Forum artHighlights From the Forum

February 4 through 10, 2001

(click on the number to go directly to that message)
1 Re: The Voyage of the Viti Randy Jacobson, Janet Whitney, John Pratt, Peter Vincent, Christian D., Denise, Jim Tierney
2 Old Pilot's Tale Denise
3 Re: The Voyage of the Viti Tom King
4 PAA Clippers Doug Brutlag
5 Re: PAA Clippers Herman de Wulf
6 Fred's Bad Navigation Habits Doug Brutlag
7 Re: Harry Luke's Flights Jim Tierney
8 Re: Fred's Bad Navigation Habits Ross Devitt
9 Re: Fred's Bad Navigation Habits Marty Moleski
10 Re: Fred's Bad Navigation Habits, II Marty Moleski
11 Re: Fred's Bad Navigation Habits Herman de Wulf
12 Noonan's Capabilities Tom MM
13 MacGuffin Redux David Evans Katz
14 Re: MacGuffin Redux Marty Moleski
15 Re: Noonan's Capabilities Marty Moleski
16 Catholic Koata Ross Devitt

Message: 1
Subject: Re: The Voyage of the Viti
Date: 2/5/01
From: Randy Jacobson

There's a fourth possibility, but slim. Suppose the British had their own clippers. We do know that Canton was under a condominium between the US and British, and each could use the facilities for seaplanes and later, airplanes. I have not run across a reference or source, though, for British/NZ/Australian seaplanes in that area of the world per se.

You also can't always trust contemporaneous documents for veracity, especially journals. Sometimes people's memories are faulty after a few short hours or days. When I maintained a journal, sometimes I didn't write daily and had to catch up a bit.

From Ric

"Clipper" was an exclusive Pan Am term and the Brits didn't have an airplane that would do the job. That's why they couldn't compete with PAA.

From Janet Whitney

I remember reading an article about the Pan Am Clippers that were in the Eastern Pacific just after Pearl Harbor and were ordered to fly back to the U.S. as quickly and expeditiously as possible. How many Pan Am Clippers were in service on December 7, 1941?

Janet Whitney

From Ric

I'm not sure how many flying boats Pan Am owned at that time, but there was only one --- NC18602, Captain Ford's airplane --- that was in the South Pacific on December 7th. Ford was ordered to get the airplane home safely as soon as possible by any means necessary. The Pacific seemed too dangerous so he went the other way and ended up flying around the world to get back to the U.S.

From John Pratt

The rest of the story? Dec 7, 1941: The Pacific Clipper flew an unplanned trip around the world. It flew 31,500 miles in 209 hours and made 18 stops through 12 different nations. This was the longest continuous flight by a commercial plane and was the first circumnavigation following a route near the equator, crossing it four times. See: PanAmerican, The Early Days. (Yes, I expect that logbook is preserved somewhere.)

Also, of possible value:

The Pan American Airways (and after 1950, Pan American World Airways) corporate records (from founding in 1927 through its closing in 1991)are maintained at:

Otto G. Richter Library, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida. Among other things, the webpage advertises:

The records also include extensive quantities of logbooks for important flights, including those of the "American Clipper," the "China Clipper" and the "Hawaiian Clipper." Logbooks typically list technical flight information, performance measures for the aircraft, passenger and crew data, and personal comments of the pilot and staff. Manuals and technical for the maintenance and care of aircraft, hangers, equipment and terminals provide a detailed record of internal policies and procedures. Additional technical reports document a wide range of topics, including test results on engines and aircraft, in addition to examination for employees.
E-mail address is "" but looking for a specific logbook might be best done in person. If there is a TIGHAR researcher in the area the Richter Library might be worth a visit.

John Pratt 2373

From Ric

Randy Jacobson has done some work at the Richter Library and we have a general catalog of what is there.

From Peter Vincent

Ric: A quick extract from Sir Ian THOMSON's book Fiji in the Forties and Fifties, [Thomson Pacific, New Zealand 1994, ISBN 0 473 02740 2] p.112:

On most of Fiji's islands the horizon is usually the sea, and it was only over this watery line that entry by boat to the islands of Fiji was obtained until the advent of a seaplane Clipper Service in 1941. The route of the Clipper Service from the United States to Australia was pioneered by Pan American Airways, with Harold Gatty appointed the airline's representative in the South Pacific ... The four-engined seaplanes used on the trans-Pacific service touched down for refuelling in Hawaii, Canton Island and Laucala Bay in Suva, en route between America and Australia.

The service had just begun when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, in December 1941. I had the good fortune to be a passenger aboard the last southbound Clipper Service flight, one day before the attack on Pearl Harbour. I had been accompanying the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, Sir Harry Luke, on a sea tour of the Line Islands. We boarded the seaplane at Canton Island in mid-Pacific, as Sir Harry had decided to return to Suva quickly because of reports of Japanese naval movements in the Pacific.

Slightly off-topic, and one for the Make-as-you-Will basket; Ric, as you will be aware, Sir Harry Luke was a fluent French speaker and instrumental in persuading the French Resident Commissioner in the New Hebrides [now Vanuatu] to denounce the Vichy Government and support de Gaulle's Free French Movement. In fact, the New Hebrides was the first of France's overseas territories to support de Gaulle with New Caledonia soon following suit. Sir Harry is recognized --- often not fully --- as having had a vital role in New Caledonia's decision. Something which, possibly, could not be affected by telegram. An historical perspective is in the book The Cross of Lorraine in the South Pacific --- fascinating stuff! If the French territories in the SW Pacific had remained loyal to the Vichy Government, the US would not have been able to use New Caledonia to build-up before and after the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the landings of Guadalcanal in the Solomons.

Would Sir Ian aka Mungo T be willing to flesh more detail on the flight? This being to identify, if not fully covered by Tom King contacts with Ian Thomson, what if any prior consignments ex Suva Sir Harry may have prepared for delivery to Gardner. Ian Thomson, as Sir Harry's aide-de-camp, was 21 at this time and such arrangements would typically be tasked to him.

Also --- re "Kuata" [possibly Teng Koata]. 30 November, I have him banished back to northern Kiribati at this time. Minor point, but were his movements mentioned in your 1999 interview with Otiria O'Brian?

Peter Vincent

From Ric

Fascinating. I wasn't aware that Mungo had written a book. Tom King has corresponded with him and he has been helpful in suggesting people with whom we might talk who might know something about the bones, but so far they've all turned out to be dead now.

Koata's possible presence on Gardner in November of '41 is very interesting and possibly significant. The last we knew of him was that he had gone to Tarawa, possibly for medical treatment, (do you have information indicating banishment?) in September of 1940. We have no record of him returning to the island and he is listed in later records as having resigned his position as Island Magistrate in 1941. If Koata did, in fact, return to Gardner in, say, the spring of 1941, that would put him there during Gallagher's absence in the summer of '41 and open the possibility that it was during that time period when some of the events described by Emily - i.e. discovery of airplane wreckage on the reef and bones on the shore, and the quarantine of the Nutiran shoreline by "the Onotoa man" (Koata was from Onotoa). This could explain why Gallagher never reported any of these incidents. He died with three days of his return in late September.

From Christian D.

My reference is the book by Jon Krupnick: Pan American Pacific Pioneers.

Page 211 is the last flight to New Zealand ---which ended up going round the world. It did go to Suva on Dec 5/6, and on to Noumea on the 7th. Captains Ford and Mack.

On Nov 26, northbound, it had been the same plane, on only the second flight which stopped in Suva, Cpt Lodesson. Page 209.

The very first flight to stop at Suva, page 206, had started on Nov 5th 1941.

Many other pages have details and pictures of letter postmarks.

Now for a question I've had for a while: the Viti seems quite comfortable visiting Canton... When was the big ship channel dug to give access to the Canton lagoon? Seems to me to have been too big an endeavor to have been done before the War?!?

Christian D

From Ric

Thanks. The picture is coming together.

I don't know when the channel was dug at Canton but December of '41 does seem a bit early.

From Denise

Ric asks "Had the British government extended landing rights in Fiji to PAA by December 1941?"

I don't know the answer to this, but there's a niggle at the back of my mind that this could be the wrong question you're asking.

You see, flying boats/Clippers landed at Laucala Bay, on the opposite side of the peninsula from Suva Harbour. They did so definitely during the 50s (I have very early memories of seeing them come in, which would have been in the late 50s.) (Also, this is how my father arrived in Suva in the early 50s) and I have seen photos of them landing at that site during the 40s.

But here's what makes this fact important. During the build-up to WWII this area of Laucala Bay was given over to the New Zealand Air Force to be the base for their Pacific Operations. The area remained in Kiwi hands until it was given back to Fiji in the late 60s to form the basis of The University of The South Pacific. (The area now known as The Lower Campus is the old sea plane hangar --- which you'd know since you've been to USP --- if the old hangar is still standing, that is! But you'd definitely have seen the old sea wall that made for the calm area of sea where the planes landed.)

Look, I don't know anything about how an army base/air force base/navy base in a foreign country is constituted in relation to the government of that selfsame foreign country ... but since this site was in Kiwi hands and since this is where the sea planes landed from at least the 40s, there's a chance that who landed there was a Kiwi decision. If that were indeed the case, I'm guessing that the British Government wouldn't have been allowed to have any say in who was allowed to land there ... which makes your question redundant.

Hope this helps.

LTM (who loves a good flying boat)

From Ric

It would be interesting to know how the permission to land at Suva came about. Sir Harry had a reputation for being somewhat biased against the Yanks.

From Jim Tierney

Ric--Answering your three questions on the PanAm Clipper schedule......

ONE-Yes-in Oct/Nov 1941--Suva added as overnight stop between Canton/Noumea. One reason was to break up the long distance between Canton/Noumea and allow the Clipper to carry more payload to Auckland.

TWO--Yes--1st flight to Suva/Fiji in Nov 41. Outbound, Canton/Suva/Noumea on Nov8/9/10; inbound, Noumea/Suva/Canton on Nov 13/14/15. Dateline crossing was involved, just east of Suva.

2nd Flight--Under command of Capt Marius Lodeesen--outbound, Canton/Suva/Noumea--Nov20/21/22; inbound, Noumea/Suva/Canton--Nov 26/27/28.

Last flight before DEC 7th was Captain Ford in Pacific Clipper--outbound from SFO on DEC 1, Canton/Suva/Noumea, DEC 5/6/7; into Auckland DEC 8th; then waited for orders and continued west around the world arriving LaGuardia NYMT on Jan 6th. First two legs were Auckland/Noumea on DEC 15 to evacuate personnel and then Noumea/Gladstone, Australia on DEC 16 then west.

Three -- Night landings were not the normal operations but they could be made under the proper conditions and with some surface lighting. They were the exception and not the norm--until the war.

References: The Long Way Home by Ed Dover--about Ford's Trip; and Pan Am Pacific Pioneers: The Rest of the Story by Jon Krupnick, revised edition.

Hope this helps.

LTM-who is lurking out here with me in my reference library
Jim Tierney


Further on the Clippers/Luke/Suva questions:

  1. Captain John Tilton made the SFO/Auckland/SFO trip from Nov 5-17.
  2. Captain Marius Lodeesen made the SFO/Auckland/SFO trip from Nov 17-30.
  3. Captain Robert Ford made the last flight before the war --SFO/Auckland then around the world in NYMAT arriving Jan 6th. Ford carried Sir Harry Luke out of Honolulu on DEC 4th to Canton and on DEC 5th to Suva. Luke had been in Honolulu for conferences on many things including preparations/plans for war, etc. Luke and Ford had conversations on both legs. On the way in to Suva, Luke requested and Ford gave him a brief aerial tour of his Fijian domain. Luke got off at Suva. Luke stayed with his British officials on Canton according to Dover's book. Luke had to get to Honolulu by some means and he obviously traveled on the Lodeesen flight from Canton/Honolulu. Krupnick's book lists that flight taking place on the 27th Nov.
Maybe the IDL time /date changes confused everybody. One thing is certain---There were Clipper flights from Noumea/Suva/Canton/Honolulu and return.

Hope this helps.
Jim Tierney

From Ric

Aaaargh! We were doing great right up until Sir Harry leaves Hawaii on December 4th. That is totally at odds with Sir Harry's book/diary, Mungo Thomson's book, and Tofiga's recollections and notes.

Message: 2
Subject: Old Pilot's Tale
Date: 2/5/01
From: Denise

Thinking about Wombat's remark of not wanting to land a plane on a reef, and realising his reef experience no doubt consists of Australia's wonderful and unsurpassed Great Barrier Reef, (Great reef, Wombat! But not one I'd want to land a plane on either!) I realised that we were talking at cross purposes and about different sorts of reefs. It made me wonder if maybe a piece of Pacific folklore--- no doubt An Old Pilot's Tale --- was not as widely known as I imagined. It goes like this:

  1. An atoll with a lagoon usually was once an island with a volcano.
  2. Any island that once had a volcano has at least one ancient lava flow.
  3. Lava backs up and hardens in water forming something like a bench or a ledge along the former shoreline.
  4. Coral grows around the ancient lava ledge forming a reef.
  5. If the reef is exposed at low-tide coral doesn't grow over the ledge top. (Coral hating exposure to sunlight!)
  6. Ergo ... where Nature provides a lagoon, she usually also provides an emergency runway!
Nikumaroro has a lagoon. Thus, according to this piece of folk wisdom, it should also have a lava ledge-based reef? TIGHAR knows that reef well. Is it one of the types I'm talking about? Exposed at low tide? Black and shiny and flat and dead on the top, but flourishing coral around the sides? If so, then BINGO! Folk wisdom prevails!

Mind you, since these ledges are millenia old, and are usually cracked and fissured and holed and eroded, you'd have to be a pretty intrepid sort of pilot -- or be in the midst of a pretty dire emergency --- to use one. One wheel in a fissure and you've flipped your plane. You definitely wouldn't do it by choice.

Something else has just suggested itself to me. I don't know where I heard or read that AE consulted Pacific-based companies when planning her trip ... but if you take it as a given and extrapolate out from the piece of folklore above, you come up with a very plausible scenario ... and one that has her ending up where she did:

AE in discussion with a Pacific-based air company asks the most logical question ... the one definitely foremost in her mind ...

What do I do if I miss Howland?

... is given the best piece of advice based on what is believed in the Pacific.

Find the nearest atoll with a lagoon and land on the reef!

It makes sense. In fact, it makes more than sense. The lady was no fool. She'd have known there was a chance she'd miss Howland, so she definitely would have asked around for alternatives. And if she had, what I've speculated above is probably very, very likely.

Hey, this would also could explain why she overflew McKean. I have no idea what McKean looks like, but if a scenario as above took place, if it doesn't have a lagoon, she would have kept going. Nikumaroro, on the other hand, DOES have a lagoon. Ergo ... this is the island and the reef chosen!

LTM (who loves it when her wilder ideas fit with the known facts)

From Ric

McKean is technically a "makatea" rather than an atoll. Its lagoon is merely a depression in the middle of the island full of bird droppings. Charming place. Its surrounding reef is very rugged.

Atolls are, indeed, former volcanoes but there are no exposed lava flows. All of the rock is waaaay down below and everything on the surface is coral. It is, however, the case that portions of the surrounding reef flat can be quite smooth and dry at low tide. There are large areas on Niku's reef flat where you literally could roller skate.

Message: 3
Subject: Re: The Voyage of the Viti
Date: 2/5/01
From: Tom King

This really is a wonderful example of the Forum in action.

Re. Sir Ian's book -- it's actually that which led us to him. I saw it at the Fiji Museum; the people there thought he'd died recently, but had an address for his son, and co-author, and publisher, in New Zealand. I wrote to him expressing regret at his father's passing and wondering if he'd left any papers. Shortly got an aerogramme from Sir Ian in Scotland, that began something like "Whilst some in Fiji may equate Scotland with the Hereafter, I have in fact not passed on...." He's been wonderfully helpful, putting us in touch with, for instance, Sir Harry's son, who has directed us to Sir Harry's papers at Oxford, which hopefully somebody can look through soon. He also launched us on the search for Peri-Johnson, in which several Forum members were fruitfully involved, though in the end we came up with no data. I can try to pursue some of this with him the next time I write, but that won't be until I get this &^%$#@%$ book off my back.

Tom King

Message: 4
Subject: PAA Clippers
Date: 2/5/01
From: Doug Brutlag

In answer to Janet's question about how many Clippers did Pan Am have in service on December 7, 1941, I believe there were only 3: China Clipper, Hawaii Clipper, and Philippine Clipper. All were Martin M-130's, the only 3 ever built. Boeing delivered the bigger & better B-314 not long after. None survive today. Too bad.

Doug Brutlag #2335

From Ric

According to the article I quoted from the Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of New Zealand, B-314 NC18606 "American Clipper" made a survey flight to New Zealand as early as August 1939 commanded by Captain John Tilton. A second survey flight by B-314 NC18601 "Honolulu Clipper" arrived in Auckland on November 23, 1939 commanded by Captain Wm. A. Cluthe (whose name may be familiar to TIGHARs as the donor of the Noonan sextant to the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola). There were several more of the big Boeings in service by December 1941 including NC18611 "Anzac Clipper" and NC18602 unofficially "Pacific Clipper" which made the post-Pearl 'round the world flight.

Message: 5
Subject: Re: PAA Clippers
Date: 2/5/01
From: Herman de Wulf

Actually there were quite a few more Clippers, the tradition of naming PanAm flying boats "Clipper..." beginning with the introduction of the Sikorsky S-42 in 1934. Ten were delivered:

  1. NC-822M (c/n 4200X) was delivered on 5 June 1934 and baptized Brazilian Clipper. It was later rebaptized Columbian Clipper.
  2. c/n 4201 became NC-823M West Indies Clipper. It was later rebaptized Pan American Clipper and later still Hong Kong Clipper.
  3. C/n 4202 became NC-824M was never baptized and was w/o on 20/12/35.
  4. C/n 4203 was a S-42A and became NC-15373 Jamaica Clipper
  5. c/n 4204 (S-42A) became NC-15374 Antilles Clipper
  6. c/n 4205 (S-42A) became NC-15375 Brazilian Clipper
  7. c/n 4206 S-42A) became NC-15376 Dominican Clipper
  8. C/n 4207 was the first S-42B and became NC-16734 Pan American Clipper II. This a/c was later rebaptized Samoan Clipper.
  9. c/n 4208 (S-42B) became NC-16735 Bermuda Clipper, later rebaptized Alaska Clipper and later still Hong Kong Clipper II.
  10. c/n (S-42B) became NC-16736 Pan American Clipper III. It later became Bermuda Clipper.
The names given to the S-42s reflected the areas in which individual aircraft operated. Pan American Clippers were used on survey work.

From 9 October 1935 on three Martin M-130s were added.

  1. c/n 556 became NC-14714 Hawaii Clipper
  2. c/n 557 became NC-14715 Philippine Clipper
  3. c/n 558 became NC-14716 China Clipper.
Twelve Boeing 314s were added to the fleet in 1939, with the first delivery on January 27 of c/n 1988, registered NC-18601. Only three would ever be names Clipper, the first aircraft not having a name at all. These Clippers were c/n 1990 which was registered NC-18603 and was originally named Yankee. It was later named Atlantic Clipper (this a/c crashed at Lisbon on February 22 1943). C/n 1992 was NC-18605 Dixie Clipper and c/n 2086 NC-18612 Pacific Clipper. This latter a/c is the one caught in New Zealand after Pearl Harbor which returned to the US via Africa and Brazil. It was renamed Capetown Clipper.

Source : P. St. John Turner, Pictorial History of Pan American World Airways

Hope this helps.


Message: 6
Subject: Fred's Bad Navigation Habits
Date: 2/6/01
From: Doug Brutlag

I used to think Fred was an ace navigator but in the last few months I have begun to wonder. In a conversation with Mark Farmer(former PA China Clipper nav) he mentioned similar flaws which he also attributed to lack of effort & complacency. The clippers from what I understand mostly DR'd with updates from radio bearings from Alameda & Honolulu. PA 's DF equipment was reported to have a range of 1800 miles either side, 3600 miles total-more than sufficient for mainland-Hawaii. The accuracy of the bearings was reported better than 1.5 degrees even at 1000 miles away. These are quotes from PVH Weems. Celestial was the last redundancy to be implemented. One Fix an hour is sufficient at piston engine aircraft speeds but 1 or 2 more was better---as long as you don't take too many fixes that you are navigating fix-to-fix instead of trying to hold the best and shortest course to your destination.

Sounds like Fred wasn't even doing that much. One must take more fixes just to have enough raw data to be able to figure winds aloft & corresponding course corrections if lets say you did not get the DF bearing. I believe the best navs did just that-bearings & cel fixes and compared the two to make sure their DR was correct. It's the same thing today, only we are using GPS & laser-ring gyro inertial platforms. The 767 & 757 I fly have 3 laser-ring gyro IRS's (inertial reference systems) and are being retrofitted with dual GPS as a further nav accuracy enhancement. The IRS's all monitor each other and if one gets out of wack with the others or the GPS it gives you a red flag on the offender and you simply take it out of the loop and fly on the rest. A good navigator would do the same thing comparing his DR calculations using DF bearing data & celestial fixes enabling him to spot errors or necessary course corrections. By the way, we still use plotting charts over the Atlantic & Pacific and plot fixes on the charts using the IRS nav data. Keeps one in the loop-good technique.

The errors Fred is reported to have routinely tolerated really burst my bubble. 50-120 miles off course? What in the world was he doing all that time? I almost think the average pilot could do better on a straight DR with no updates if he has done the weather & planning carefully and just used good situational awareness. Remember that one? Lack of SA has killed more aviators & aviator wannabees than one can imagine.

Bob Brandenburg alleges that Fred was dependent upon DF steers to get to his destinations-I'm inclined to agree. The case is compelling. Add to that the lack of familiarization & practical radio experience on the part of our duo fits in with the scenario of what may have taken place. Fred had his radio operators do that for him too. This seems to reek of some desperation on the part of both AE & FN: AE needed a navigator after quite literally(excuse my French) scaring the shit out of Harry Manning with the ground loop crash in Honolulu and Fred needing not only a job after leaving PA, but also a good dose of publicity in order to help kick-off a navigation school he was rumoured to do next when the world flight was over.

So..............Fred gets sloppy, doesn't keep the DR accurately enough to find Howland, no DF steer available. Fred wakes up to the predicament and goes into survival mode and runs the fixes and calculations to go to the nearest island group for a landfall. Comments Ric?

Doug Brutlag

From Ric

You make an interesting case. I'm also surprised to learn that Weems said that the PAA DF was accurate to 1.5 degrees up to 1,000 miles out and usable out to 1,800 miles. That throws a new light on the DF bearings they took on post-loss signals suspected of being from Earhart. Where did Weems say that?

Message: 7
Subject: Re: Harry Luke's Flights
Date: 2/6/01
From: Jim Tierney

I can find only one book in my reference library that mentions Harry Luke aboard the Clippers. That is Ed Dover's book, The Long Way Home published by Paladwr Press 1999. It is based on Dover's interviews with Captain Ford in January 1992 and August 1993. Personal and taped interviews along with other crew members from that flight.

Dover has reconstructed conversations from his notes. This would be to the best remembrances of Ford and others. He does put Luke aboard from Honolulu to Canton to Suva with the aerial tour of Suva before landing at Luke's request. I find no references to Luke being on the inbound flight-Suva/Canton/Honolulu which was flown by Marius Lodeesen. His book says he was on it.

I would have to go with Luke's book/remembrances as taking precedence over anything else. We do know there were flights. Will we take his word as unimpeachable gospel or are there chances for errors? This closes me out on Luke/Suva/etc.... unless you want me to do more.

LTM---always standing here lurking-ready with a reference book to correct the musings/ramblings of others.
Jim Tierney

From Ric

Luke's book was based upon a diary and is supported by other contemporaneous documents. Ford's was relating 50 plus year old memories. No contest. Thanks.

Message: 8
Subject: Re: Fred's Bad Navigation Habits?
Date: 2/7/01
From: Ross Devitt

> The errors Fred is reported to have routinely tolerated really burst my
> bubble. 50-120 miles off course? What in the world was he doing all that
> time?

Well, for one thing he wasn't flying the airplane. I seem to recall Earhart missing somewhere large (England??) and landing in a field in another country (Ireland?). Can't remember exactly. Fred could only plot the anticipated course to where that should be and take fixes to work out where they were. But 50 to 120 miles off course? Over what distance? I heard a tale about one student locally (no names mentioned) who was around 60 miles off course on a 130 mile track, but the airfield he landed at had an "M" in the name --- just like the one he was supposed to land at. Now that IS bad navigation.

I always thought Fred's arrivals at either side of his destination were supposed to be deliberate to allow him to fly down the line if there were no nav aids on arrival.


From Ric

No. The whole point of the Pan Am system is that there WERE navaids (Adcock DF stations) at the destinations. The Pan Am flights navigated direct. No offset.

Message: 9
Subject: Re: Fred's Bad Navigation Habits?
Date: 2/7/01
From: Marty Moleski

Doug Brutlag wrote:

> I used to think Fred was an ace navigator but in the last
> few months I have begun to wonder. ...

On the fatal flight, FN got himself and AE close enough to produce signal strength 5 on the Itasca. That was good enough for their purposes -- if only the DF and communication radios had worked correctly or if other lucky breaks had gone their way (visual sighting of Howland from a long way out).

In the way I tell the story to myself, neither FN or AE knew that they had a blind spot until it was too late. They didn't anticipate that they would get zero (0) help from the Itasca. It seems that FN trusted AE to handle that part of the flight plan, and it also seems that she may not have understood the theory and practice of DF. She wanted Itasca to locate them -- even though she could not hear the Itasca -- and when she whistled, it was not long enough for Itasca to get a plot; then she tried to DF on 7500, which was the least useful frequency for DF, and that was the one and only time she is recorded as having received a message from land or sea on the final flight.

Bottom line: I'm not sure we should blast Fred when it was Amelia's hand on the dials.

Marty #2359

From Ric

It seems to me like there was an awful lot of complacency going on, beginning long before the crisis over the Pacific.

  • Neither one of them was adept at Morse code.
  • AE purposely ducked out of taking the Radio Navigation test while preparing for the first attempt.
  • AE wrecked the airplane in Hawaii because she wasn't competent to fly it alone at that weight.
  • They both went along with Joe Gurr's screwball plan of eliminating the trailing wire and lengthening the dorsal antenna.
  • Fred missed his landfall on the coast of Africa and they had to go to an alternate destination.
  • AE couldn't get the DF to work on the test flight at Lae and assumed that she was merely too close to the station.
  • No two-way communication was established with Lae after takeoff and we have good evidence that at least one of the pitot systems was damaged; and yet AE was twice heard to transmit "Everything okay."
Although AE seems to have been responsible for handling the radio, Noonan had more than a passing interest in the flight arriving at its destination. I can't see them as being simply the victims of bad luck nor can I see Fred as being devoid of responsibility for going along with AE's "courage is the price" attitude.


Message: 10
Subject: Re: Fred's Bad Navigation Habits?
Date: 2/7/01
From: Marty Moleski

Ric wrote:

> ... I can't see them as being simply the victims of bad luck
> nor can I see Fred as being devoid of responsibility for going along with
> AE's "courage is the price" attitude.

Agreed. I was not arguing for a finding of innocence on FN's part, just for a better distribution of responsibility between him and AE. And I do so from a position of inferiority to both of them. If TIGHAR's hypothesis is correct, they very nearly won their bet that they could find Howland after an all-night flight from Lae.

And if TIGHAR's hypothesis is correct, one or both of them lived long enough to have been rescued.


Message: 11
Subject: Re: Fred's Bad Navigation Habits?
Date: 2/7/01
From: Herman de Wulf

She landed in Ireland. It happens to be the first land one sees flying from New York to England. I don't know why she decided to land in Ireland. Lindbergh also hit upon Ireland in 1927. But he decided he had enough fuel to press continue to Paris. Maybe she was out of gas ?

As for erratic navigation, what pilot dares to say he never lost his way at one time in his career ? Consider the Northwest DC-10 that landed at Brussels (Belgium) a couple of years ago, 300 miles short of its destination which was Frankfurt (Germany). For some reason Irish ATC thought it was heading for Brussels and passed the flight on to London who told the pilots to descend, passing them over to Brussels, who without further questioning cleared them for landing... not realizing they didn't have a flight plan from that DC-10. The two pilots panicked when their preset radios failed to pick up the Frankfurt VORs needed for the landing procedure and announced a "major electronics breakdown". They never realized they were on the Brussels frequency. Brussels Approach told them not to worry and brought them down by radar to a safe landing. At no time had they realized that they initiating landing ahead of their timing and therefore could not have arrived at their destination yet. They called Frankfurt Approach on the Brussels VHF frequency but Brussels didn't notice and gave instructions for approach and ensuing landing. The pilots unthinkingly executed the Brussels ATC orders and landed safely... in the wrong place. Which proves that even the best can make mistakes sometimes. Interestingly the passengers were aware they were landing at Brussels because they had screens in the cabin which showed the aircraft's position. This facility was not available to the cockpit crew. The cabin crew was also aware but had not dared say anything. This sort of error could happen around 1996 or 1997, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan could just as easily have missed Howland by mistake, flying VFR as they did in 1937.

From Ric

Ireland seems to be the common thread --- and Fred was Irish. Hmmmm.

Message: 12
Subject: Noonan's Capabilities
Date: 2/8/01
From: Tom MM

Well, let's be careful in evaluating Noonan's capabilities. Briand claims that AE flew out from LA and then disoriented Noonan, expecting him to deliver them back to LA with accuracy. Let's consider the tools available to Noonan.

1) DR position: This can only be done from a careful log and plot of heading, air/ground speed, and time. If Noonan was deprived of headings and air/ground speed (as reported by the pilot) this tool, although crude, breaks down completely.

2) Celestial: We don't know the significant criteria on this --- what time of day, available celestial bodies, or what quality of fix, if any, they would provide. It is possible that no significant latitude info was discernible during the flight time.

3) RDF: This may have been available, but it is unclear whether this was under the control of AE or FN.

In summary -- FN's navigational toolbag may have been completely in line with the standards of the time. It is entirely possible to pose problems which were poorly addressed by the available tools, and this (as well as the landfall component of Lae-Howland) could be one of them. Nevertheless, it may not reflect any discredit on FN.


From Ric

I certainly wouldn't trash Fred based on anything Paul Briand said. (He was the one who suggested that the Electra flew to Saipan because AE and FN forgot to set their directional gyro and flew 90 degrees off course for 20 plus hours.)

More damning is the record of Noonan's less-than-rigorous techniques while employed by Pan Am.

Message: 13
Subject: MacGuffin Redux
Date: 2/8/001
From: David Evans Katz

This article appeared in today's Hartford Courant. Given the Forum's interest in finding a "MacGuffin" I thought that everyone would find this amusing.

David Evans Katz

There's A Hitch Behind The Meaning Of "MacGuffin"

The Hartford Courant
February 07, 2001

Nan Glass of Hartford wonders about the term "MacGuffin." She encountered it twice on the same day, but with two conflicting meanings and two different spellings.

Her first MacGuffinization came when the New York Times Magazine described the late Alec Guinness as "perennially on the scent of the McGuffin, the bit of magic that lifts a piece out of the common ruck."

She was MacGuffinned again when The Courant quoted filmmaker Ken Burns: "The MacGuffin in my Mark Twain film is his Hartford house. It's the symbol of escaping his boyhood. It's the symbol of tragedies that beset his family. And it's ground zero for his creative energies."

So is a "MacGuffin" a dash of magic or an essential symbol?

Strict MacGuffinists would say neither.

The term "MacGuffin," first used by Alfred Hitchcock in a lecture at Columbia University in 1939, is an element in a film, novel or play that provides a pretext for the plot. It may be anything --- secret papers, jewelry, money --- that propels the story. The MacGuffin itself has little, if any, intrinsic meaning.

MacGuffins in Hitchcock's own films include the stolen $40,000 in Psycho, the scientific formula in The 39 Steps and the smuggled microfilm in North by Northwest. Other cinematic examples include the falcon statue in The Maltese Falcon and the mysterious briefcase in Pulp Fiction. (Some contend Rosebud in Citizen Kane is a MacGuffin, but I disagree. Its meaning, revealed at the end of the film, illuminates Kane's life.)

But why "MacGuffin"? Hitchcock said the term originated in a strange story told by his longtime Hollywood friend, writer Angus MacPhail:

Two Scottish men are riding on a train when one man asks the other about the contents of a package on the overhead luggage rack.

"It's a MacGuffin," says the first man, "a device for hunting tigers in Scotland."

"But there are no tigers in Scotland," replies the second man.

"Well then, it's not a MacGuffin," says the first.

As for spelling, most authorities prefer "MacGuffin," in deference to the "Mac" of "MacPhail," but "McGuffin" is an acceptable and common alternative.

So the Times' use of "MacGuffin" to mean an uplifting turn of magic and Burns' connotation of a central metaphor both seem to have, well, a Hitch.

From Ric

Yes. The forum came to the same conclusion. Just goes to show how the folk process distorts all sorts of language.

As I heard Hitchcock tell it in a TV interview, the men on the train are not Scottish but the MacGuffin is said to be used for trapping lions in Scottish Highlands.

"But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands."

"Then that's no MacGuffin."

The story, of course, makes absolutely no sense.

If there's a MacGuffin in the search for Amelia Earhart it is, ironically, the fate of the lost flyers. Historically, it really doesn't matter what happened to Earhart and Noonan. What makes the search interesting is the investigative process.


Message: 14
Subject: Re: MacGuffin Redux
Date: 2/8/001
From: Marty Moleski

Dealing with names and definitions is part of science.

Accepting a loose fit between our concepts and reality is also part of science. All measurements are accompanied, at least in principle, by an "error bar." And the whole concept of precise definition and perfect measurement breaks down at the quantum level, where things are happening for which we have no clear and distinct ideas and where we know that we cannot measure anything without modifying it.

The man who coined the term "isotope" for elements that differ in atomic weights but have identical chemical properties objected to the application of the term to deuterium (an atom that contains one proton and one neutron in its nucleus) and hydrogen (an atom that contains one proton in its nucleus) because the two gases do NOT have identical chemical characteristics. The inventor of the term was overruled by the scientific community because the bonding capacity of deuterium is the same as that of hydrogen (only one electron in the outer shell).

For my purposes, the definition of the term given by David Katz is "close enough" to Hitchcock's. If we were filming "TIGHAR: The Movie", the quest to discover an artifact that will prove the hypothesis to any idiot is what makes the plot tick. The "any-idiot-artifact" (AIA) is not important in its own right; what is sought is confirmation of a method of doing historical research and aircraft preservation in contrast to alternative theories.

But I'm not going to kill or die for this opinion. When people objected to the use of "MacGuffin", I stopped using it in public. ;o)

Marty #2359

Message: 15
Subject: Re: Noonan's Capabilities
Date: 2/8/01
From: Marty Moleski

Ric wrote:

> More damning is the record of Noonan's less-than-rigorous techniques while
> employed by Pan Am.

Life is full of tradeoffs. It's a kind of economics problem. Why spend more energy than necessary on a task? Some people like to, some don't. Up until forming his alliance with AE, FN did OK getting airplanes from one place to another with a reasonable safety margin. The stories of how he behaved on commercial flights with a professional crew don't tell us with any certitude how he behaved on the fatal flight. He might have worked like a dog all night long and gotten within ten miles of Howland for all we know. He never intended to hit the island by unassisted navigation. If there had been two-way communication with the Itasca, I think they would have made it.

The big clue that we know everyone missed was the failure to get any DF on the test flight at Lae. AE attributed it to being "too close." In retrospect, we can see what a huge mistake this was not to test the equipment and the operator(s) until the system worked.

Marty #2359

Message: 16
Subject: Catholic Koata
Date: 2/10/001
From: Ross Devitt

I know there was a lot of discussion on the influence of the Jesuits in the Pacific, but I just came across something that may be of historical relevance to our immediate area's inhabitants.. Even Harry Maude rates a mention !! This is from the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau. They are apparently trying to microfilm every historical manuscript they can find on the Pacific Islands.


PMB 1073 - Eastman Papers

The eleven reels in this collection constitute a very exciting body of source material on Kiribati and the work of the London Missionary Society in the Pacific. English born George Herbert Eastman (1881-1974) and his wife Winifred ran the LMS Mission in Rarotonga from 1913 to 1918. During this time he learnt the Rarotongan language and compiled a Rarotongan-English Dictionary which was filmed by the PMB some years ago (PMB 478).

Between 1918 and 1947 he ran the LMS Gilbert Islands Mission which was based at Rongorongo on the island of Beru. His mission district included the Ellice Islands, Nauru, Ocean Island (Banaba) and the Phoenix Islands. The Mission, which initially relied on Samoan missionaries, later trained its own I-Kiribati pastors and teachers at a Training Centre established at Rongorongo. In 1920 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions handed over its mission in the northern Gilberts (Abaiang, etc) to the LMS. Under Eastman's guidance the LMS Mission flourished in the south, but struggled in the northern Gilberts in the face of competition from the French-influenced Catholic missionaries.

One curious episode which is documented in the papers concerns one of the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau's founder associates, Harry Maude, who was the English District Officer on Beru during the 1930s. In 1930 the LMS pastor on the southern atoll of Onotoa fell into a dispute with the local Magistrate and Tax Collector, who happened to be a Catholic. The pastor proclaimed himself a prophet and set a date for the millennium. Protestants fell into trances, saw visions and communed in the cemetery at night. Two armies were formed, a women's army called The Sheep and a men's army called The Swords of Gabriel. When the millennium failed to eventuate, the Protestants blamed the Catholics and the armies went on the attack, killing two Catholics. Eastman and Maude defused the situation, with Maude sentencing the murderers to two years' hard labour. Maude rejected the explanation of the guilty that they had acted as agents of God, ruling that, as God was not subject to the Court's jurisdiction, anyone claiming to be his agent had to be treated as personally responsible for their actions.

From Ric

I swear Wombat, every once in a while you earn your keep. You have found more than you thought you did. The Magistrate on Onotoa in 1930 was none other than our old friend Teng Koata, who later of course became the first Island Magistrate of Nikumaroro and was a key player in the discovery of the bones. Maude, in his initial PISS reports, had made passing reference to Koata having distinguished himself during some kind of trouble on Onotoa in 1930 but we never knew the details. The really fascinating piece of news here is that Koata was a Catholic. Most of the early settlers on Nikumaroro were from the Southern Gilberts and almost certainly LMS (London Missionary Society) Protestant.

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