TIGHAR recently received
the photograph shown here from Neil Royes in Australia. It was taken by
Alan Board who, in July 1937, was a young employee of Guinea Airways at
Lae, New Guinea. The photo shows NR16020 on its takeoff roll on the morning
of July 2nd and is, as far as we know, the last still photo ever taken
of the airplane.
specialist Jeff Glickman of PHOTEK, Inc. had previously examined the Lae
takeoff motion picture film and determined that, while the belly antenna
masts were visible when the airplane taxied out, they were not visible
when it came back by the camera on its take off roll. The resolution of
the individual frames was not great and this “new” still photo allows
us a much better look.
The following is
Jeff’s analysis of the photo.
Dear Mr. Gillespie,
Thank you for sending
me the photograph of A. Earhart’s takeoff from Lae, New Guinea on 2 July
1937. There is ample resolution in this photograph to resolve antenna
masts. One antenna mast is visible on the roof to the right of the direction
finding loop antenna.
Two antenna masts
should also be visible on the belly of the airplane, however they do not
appear in the photograph. Their absence from the photograph may be due
2) the antenna masts may be obscured by another object, or
3) the antenna masts may be absent from the airplane.
Image Resolution. There are objects of similar size to the missing
antenna masts that successfully imaged in the photograph. Therefore, it
is improbable that the antenna masts are absent from the photograph for
There is a single object capable of obscuring the belly antenna masts
– the fuselage. For the fuselage to obscure the antenna masts, the film
plane would have to be near the horizontal centerline of the fuselage
or above. It can be observed from the photograph that the film plane was
well below the centerline of the fuselage by the amount of the underside
of the wing that has been imaged. Further, nearly the complete port and
starboard landing gears have been imaged. Therefore, the fuselage could
not have obscured the antenna masts.
Therefore, through deduction, the antenna masts must be missing from the
belly of the fuselage.
photograph independently corroborates the prior forensic analysis of the
Lae, New Guinea takeoff film.
Thank you for your
continued interest in PHOTEK.
Board Certified Forensic Examiner
Fellow, American College of Forensic Examiners
209 Oak Avenue, Suite 202
Hood River, Oregon 97031
when the airplane taxied out for takeoff and the later half of its takeoff
run, the belly antenna was lost. Just how the loss occurred is, of course,
not known, but it is not hard to imagine the aft mast being knocked off
in a ground strike while the airplane was being swung around to align
with the runway for takeoff. The puff of dust visible early in the takeoff
film could be the broken mast dragged by the wire antenna snagging on
the ground and tearing the wire and center mast off the airplane.
Exactly what impact
the loss of this antenna may have had on the progress of the flight depends
on the antenna’s function (which has been a matter of considerable debate).
However, the loss of the antenna would now appear to be quite reliably