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Author Topic: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)  (Read 15414 times)

David M Hughdie

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Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« on: March 20, 2011, 03:59:58 PM »

Aviatrix Pancho Barnes (a friend & contemporary of Amelia Earhart) appears to have held some quite astonishing views about AE's disappearance.

She claims that the Army Air Force was monitoring Earhart's radio transmissions during her flight to Howland, that AE ran out of fuel 200 miles short of the island and crashed into the ocean. She further claims that Earhart was on the radio when she ditched the plane and that the Army Air Force heard her crash and heard her scream.

Now I've only recently become interested in the Earhart disappearance and the work of TIGHAR, but I've never heard of any claims similar to those proposed by Barnes. They sound utterly preposterous.

I've no idea when Pancho Barnes made her views on Earhart known. She died in 1975.

Can any more knowledgeable members shed any light on the subject?


http://www.panchobarnesfilm.com/film/production-journal.html?start=120
« Last Edit: March 20, 2011, 04:30:26 PM by David M Hughdie »
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david alan atchason

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2011, 08:46:38 AM »

Since Pancho's assertions are fresh in my mind, I would ask this: Were her assertions ever investigated? It seems she is dismissed as hearing her stories in a late night drinking party. If the Army Air Force dudes actually heard Amelia's crash, where were they to hear it? Is there any record of Air Force personnel in the area? Did any of them corroborate her claims? Or was Pancho known to be a great fabricator?
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2011, 11:30:35 AM »

Since Pancho's assertions are fresh in my mind, I would ask this: Were her assertions ever investigated? ...

I don't recall them ever being discussed in the Forum.

It is impossible to say what Ric or other EPAC members may have done along the way without mentioning it.
LTM,

           Marty
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Don Dollinger

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2011, 02:07:43 PM »

Quote
In the 1970s, Pancho made a few speeches, and granted several interviews about her own life and career. Inevitably, the subject of Amelia Earhart came up. Pancho spoke forthrightly about her rival, noting that in her opinion Earhart initially was "a lousy pilot" who became an aviatrix only because her husband George Putnam "kept pushing her through." She recounted that, at the time Earhart flew the Atlantic in 1928, she really didn't know how to fly. "Frank Tomick, who was one of our motion picture pilots," Pancho told an interviewer, "taught her to fly after she made that flight."

In Pancho's opinion, Amelia Earhart and the legend surrounding her were the creation of Earhart's husband, George Putnam. "She was a publicity figure for him," said Pancho. "That’s what he hired her for."

Nevertheless, Pancho admired AE's accomplishments and her personality. She repeatedly said, though, that in her estimation Earhart had one flaw — she thought she was unbreakable. "She had to have this faith," Pancho noted. "She thought nothing could ever happen to her. She really thought that. And then eventually, you know, she did everything wrong about this flight around the world."

Quote from the article you have linked to.

Pancho was legend in her own right but it sounds to me that she held a bit jealousy and some animousity over Amelia getting some of the limelight.  A true friend would not trash your reputation after death the way Pancho had done.  Not saying she is lying nor embellishing, nor can I prove it, but I personally, took her statements with a grain of salt.  IMHO some statements hold water and some don't, yes she was a publicity figure for George Putnam but she also was so much more which is why they married.  Pancho's statement makes it sound like she's a publicity whore and nothing more.  Also the statement that she learned to fly after she flew the Atlantic is ludicrus at best.  I could go on, but no need, I think you get my point...

LTM,

Don
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david alan atchason

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2011, 03:57:52 PM »

I hope if my premises here are incorrect someone can straighten me out. I just read the Cooper Report. It seems to be saying that the Howland Island military contingent consisted of Army Air Force men. Cooper was on the Itasca, the rest of them were waiting on Howland. Cooper apparently was listening to the Itasca's radio. Did the men on the Howland have a radio receiver of their own? Did it differ much from Itasca's equipment? Where are the reports of what they heard, if anything? I  don't remember this being referred to, but maybe my memory is poor. For me this does lend a little credence to Pancho's saying "The Air Force guys told me what happened" or words to that effect. Did anyone ever interview the AAF crew on Howland? Cooper wrote his opinion that they wouldn't have sighted Howland from more than 10 miles away to the West and 20-30 miles to the East. Also that they would have been unlikely to see the smoke plume from the Itasca. My speculation that a day's error in Fred's charts would have put them off by 68 miles is probably balmy, I may be talking through my hat. But a 4 minute sunrise difference would have been about 9 miles at their airspeed. Doesn't sound like a substantial difference, but maybe it was. The way I read it, Fred's navigation was only the fallback position, they only needed into get in radio range of the Itasca so they could get a bearing which was the way Pan Am did it, and that is exactly what Fred expected to do. As for the airmen on Howland what if their radio was different, or just happened to be set on the right frequency where the Itasca's wasn't AT THAT MOMENT. What if they did hear Amelia crashing into the water? Or maybe they misinterpreted her and she was actually attempting to land on the reef? If they thought they heard her desperate cries for help, and everybody later KNEW she crashed in the ocean like they thought, would they say anything at the time? Or would they relate the story at a drunken party years later?
« Last Edit: April 21, 2011, 07:23:08 PM by moleski »
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david alan atchason

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2011, 04:06:34 PM »

As for Pancho's comments on Amelia.......Some people would think them very inappropriate in light of Amelia's death. But her opinion seems to have been shared by many, though that doesn't make it correct. Still, maybe Pancho was one of those people who speak their mind, who "Call them as they see them", and her intention was not disrespect. 
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2011, 07:30:53 PM »

I hope if my premises here are incorrect someone can straighten me out. I just read the Cooper Report. It seems to be saying that the Howland Island military contingent consisted of Army Air Force men. Cooper was on the Itasca, the rest of them were waiting on Howland. Cooper apparently was listening to the Itasca's radio. Did the men on the Howland have a radio receiver of their own? Did it differ much from Itasca's equipment? Where are the reports of what they heard, if anything?

You should read the article about HF DF equipment on Howland Island  and the links from that page.

Yes, they had their own equipment.

Here is the Howland Island Radio Log.

Please note how handy it is to have people provide links to things on the website instead of just naming them.  Please learn to do the same yourself.



LTM,

           Marty
           TIGHAR #2359A
 
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2011, 05:51:37 AM »

She claims that the Army Air Force was monitoring Earhart's radio transmissions during her flight to Howland,

In a sense, that is sort of true.  USAC Lt. Daniel Cooper was aboard Itasca as the official Air Corps representative.  He was in the radio room for some of the time but his job had nothing to do with monitoring Earhart's transmissions. He was in charge of landing operations on Howland and was not even aboard ship when the last transmissions were heard.

that AE ran out of fuel 200 miles short of the island and crashed into the ocean.

Earhart did report being 200 miles out but that was nearly three hours before her last transmission heard by Itasca.

She further claims that Earhart was on the radio when she ditched the plane and that the Army Air Force heard her crash and heard her scream.

There was a rumor circulating that Itasca had heard her scream.  It was vigorously denied.

Now I've only recently become interested in the Earhart disappearance and the work of TIGHAR, but I've never heard of any claims similar to those proposed by Barnes. They sound utterly preposterous.

Correct.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2011, 08:21:24 AM by moleski »
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david alan atchason

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2011, 08:35:26 AM »

I find myself asking questions that easily could be answered by a professional pilot but I have never even taken a flying lesson. Maybe I will.  Of course these questions and answers don't solve anything, the plane is either on Niku or it's not. So how does a pilot tell exactly how much flying time is left when the gas gauge nears empty? I flew in the B-24 and the gas gauges seemed to be sight glasses, I don't know if that is the way the Electra was set up, what with the extra cabin fuel tank, or maybe the gauge was like a car's. One way to tell for sure is when the engines stop running, but I suspect the Electra doesn't glide very far. Also I surmise that a gliding landing would be very difficult in Amelia's plane. Or difficult for Amelia. I suspect Amelia never ran her tanks dry to see where on the gauge she would be absolutely empty.
When she did go down, whether in the ocean or on land, you would think she would be yelling into the mike "I see an island....I'm going to try to land on it.....I'm out of gas" and she should have been heard, she wasn't that far away from radio receivers and yet nothing. But she supposedly was able to use her radio and be heard after she landed. Yes, would have, should have, I know, but to me it is inexplicable, just like the absence of a position in the distress/help messages.
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Don Dollinger

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2011, 10:15:13 AM »

Quote
When she did go down, whether in the ocean or on land, you would think she would be yelling into the mike "I see an island....I'm going to try to land on it.....I'm out of gas" and she should have been heard, she wasn't that far away from radio receivers and yet nothing. But she supposedly was able to use her radio and be heard after she landed. Yes, would have, should have, I know, but to me it is inexplicable, just like the absence of a position in the distress/help messages.

Not a pilot either but would think that if I was fixing to land on an unknown surface, running on fumes, I would have my hands full enough that I wouldn't be worrying about talking on the radio at that time (when you don't even know if the radio is working as they seemingly were not receiving responses from the Itasca) I would be worrying about landing wheels down and surviving.  Plenty of time to talk on the radio once on the ground, if I landed without crashing.  Although we will never know, perhaps they did radio just prior to touching down and it was not picked up.

LTM,

Don
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david alan atchason

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2011, 12:03:31 PM »

Yes, I agree to an extent, while she was making her emergency landing she might be quiet, but if it were me, I would be fretting and chattering on the radio about my plight continuously no matter how silly I sounded, no harm in that if my life is on the line. It makes me wonder if she inadvertantly switched to a wrong frequency in her panic, (I think the radio had 3 frequencies) or a plug came loose (her mike?) OR she was on a frequency nobody was tuned to EXCEPT possibly one person who chose to keep quiet about it until years later. I admit that sounds preposterous. Maybe once Amelia was on the ground they fixed her radio and transmitted. I thought it curious when I just learned that Fred was apparently sitting in the REAR of the plane with no window, so possibly only Amelia could look for Howland and she was of course sitting on one side of the cockpit. No wonder she/they had trouble sighting it. Yes, it doesn't add up, her long silence before she went down and her lack of a position mentioned in her distress calls. Still, it doesn't rule out landing on Niku.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2011, 03:50:28 PM »

... I thought it curious when I just learned that Fred was apparently sitting in the REAR of the plane with no window ...

You could not have learned that on the TIGHAR site.

For the second world attempt, there was no reason for Fred not to take
whatever position he thought best for that part of the journey.  He could
work from the front or the rear.

I doubt very much that he sat in the back, leaving the scan of the horizon
to AE.  There certainly is no source from the final flight that suggests
that was the case.
LTM,

           Marty
           TIGHAR #2359A
 
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david alan atchason

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2011, 04:42:37 PM »

Actually, everything I read about Amelia comes from TIGHAR, my trouble comes later when I try to recall what I read, there is so much info. I have much difficulty going back and finding info like that British book I saw mentioned which is about the end of colonial era in Pacific. Still haven't found that again. So, somewhere I read that Fred was facing rear while Amelia looked out for Howland from her side of cockpit. Then today I read his navigator's table was in back of the fuel tanks even with the door. I also read that the window on the other side had been blocked up at some point. From that I assumed that Fred was sitting there when they looked for Howland. I don't know if Fred had a seat behind Amelia in the cockpit or what. I just assumed, which I know, can be unwise. And my posts come from what I think I read, which may not be accurate. Sorry. Most of what I write has probably  been discussed many times before, and I actually appreciate any and all corrections I get.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2011, 09:46:42 PM »

... somewhere I read that Fred was facing rear while Amelia looked out for Howland from her side of cockpit. ...

That is not from any reputable source on tighar.org.

There were two attempts to fly around the world.  See the articles in this overview for details.

There were four souls on board from California to Hawaii; three on board attempting to fly from Hawaii to Howland; two on board attempting to fly from Lae to Howland.  The radio/navigation station was modified after the crash at Luke Field.

Quote
Then today I read his navigator's table was in back of the fuel tanks even with the door. I also read that the window on the other side had been blocked up at some point. From that I assumed that Fred was sitting there when they looked for Howland. I don't know if Fred had a seat behind Amelia in the cockpit or what. I just assumed, which I know, can be unwise.

There were two seats in the cockpit and two souls on board.  We know Fred sometimes sat in the co-pilot's seat, facing forward, and that he could take the controls and keep the plane on course if need be--he had a "limited commercial pilot certificate."
LTM,

           Marty
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Pancho Barnes on AE (Parts I & II)
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2011, 08:31:59 AM »

And my posts come from what I think I read, which may not be accurate. Sorry. Most of what I write has probably  been discussed many times before, and I actually appreciate any and all corrections I get.

As a courtesy to other forum posters it's a good idea to make sure you have your facts straight and to review previous postings to make sure you're not re-plowing old ground.
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