Forum logo Would the Electra float?

The opinon of supposed experts at the time was that, with all those empty fuel tanks, the Electra would float “indefinitely.” We actually had some calculations run by Oceaneering International in 1991. There were 12 individual fuel tanks aboard NR16020 – three in each wing and six in the cabin. If all the tanks were empty and intact, the 7,000 lb (empty weight) airplane would be 1,200 pounds buoyant. Damage to one, or even all, of the tanks in one wing should not be sufficient to sink the airplane.

We have no inventory of the Electra prior to the Lae departure. We do, however, have an excellent and very thorough inventory of the airplane which was performed after the Hawai’i accident on March 20, 1937. That flight was also supposed to go to Howland Island. No life raft was carried on that trip but some individual inflatable life vests were aboard. The flare gun was aboard but there is an account that she left it in Lae.


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