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Author Topic: Sunrise Encounter  (Read 99612 times)

Chris Owens

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2011, 06:53:41 AM »

Gary, thanks for the Weems and HO216 references -- the 5%, 10%, and "20 nm per hour + 1%" numbers were just the info I was missing.  Based on these numbers I agree that "advance the LOP and, if you don't see Howland, hang a right and DR down the 157 course" would not have been considered a sound navigational plan at the time.

Venturing into pure unanswerable speculation, is it plausible that they simply didn't have a backup plan for "what if radio navigation fails us?" and basically had to wing it, in which case "head off toward where Niku might be," while not prudent, beat the heck out of "circle until we run out of gas."   Failure to plan for radio failure would be consistent with AE's reputed overconfidence.  Would it be consistent with FN's approach to navigation?

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Bill Lloyd

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2011, 08:08:54 AM »

I am not a celestial navigator nor have I ever used a sextant while flying an aircraft, however, I have been an aviator  for many years. Most all of my military and civilian commercial time is with turbine engines. I am dual rated, multi engine fixed and rotary wing, instrument rated and have flown extensively offshore in commercial rotary wing.  Before the days of GPS and even before LORAN in the Gulf we used DR and commercial radio stations to navigate.  WLS in New Orleans intersected with  KTRH in Houston would get us to the Getty field in marginal weather. In later years we went to IFR night in the Sikorsky 76, Bell 414 and the BO-105

How did the Electra navigate to Gardner Island?

In this case, my sense of offshore flying tells me that the logical choice to follow, if Howland could not be found and I had no radio, would be to stay on the track of 157° true and proceed toward the Phoenix Islands. This choice is predicated upon the premise that that in flight planning the charts had been studied and in looking for options for an alternant destination it was decided that the Phoenix group was the nearest and within range and on the track of 157° true, which happened to be identical to the sunrise LOP landfall. To do this type of planning would not be inconsistent with what we appear to know about Noonan.

Of course to DR. the magnetic heading would have to account for the wind and magnetic variation. The wind direction and force could be estimated by looking at the water which is one of the first things that I learned in off shore flying. I would hold this heading or crab angle, set the throttles and mixture to the most economical setting and have Noonan attempt to compute ground speed and wind and give me an estimate to the  Island.  I would have him unrolling his charts for the Phoenix group and compute how much flying time we had left.  We would not be concerned that the original sun line had rotated because the heading  to the Phoenix group is set in and an attempt to stay the course will be made until we come upon Gardner. If the magnetic heading is the correct one, that is, adjusted for wind and magnetic variation, then  Gardner Island will come into view about ten miles distant off the starboard side. If  not enough wind correction is applied and we drift to the right, then we could very well hit Gardner head on.

The aforementioned is but speculation on my part, but based on my experience, it is the option that I would have adopted to get out of  the scrape.  Apparently, Earhart must have thought something along these lines or she would not have died on Gardner Island.

Mr. LaPook, I suggest that you take a very close look at the evidence that TIGHAR  has proffered in this case. I understand that you might know a thing or two about evidence. Although most of the evidence is circumstantial and some of it is mislabeled and would not be admissible, the body of evidence supports the inference that Earhart came to Earth on Gardner Island.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2011, 09:16:48 AM »

... In this case, my sense of offshore flying tells me that the logical choice to follow, if Howland could not be found and I had no radio, would be to stay on the track of 157° true and proceed toward the Phoenix Islands. ...

Remember that the last transmission received said that AE and FN were flying "the line" north and south.

The first purpose of flying along the line, first to the north (it seems) and then to the south, was to find Howland.

Failing that, there was the prospect of more islands to search for to the south than to the north.

This piece of navigational logic was brought to TIGHAR's attention by the two Toms (Gannon and Willi), both of whom were accomplished navigators.

Here is an unassailable truth: "People disagree."  Please notice that if anyone disagrees with this statement, they provide fresh evidence that it is true.  Only someone incapable of thoughtful self-reflection would deny this observation. 

Navigators are people, so it follows that, from time to time, "navigators disagree."  Some navigators find the clue in the last transmission as pointing toward Niku as the most reasonable place to look for the downed aircraft; others do not thing that the last transmission points toward the plane's final resting place.

Such is life.

If this were the only piece of evidence in the case for the Niku hypothesis, it wouldn't stand up in course.  But there seem to be other lines of evidence pointing toward Niku as well--lines of evidence developed after TIGHAR took the navigational clue seriously enough to search the island.

"The dogs bark, but the train moves on." 
LTM,

           Marty
           TIGHAR #2359A
 
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #18 on: June 02, 2011, 10:00:29 AM »


Remember that the last transmission received said that AE and FN were flying "the line" north and south.

The first purpose of flying along the line, first to the north (it seems) and then to the south, was to find Howland.

Failing that, there was the prospect of more islands to search for to the south than to the north.

Exactly.  To "decide to head for the Phoenix Islands" you must know know that you're already too far south of Howland to get there by flying up the line.  That was clearly not the case. They knew they were on the LOP but they didn't know where.  After a brief exploration to the north, the only sensible thing to do is head south, hoping that you've hit the line north of Howland and you'll reach your intended destination, but knowing that even if you've hit the line south of Howland there are other islands - Baker,McKean, Gardner - on or close to the line.

"The dogs bark, but the train moves on." 

I love it!  Here's another one.

Rule Number One for Crisis Management:
Shoot the wolf closest to the sled.
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #19 on: June 02, 2011, 10:35:57 AM »

I don't think anyone has suggested that, upon not finding Howland, a decision was made to fly to Gardner. From what I gather, when Howland couldn't be located it just made sense to head for an area where there were known to be several islands. This would at least give them a chance to find something other than ocean to land on. Finding and landing on Gardner would have been more of a fortunate happening than a planned destination. Viewed from that perspective, if you know you are in one area, you should be able to navigate to another area with some degree of accuracy, not necessarily to a specific point, but at least to the general area. Get there, spot an island, land your plane, radio for help, and wait. I agree, to navigate to a specific place you do need to know where you are to begin with, not so much to go area to area.     -LTM-  John

-----------------------------------------------------

Take a look at the chart:

https://sites.google.com/site/fredienoonan/resources/trial/gnc-20-7.JPG?attredirects=0

each of the squares is 60 nautical miles (the same as 69 statute miles) on an edge. Still think you could be certain that you would just bump into one of them by chance? Would you be willing to bet your life on that?

Gary LaPook
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John Joseph Barrett

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2011, 11:11:03 AM »

Gary,  I am not saying that I would be willing to bet my life on finding land randomly in an area of that size. But I also don't think I would have put my life on the line without being as prepared as I could have been before the flight. I wouldn't have ventured forth without at least first learning how to properly use my radio, both voice and morse. I am no navigator and don't claim to be, but if I was and was planning a flight to an island in the middle of the ocean, I do think I would pay attention to any other landfall that may be in the area just in case I couldn't get to where I wanted to go. I don't know if the LOP was planned as it was as a back-up measure to reach the Phoenix islands in case Howland was missed or not, maybe that accounts for the 10am departure from Lae. I do know that if I was lost over the ocean and low on fuel and my choices came down to looking for the one original island or heading to an area where I knew there were several islands I would choose the latter in an effort to increase my odds. This doesn't offer any guarantee, but it's better than nothing. I'm not saying that is what happened, but it is what I would do. It is not possible without discovering some evidence of preplanning as a contingency to say that AE and FN felt the same, but any port in a storm is better than nothing. - John
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #21 on: June 02, 2011, 11:37:08 AM »

Still think you could be certain that you would just bump into one of them by chance?

With half-way decent information about the wind I think I could DR a line for a few hundred miles with good accuracy. Lindbergh did it for 1,700 miles.  I'm no Charles Lindbergh, but I've done it for about 300 miles.

Would you be willing to bet your life on that?

What choice do I have?
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Chris Owens

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #22 on: June 02, 2011, 12:42:07 PM »


What choice do I have?

Therein lies a fundamental truth.

We don't know what AE's and FN's contingency plan was for dealing with communications or radionavigation failure, and that's frustrating.  Did they really say to themselves, "Well, if radionavigation fails, we'll just DR our way to safe territory?"  That seems, on the face of it, insane.  Maybe they just didn't make such a contingency plan. Or maybe they knew full well the risks and said, "If radionavigation fails, we'll drown." ("Q: What's my plan if my reserve parachute fails to open, too? A: Die.") We'll never know what they were thinking.

Similarly, sitting here now,  I can say that I sure as heck wouldn't have continued the flight if I hadn't been able to establish 2-way radio communications with Lae right after take-off, as that would indicate something significantly wrong. But they did.  Evidently, "Verify that we've got reliable 2-way comms before leaving land very far behind" wasn't part of their plan, or if it was, they changed it.   Their sense of contingency planning was very different than ours.

It would seem that they put themselves, either deliberately (by considering the possible failures and deciding that there wasn't much of an alternative plan) or inadvertently, by failing to consider the possible failures, into a box from which the only exit was to try to find the Phoenix islands....
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #23 on: June 02, 2011, 01:42:10 PM »

We don't know what AE's and FN's contingency plan was for dealing with communications or radionavigation failure, and that's frustrating.  Did they really say to themselves, "Well, if radionavigation fails, we'll just DR our way to safe territory?"  That seems, on the face of it, insane.

In 1978 I DRed a deaf and dumb (no radios) Cessna 182RG from Kansas City to Binghamton In an age when we use GPS to navigate across town, relying on Dead Reckoning seems insane, but in 1937 it was routine. 

Maybe they just didn't make such a contingency plan. Or maybe they knew full well the risks and said, "If radionavigation fails, we'll drown." ("Q: What's my plan if my reserve parachute fails to open, too? A: Die.") We'll never know what they were thinking.
 

That's true. We'll never know what they were thinking, but we do know that the 157-337 LOP could be precomputed and it obviously falls through multiple islands and we know that Earhart specifically said, "We are on the line 157 337 ....running on line north and south."  If that's not implementing a contingency plan, what is it?

Similarly, sitting here now,  I can say that I sure as heck wouldn't have continued the flight if I hadn't been able to establish 2-way radio communications with Lae right after take-off, as that would indicate something significantly wrong. But they did.  Evidently, "Verify that we've got reliable 2-way comms before leaving land very far behind" wasn't part of their plan, or if it was, they changed it.   Their sense of contingency planning was very different than ours.
 

Yes it was, because they were living at a different time than we are. It is clear from abundant sources that Earhart did not consider two-way radio communication to be important. She did not use the radio the way we use radio.

It would seem that they put themselves, either deliberately (by considering the possible failures and deciding that there wasn't much of an alternative plan) or inadvertently, by failing to consider the possible failures, into a box from which the only exit was to try to find the Phoenix islands....
 

If they had enough information to "try for the Phoenix Islands" they could have tried for Howland.  I don't think there was ever a point at which they decided to try for the Phoenix Islands. They followed a procedure that stood the best chance of bringing them to one of four islands. They hoped the island would be Howland but any of the other three was better than no island at all.
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Chris Owens

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #24 on: June 02, 2011, 02:07:38 PM »


In 1978 I DRed a deaf and dumb (no radios) Cessna 182RG from Kansas City to Binghamton

Really?  In one leg?  In IMC all the way without reference to any visible landmarks?

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Gary LaPook

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #25 on: June 02, 2011, 06:12:38 PM »


In 1978 I DRed a deaf and dumb (no radios) Cessna 182RG from Kansas City to Binghamton

Really?  In one leg?  In IMC all the way without reference to any visible landmarks?



-------------------------------------------------------------------

Main difference, you knew where you were when your started.

Gary LaPook
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #26 on: June 02, 2011, 06:19:45 PM »

Still think you could be certain that you would just bump into one of them by chance?

With half-way decent information about the wind I think I could DR a line for a few hundred miles with good accuracy. Lindbergh did it for 1,700 miles.  I'm no Charles Lindbergh, but I've done it for about 300 miles.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Lindbergh was aiming for a continent, pretty hard to miss a continent. It turned out well for him but if he had missed Paris he still would have received a hero's welcome wherever he touched down.

Gary LaPook
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #27 on: June 02, 2011, 06:24:10 PM »

We don't know what AE's and FN's contingency plan was for dealing with communications or radionavigation failure, and that's frustrating.  Did they really say to themselves, "Well, if radionavigation fails, we'll just DR our way to safe territory?"  That seems, on the face of it, insane.

In 1978 I DRed a deaf and dumb (no radios) Cessna 182RG from Kansas City to Binghamton In an age when we use GPS to navigate across town, relying on Dead Reckoning seems insane, but in 1937 it was routine. 



-------------------------------------------

DR or pilotage? It's hard not to see at least some landmarks when flying in the center of the U.S.



Gary LaPook
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #28 on: June 02, 2011, 06:31:21 PM »

Still think you could be certain that you would just bump into one of them by chance?

With half-way decent information about the wind I think I could DR a line for a few hundred miles with good accuracy. Lindbergh did it for 1,700 miles.  I'm no Charles Lindbergh, but I've done it for about 300 miles.

Would you be willing to bet your life on that?

What choice do I have?

--------------------------------------------------



In the past your have said that the several islands of the Phoenix Island group provided a "catcher's mitt" ensuring that Noonan would be certain to stumble onto at least one of these islands, that they were impossible to miss. This is not true as these islands are spread very far apart from each other and the plane could fly through the entire island group without being close enough to any of the islands to be certain of seeing land. See chart gnc-20, (each square on this chart is 60 nautical miles on a side, 69 statute miles.)


Here is an analogy to help make this clear.

You are walking down a street. A black limousine pulls up next to you. Two big guys jump out, rough you up and throw you into the trunk. After a long drive the car finally stops and you are pulled out of the trunk. It is now dark. You look around and you realize you are standing in Yankee Stadium.

Vito Corleone walks up to you and says. "I've got a little proposition for you."
"What kind of a proposition, " you ask nervously.
"See the outfielders out there, right, center and left field?"
"Yes" you say.
"Here is my proposition" says the Godfather. "I will have my pitcher pitch one ball to you. You hit it, and if it is caught on the fly by any of the outfielders, I will give you a hundred thousand dollars."
"And if they don't catch it, what do I have to pay you?" you reply.
"Oh, nothing" say the Godfather, "My boys will just shoot you in the head and dump your body in the river where you can sleep with the fishes. Oh, I forgot to mention, the outfielders are not allowed to move."
"Gee, do I have any other options?" you ask.
"Tell you what" the Godfather goes on, "since I am such a nice guy I will make you another proposition but you will have to choose between just these two. I will have the pitcher pitch you three balls and you hit them back to the pitcher or to the shortstop and if either the pitcher or the shortstop catches one of the balls on the fly I will give you a million dollars."
"And if they don't catch one of the balls..." your voice trails off.
"Same deal, my boys shoot you in the head."

So which proposition do you choose?

This is the true "catcher's mitt" situation, Earhart and Noonan's true situation.

If you take the first proposition you have only one chance to hit the ball and the non-moving outfielders present very small targets to hit that are far away. Even if the ball is caught you only get one hundred thousand bucks. If the ball is not caught you sleep with the fishes.

If you take the second proposition you get three chances to hit the ball and the pitcher and shortstop have three chances to catch the ball and they are much closer and make much bigger targets to hit at this close range. If one of them catches the ball you get a million dollars, ten times more than the first proposition. If they don't catch the ball you are no worse off than with the first proposition, you still end up sleeping with the fishes.

So would Noonan and Earhart have flown 350 nautical miles across the sea, hoping to find several small island which are spread so far apart that even with 20 mile visibility you could fly between them without seeing any of them, knowing that they would have only one chance since they would burn up all of their fuel on the way leaving nothing left to fly a search pattern with? And even if they had some fuel left, how would they know when to start flying a search pattern? And even if they are successful in finding one of the islands, there they are, barely alive, with no water or food, the airplane destroyed, no round the world flight, AE and Putnam bankrupt. If not successful they sleep with the fishes.

Or would they turn around and fly a standard search pattern with three hours of fuel on board to allow a long search, with Howland and Baker, with twenty mile visibility, presenting together a target 80 miles wide and only 50 to a hundred miles away, a target hard to miss. And if successful they win the big prize, the airplane is refueled and the round the world flight is completed, accolades and money roll in and AE and Putnam have fame and wealth. If not successful they are no worse off than if missing the Phoenix islands, they still sleep with the fishes.

What choice would you make?

Gary LaPook
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Sunrise Encounter
« Reply #29 on: June 02, 2011, 07:55:34 PM »

DR or pilotage? It's hard not to see at least some landmarks when flying in the center of the U.S.

The DR portion of the trip was about 300 miles of scud running at very low altitude in low visibility where you couldn't afford to look down long enough to study a map.  I had worked out a heading that should intersect with the shore of Lake Erie at a particular point. I just held that heading and tried not to run into anything. I hit the point within about a mile.  It wasn't legal and it wasn't smart, but it worked.
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