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
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.