, ETC), there are alot of ways to bust your butt around here. Unlike Niku, we have alot of marsh, and rivers, emptying into the Atlantic. Jeff Nevill is very familiar.
As far a what AE 'might' have done, I think she had the right idea. not necessarily putting th Electra down close to the reef edge, but putting it in a position so it 'could' have been spotted from the air. On the shoreline in th elagoon would have been good to, but another thought came to mind.

'What if", she did set it down on the beach, and the plane was spotted in the search overflight. She is able to get word to them by radio that she needs fuel, so they make arrangements to get it to her by boat. She refuels, then takes off for Howland along with the carrier planes, so the plane can be serviced more effectively. Once airworthy, its on its way to Hawaii, and the around the world flight continues.

Landing gear up eliminates all of that. By landing gear down, she has a 'possibility' of taking off again, as long as the gear isnt damaged by taxiing towards the beach. (which is what I'm thinking). Rescue for her might have meant , "get me some fuel and show me where Howland is".

Ok ---Crazy idea, but a gear up at the lagoon shoreline eliminated any chance of flying the electra out, and possibly in her mind, was more dangerous than the reef landing, gear down.
just thinking--
Tom,
I made countless flights into Frogmore, Hampton-Varnville and Hilton Head over the past thirty years or so.
:)  My professional pilot experience includes about 12,000 hours of Cabin-Class Twin Prop (Chancellor & Conquest) and 7,000 hours of Single Engine 'Bush' Plane (off-airport operations in Super Cub & Maule).

I would agree with Bill on what he said and other pilots he has conferred with would have chosen.  My choice would depend upon the aircraft type and conditions observed and the Electra on that reef at low tide looks like a much better choice than into the lagoon.

I think your scenario is probably closer to what Amelia might have chosen if she were fortunate enough to spot Gardner Island on that fateful flight.

Of course a lot of what points to the flight ending on an island would be all those post-loss radio calls, they pretty much require the Electra to have ended upright on those big tundra tires.

Of course if she had just called for the Itaska to bring some fuel down to that beautiful island that has the Norwich City parked up on a smooth reef so I can take off....
Art Johnson
 
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #47 on: August 08, 2012, 11:59:34 PM »



G'day Don - another point worth considering is where was Noonan seated if the aircraft did land on the reef. As far as I can make out the navigator's position aft is not a very secure place for anyone to sit in the circumstances of a rough landing on the outer reef, or for a hypothetical landing on the beach or a wheels up ditching. He'd be bounced around worse than a rodeo rider. Would he have been able to crawl over the tanks and get into the co-pilot's seat next to Earhart.
Noonan did crawl over the tanks and sit in the co-pilot's seat to take celestial observations on the Atlantic flight and on the flight to Hawaii. See attached note passed from Noonan to Earhart while flying from Natal to Dakar.

gl
« Last Edit: August 09, 2012, 10:33:23 AM by Gary LaPook »
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Malcolm McKay

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #48 on: August 09, 2012, 04:00:54 AM »


Noonan did crawl over the tanks and sit in the do-pilot's seat to take celestial observations on the Atlantic flight and on the flight to Hawaii. See attached note passed from Noonan to Earhart while flying from Natal to Dakar.

gl

Thanks Gary - it was something I sort of assumed he would do. Makes one wonder then if he was in the cockpit and was injured (according to Betty's notebook, which really isn't the most reliable source) what condition Earhart would have been in if indeed they had come down on the outer reef. I would assume that as an experienced pilot he would have braced himself as best he could.

So as a hypothetical (and I mean that  ;D) - maybe they would never have made it out of the aircraft. Injured, stuck on the reef, then the tide comes in and the Electra is washed off and they go with it. Just hypothetical you understand.
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Bill Roe

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #49 on: August 09, 2012, 08:43:00 AM »


I also don't know about specific claims that the navy fliers 'weren't up to the task' although yes, some reasons have been no doubt been proffered as to how good, otherwise well-qualified people might not have been able to spot the pair - or even as to how preparation and experience may have had some effect. 

There was a very spirited argument put up by one of our moderators to support the conclusion that the Navy searchers weren't up to it. In the end I gave up on the argument, despite having hung out of aircraft looking for things myself and seeing them, because the person involved refused to accept any informed views. I might also add that my training for the task was even less than what he claimed the Navy fliers were supposed to have had.

Now we're getting into my baliwick - SAR.  Sandy Missions.  My Skyraider and I flew at treetop and below to locate downed pilots.  We performed over very difficult terrain - mountains (karsts) and jungle.  I was by myself in the airplane.  And that's why I've made the claim that, if the Navy could find no trace of them, it's doubtful that they were ever there.
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C.W. Herndon

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #50 on: August 09, 2012, 09:22:26 AM »

Bill, I would hazard a guess that you were usually able to talk via radio to whomever you were trying to locate or at least had a good idea where they were.
Woody (former 3316R)
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Bill Roe

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #51 on: August 09, 2012, 09:45:26 AM »

Bill, I would hazard a guess that you were usually able to talk via radio to whomever you were trying to locate or at least had a good idea where they were.

Yupper.  But here's what would happen -

Birddog (O-2 FAC) would locate the general vicinity.  And be in communication with the downed pilot by radio.  More often than not the pilot would have to lay low with no sound(s) due to those other guys wanting a piece of his hide.

By the time we got there and had command of the SAR turned over to us, he would have moved to a more advantageous position for both hiding and being picked up by Woody in his Huey.  It was up to the Sandy's to pinpoint his location for the Huey pickup.  And the Sandy's would make several passes over his position to provide cover.

We were searching for this pilot, quite often without communication.  What little communication may occur - the pilot would radio - "I see you {in this direction and so many distance to the......}; or hear you........"  More low level passes until we spotted him.   Yeah, a lot of experience with aerial searching. 

I'll say it again - if the Navy were looking for a needle in a haystack, that's all they'd find.  They'd miss all the hay around it.  I believe that, if Earhart and Noonan and the Electra were in the Navy's search area, they'd have been seen.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2012, 09:47:06 AM by Bill Roe »
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pilotart

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #52 on: August 09, 2012, 11:10:28 AM »

Now we're getting into my baliwick - SAR.  Sandy Missions.  My Skyraider and I flew at treetop and below to locate downed pilots.  We performed over very difficult terrain - mountains (karsts) and jungle.  I was by myself in the airplane.  And that's why I've made the claim that, if the Navy could find no trace of them, it's doubtful that they were ever there.
I was there from 1965-67 as a medic and saw a lot of Skyraiders, but had never heard of "Sandy Missions".

Here is some illustrated information about the Skyraider:
(The last painting depicts a rescue without a 'Huey'.)

http://skyraider.org/skyassn/skyart.htm#stanstokes

More here:

http://skyraider.org/hook/journalset/journalsec7.htm


All I can say is WOW that was hazardous duty!

Thank you Bill for your service and glad that you returned.
Art Johnson
 
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Bill Roe

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #53 on: August 09, 2012, 11:44:21 AM »

Thank you sooooooo much Art -

Let's get back to the prevailing subject.  What would a forum member, experienced pilot, have done in the same circumstance as we know it?  Save your airplane?  -or- save your life first then look for rescue?  And land in the lagoon gear up or the reef gear down?

And Art - 20,000 hours!  When will you come back down to Earth?   ;D
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john a delsing

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #54 on: August 09, 2012, 05:45:19 PM »

Quote
I'll say it again - if the Navy were looking for a needle in a haystack, that's all they'd find.  They'd miss all the hay around it.  I believe that, if Earhart and Noonan and the Electra were in the Navy's search area, they'd have been seen.

Bill,
  I believe that Gary LaPook came up with a over 90% probability of the navy sighting them,,,, if they were there  ( or not dead ) and Gary has a very good record ( in my opinion ) of being pretty ‘right on’ in his posts. I also agree.
The Earth is Full
 
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richie conroy

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #55 on: August 09, 2012, 06:21:12 PM »

Quote
I'll say it again - if the Navy were looking for a needle in a haystack, that's all they'd find.  They'd miss all the hay around it.  I believe that, if Earhart and Noonan and the Electra were in the Navy's search area, they'd have been seen.

Bill,
  I believe that Gary LaPook came up with a over 90% probability of the navy sighting them,,,, if they were there  ( or not dead ) and Gary has a very good record ( in my opinion ) of being pretty ‘right on’ in his posts. I also agree.

If Fred was piloting the plane i would support Gary's hypothesis all day, However due to Amelia being in control, were the flight ended is so unpredictably  ???
We are an echo of the past


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Gary LaPook

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #56 on: August 09, 2012, 09:28:57 PM »

Quote
I'll say it again - if the Navy were looking for a needle in a haystack, that's all they'd find.  They'd miss all the hay around it.  I believe that, if Earhart and Noonan and the Electra were in the Navy's search area, they'd have been seen.

Bill,
  I believe that Gary LaPook came up with a over 90% probability of the navy sighting them,,,, if they were there  ( or not dead ) and Gary has a very good record ( in my opinion ) of being pretty ‘right on’ in his posts. I also agree.


If Fred was piloting the plane i would support Gary's hypothesis all day, However due to Amelia being in control, were the flight ended is so unpredictably  ???

Ah, but was she really in control? Noonan was also a licensed commercial pilot, he was bigger than Earhart and he was not suicidal. Do you really think he would just sit back there at the navigation station calmly waiting to die while Earhart refused to fly the headings he gave her that HE KNEW would give them the best chance for survival?

Would you?

gl
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pilotart

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #57 on: August 10, 2012, 12:04:06 AM »

As far as comparing Amelia and Fred's Pilot Qualifications:  Fred held a "Limited Commercial" (required 50 hours Flight Time and was limited to carrying passengers for hire within 10 miles of the airport).  Amelia had a "Transport Pilot's License" (required 250 hours Flight Time).

The Electra represented Amelia's very first experience with a retractable gear aircraft.

Based on their experience with fixed gear aircraft, they may not have even considered the advantage a retractable gear aircraft would have in a water landing.  With a fixed gear, it would usually be wise to avoid a water landing if possible, unlike the retract; you are just about guaranteed an instant 'flip' to inverted accompanied by a very quick stop.

As far as Fred's Navigation expertise:  He may have been one of the worlds leading Celestial Navigators, but he had previously always relied on Radio Direction Finding as the final approach for finding islands.

I seriously doubt that he had Gary LaPook's ability to plot a "Search Pattern"  to locate Howland Island.  His "Weems Bible" recommends RDF and as an alternative, using "The Precomputed Curve" which involves turning 90 degrees and watching for increasing or decreasing plotted LOP's to determine if landfall is ahead or behind.  Sounds like "flying the 337/157 North and South Line" to me.

I don't have a scanner, but I have seen where Gary has posted pages from "Weems Air Navigation" I have the 1943 edition and it is on pages 336-339 and is credited to Lt. W. C. Bentley, Jr. US Army Air Corps.  The example given (Fig. 229) takes three hours of flying time, but if done properly; it should have taken them to Howland Airport and we know that did not happen.
Art Johnson
 
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #58 on: August 10, 2012, 03:01:51 AM »

As far as comparing Amelia and Fred's Pilot Qualifications:  Fred held a "Limited Commercial" (required 50 hours Flight Time and was limited to carrying passengers for hire within 10 miles of the airport).  Amelia had a "Transport Pilot's License" (required 250 hours Flight Time).
Are you saying that Noonan was not capable of keeping the plane right side up? He had at least 50 hours in 1930 when he got his license and we know that most pilots have a lot more than the minimum required flying hours when they get their licenses. How many more hours did he log in the following seven years? BTW, your source said he got his license in 1930 from the Airman Certification Branch of the FAA but the FAA was created by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 so there was no FAA in 1930.
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The Electra represented Amelia's very first experience with a retractable gear aircraft.

Based on their experience with fixed gear aircraft, they may not have even considered the advantage a retractable gear aircraft would have in a water landing.  With a fixed gear, it would usually be wise to avoid a water landing if possible, unlike the retract; you are just about guaranteed an instant 'flip' to inverted accompanied by a very quick stop.

As far as Fred's Navigation expertise:  He may have been one of the worlds leading Celestial Navigators, but he had previously always relied on Radio Direction Finding as the final approach for finding islands.

You've been flying long enough so I'm sure you were taught during your instrument rating training how to do an NDB approach with the use of an ADF and that you flew a number of NDB approaches during this training. Let's say that after you got your instrument rating that it just happened to work out that every airport you flew into had an ILS approach so you never had to fly another NDB approach so there was no record of you having done an NDB approach, only ILS approaches, for a number of years. Then, several years later, you have your Jepps out and turned to the page for the anticipated ILS 31 Left approach at MDW that you have always flown in the past and you then hear on the ATIS, "THREE ONE LEFT I-L-S OUT OF SERVICE, THREE ONE LEFT N-D-B APPROACH NOW IN PROGRESS, INFORM CONTROLLER ON INITIAL CONTACT THAT YOU HAVE MIDWAY INFORMATION DELTA." So, do you die now or do you still remember how to use the ADF, when it becomes necessary, and fly the NDB approach to a safe landing? In real life I have never flown a back course localizer approach, I have trained many pilots how to do them and I have no doubt that I would have no trouble flying a BC LOC APP if the situation presented itself.

(For the non-pilots,  ILS is Instrument Landing System which has the "localizer beam" and the "glideslope beam" to guide the plane to the runway down through the clouds. NDB is Non Directional Beacon which is a homing beacon that a pilot can navigate to using the ADF, Automatic Direction Finder, like the Hooven radio, and also used with an RDF, Radio Direction Finder, like Amelia's. Both the ILS and the NDB approaches will get the plane to the runway but the ILS is more precise so can allow landings in worse weather than the NDB and many pilots find it more difficult to fly the NDB approach than the "just keep the needles in the center" ILS approach. Using the NDB requires more thinking. A Back Course Localizer approach uses the localizer "beam" to line you up with the runway but you are landing in the opposite direction so the needle moves the wrong way so you have to think about it more and "fly away from the needle" takes some training.)

The use of the the single line of position approach was taught to PAN AM navigators by Noonan and to all the flight navigators in WW2 and since, it is still required on the FAA Flight Navigator test, see FAR part 63. Pan Am did establish radio stations on their island stations but the landfall approach was always available if needed. Of course Noonan did not go out of his way and did not fly the extra miles necessary to fly the landfall approach when he could fly straight in by using the radio just like you do not do a full instrument approach if you are in VMC (visual meteorological conditions) and have the airport in sight, you request a visual or a contact approach so that you can take the shortcut direct to the airport. This does not mean that you could not do a full approach if necessary just as Noonan could do a landfall approach if that proved to be necessary. Our WW2 navigators used the landfall approach to find islands because they had to find them the first time without the use of radio because they had to bomb them first before our guys could go ashore and set up radio beacons for future flights, not the benign environment that Pan Am had when setting up its bases prior to the war.
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I seriously doubt that he had Gary LaPook's ability to plot a "Search Pattern"  to locate Howland Island.  His "Weems Bible" recommends RDF and as an alternative, using "The Precomputed Curve" which involves turning 90 degrees and watching for increasing or decreasing plotted LOP's to determine if landfall is ahead or behind.  Sounds like "flying the 337/157 North and South Line" to me.
Not really, the use of a precomputed curve is the easiest way to compute the landfall approach but is not the only way, see the texts available on my website. Here is a sample of the precomputed altitude curve for Noonan's arrival at Howland. The method that you mention is useful if you headed straight in to the destination so that when the LOP is intercepted you don't know which way to turn so that method will help you determine if you turned the wrong way. This whole issue is avoided by doing the standard landfall procedure and aiming off to the side so that there is no ambiguity. Mantz quoted Noonan describing this exact procedure to him. Here is a recent example of how this is done. Also see this description of an approach to Howland using the standard method.
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I don't have a scanner, but I have seen where Gary has posted pages from "Weems Air Navigation" I have the 1943 edition and it is on pages 336-339 and is credited to Lt. W. C. Bentley, Jr. US Army Air Corps.  The example given (Fig. 229) takes three hours of flying time, but if done properly; it should have taken them to Howland Airport and we know that did not happen.
The same information is on pages 395 and 396 of the 1938 edition of Weems available on my website. You find the same basic information in Weems, 1931 edition which I didn't have when I put up the website. Weems and Noonan were friends and Noonan contributed to the techniques found in the Weems manuals so there is no doubt that Noonan knew these techniques. Chichester used this procedure in 1931 crossing the Tasman sea in a Gypsy Moth biplane and he is given credit in the English speaking world for developing this technique but Portguese Admiral Coutinho used the same technique making the first flight across the South Atlantic in 1922. AFM 51-40 lays out the long history of this type of navigation so it was not something brand new in 1937.

You may just want to browse the other reference documents available on my website.


gl
« Last Edit: August 13, 2012, 03:50:07 AM by Gary LaPook »
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Tom Swearengen

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #59 on: August 10, 2012, 06:51:58 AM »

Gary does bring up an interesting point of who 'might' have been in controll during the last minutes of the flight. only 2 people know, and neither can tell us. ( Julia?)
After all the theories and speculations, we still dont know what happened for sure. I respect Gary for his insight, and all of you pilots for your experience. For me-----i thinksurvival would be foremost.
Tom Swearengen TIGHAR # 3297
 
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