Research Document #33
The Luke Field Crash Report: Exhibit D
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LUKE FIELD, OAHU, T. H.
March 23, 1937

STATEMENT BY THE GROUP OPERATIONS OFFICER, LUKE FIELD.

     ARRIVAL AT LUKE FIELD:

     The first information that Miss Earhart might make use of LUKE FIELD was a telephone message from Headquarters Wheeler Field at 11:15 A.M., March 9th, to the effect that Mr. Mantz was about to make a test flight of Miss Earhart's airplane and would land at LUKE FIELD in about 30 minutes for the purpose of checking instruments at the Hawaiian Air Depot. About 11:30 A.M. a second telephone message was received from Major Don. E. Hutchins, Headquarters 19th Composite Wing to the effect that Mr. Mantz would land at LUKE FIELD and provided he found the runway suitable Miss Earhart would make her take-off for Howland Island from this station; he requested to be notified when the airplane landed. Steps were immediately taken to recall all airplanes and clear the airdrome. Mr. Mantz landed safely about 12:00 Noon. He was met by General Young, who happened to be on the field, Colonel Harmon, Lieut. Arnold and the undersigned.

     Mr. Mantz announced that the airplane was performing excellently; that the runway afforded better take-off conditions than Wheeler Field and that Miss Earhart would definitely take-off from LUKE FIELD. He stated that he had radioed this information to Wheeler Field before landing. The undersigned notified Wing Headquarters and the Operations Officer, Wheeler Field. Mr. Mantz made arrangements with Lieut. Arnold relative to serviceing* the airplane and left for the city.

     PLAN FOR GUARD & TRAFFIC CONTROL ESTABLISHED:

     At 1:15 P.M., Colonel Harmon called a meeting of the Group Staff Officers at his quarters at which he outlined a plan for guard and traffic control while Miss Earhart's airplane was at this station. Two additional officers-of-the-guard were detailed and the normal guard augmented by twenty supernumeries. In addition twenty-five men were to be retained in each squadron area for emergency use. The Group Operations Officer was charged with the airdrome activities. An officer was appointed to assist and control the representatives of the press, so far as possible. The Post Fire Department and Flight Surgeon were notified to be on the alerts*.

     During the afternoon the airplane was serviced. The undersigned was present during the preliminary stage and observed with others that there was sediment in the chamois strainer during a test made by Mr. Mantz. As a result of this Mr. Mantz requested the airplane be serviced with Air Corps gasoline, which was provided.

     After serviceing* was completed the airplane was placed in the Final Assembly Hangar, the gates closed and a guard posted by the Officer-of-the-day.

     At about 5:00 P.M., Colonel Harmon notified the undersigned that he talked with Miss Earhart on the telephone and was advised that she intended to take-off at 11:00 P.M. or at dawn; that the decision would depend on weather reports to be received from Howland Island.

     At dusk orders were issued that the field boundary and obstacle lights should be turned on and left on all night. Lights were also set out to outline the edges of the landing mat.

     At about 9:30 P.M. word was received that the take-off was scheduled at dawn and that Miss Earhart and her party would arrive at LUKE FIELD about 3:30 A.M., March 20th.

     During the night it rained moderately.

     PREPARATIONS FOR TAKE-OFF:

     At 3:45 A.M. the Officer-of-the-Day, (2nd Lieut. R.C. Cannon, Air-Reserve) reported with a guard detail of twenty men at the Final Assembly Hangar, Hawaiian Air Depot and established a rope barrier. A sentry was placed on the road to the Fleet Air Base with orders to turn back all but Navy personnel. An officer (1st Lieut. H.B. Thatcher, Air Corps) was sent with sixteen men to establish a line of sentries at two hundred foot intervals along the West side of the mat and to relight and relocate certain of the lights around the mat. These sentries were instructed to keep unauthorized persons off the mat and to observe as closely as possible the point at which the airplane left the ground.

     Miss Earhart and her party which included, Mr. Mantz, Captain Manning, Mr. Noonan, Mr. Holmes and Miss Minor, arrived at LUKE FIELD about 4:15 or 4:30 A.M. via the Fleet Air Base. Several newspaper reporters also arrived at this time. There were no casual visitors as the Luke Field ferry had not yet commenced operation for the day.

     The airplane was removed from the hangar and placed on the warming-up apron. Mr. Mantz was observed to make an inspection of the airplane, including the landing gear and tires, after which he entered the pilots cockpit, ran up the engines and then shut them off. They appeared to be functioning excellently. Miss Earhart had meanwhile been going over her charts and the weather forecast provided by the Fleet Air Base, in the room set aside for her in the rear of the Final Assembly Hangar. After Mr. Mantz had warmed up the airplane she left the hangar and got into the airplane. At her request the southwest flood lights were turned on for about ten minutes while she surveyed the runway from her seat in the cockpit. Apparently satisfied she then asked that they be turned off. After a brief discussion with Mr. Mantz she stated that she would await daylight for her take-off.

     At 5:30 A.M. the motors were started. Captain Manning and Mr. Noonan took their places and at 5:40 she taxied out.

     About the time the engines were started Lieut. Arnold notified the fire truck to start its motor and be on the alerts. The Post Dispensary was also notified to have the ambulance standing by.

     THE CRASH:

     Miss Earhart taxied to the Northeast end of the runway preceded by Mr. Mantz in an automobile. At this instant a navy amphibian taxied out from the Fleet Air Base hangars and in spite of attempts to recall him with flash lights, followed Miss Earhart's airplane to the Northeast end of the mat where it parked out of the way on the East side.

     Some of the personnel of the Hawaiian Air Deport stationed themselves at intervals along the side of the mat.

At this time there was sufficient daylight to see Miss Earhart dimly at the far end of the runway. Atmospheric visibility was good. The sky was overcast at 3,000 - 4,000 feet. A light drift of wind from the Southwest barely fluttered the wind sock on building 78. The horizon was quite bright toward the South.

     Miss Earhart paused very briefly in take-off position then apparently opened both throttles wide. From where the undersigned was standing near the Southwest end of the mat the airplane appeared to gain speed quickly. The wing tips were observed to wobble slightly as it ran over un-evennesses on the mat. Suddenly, the airplane was seen to be veering to the left with increasing rapidity as in the initial stage of a ground loop; as it swung it tilted with the outer (i.e. right-hand) wing almost scraping the mat. The right hand landing gear suddenly collapsed followed by the other and the airplane slid in an abrupt left hand skid on its belly. A shower of sparks spurted from between the airplane and the mat.

     The LUKE FIELD crash truck had followed the airplane on the take-off and was on the scene immediately. The persons nearest the scene reached it within a few seconds. The undersigned leaped into an automobile and hurried to the scene, arriving first as Miss Earhart and her crew emerged unhurt. As promptly as possible the Officer of-the-Day established a guard around the wrecked airplane and all unauthorized persons were ordered off the mat. A long rope was obtained and held by sentries at twenty pace intervals. Strict orders were issued against smoking.

     REMOVAL OF DAMAGED AIRPLANE:

     The Engineering Officer, Hawaiian Air Depot, (Lieut. Arnold) with personnel from the Depot immediately commenced the work of removing the damaged airplane. The major portion of the gasoline load was first withdrawn into the 72nd Bombardment Squadron refueling truck. All personal and technical equipment was removed and placed in safe-keeping in the Depot at Lieut. Arnolds'* direction. At about 8:00 A.M. the guard was withdrawn as being no longer necessary. In spite of steady rain the work of removal was continued and the damaged airplane placed in the Final Assembly Hangar, Hawaiian Air Depot, pending disposition, by 3:30 P.M.

     PUBLICITY:

     In accordance with instructions from the Commanding General 18th Composite Wing, all concerend were notified not to make any statemetns or express any opinions as to the causes of the crash, and to refer all inquires to Wing Headquarters.

 

  melville sig
PHILLIPS MELVILLE,
Major, Air Corps,
Operations Officer


Crash Report Cover Pages Exhibit "G" Statement by Mr. Fred D. Wood, Hawaiian Air Depot.
Proceedings and Findings Exhibit "H" Statement by Mr. E. L. Heidlebaugh, Hawaiian Air Depot.
Exhibit "A" Statement by the Engineering Officer, Wheeler Field, T.H. Exhibit "I" Statement by Mr. Lynn V. Young, Hawaiian Air Depot.
Exhibit "B" "Plan for Amelia Earhart Putnam Flight", Headquarters Wheeler Field, T.H. Exhibit "J" Statement by Corporal E. J. Cashman, R-4311524, 65th Service Squadron.
Exhibit "C" Letter, "Amelia Earhart Putnam Flight", Headquarters Wheeler Field, T.H. Exhibit "K" Statement by Private E. C. Schultz, 6678961, 65th Service Squadron.
Exhibit "D" Statement by the Operations Officer, Luke Field, T.H. Exhibit "M" Inventory of property shipped.
Exhibit "E" Statement by the Engineering Officer, Hawaiian Air Depot. Exhibit "N" Request for shipment and release from responsibility.
Exhibit "F" Statement by Mr. Geo. H. Miller, Hawaiian Air Depot.  

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