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Author Topic: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives  (Read 33572 times)

jgf1944

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1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« on: May 04, 2014, 02:23:15 PM »

Greetings TIGHAR archive foragers;
    I have combed the archives for informaton about the failed 1937 flight that is explicitly psychological in nature. I thought it might be useful to share a working bibliography with other foragers and researchers interested in the human aspects of that historic event (and the Niku hypothesis in general). The information I found pertains to two aspects of the flight.
    En Route to Howland. AE's voice was put on loudspeaker in the Itasca radio shack, and three listeners later described their perceptions of the quality of her voice. The descriptions suggest that AE was responding to the threat of failing to see Itasca and Howland when she expected to (probably at 07:42); namely, the listeners all reported perceiving fear (e.g., increased pitch) in AE's voice. These reports were in the Forum subject board "Did Earhart Panic" that appeared in early 2012 (URL given below per Thompson report). The reports constitute what precious little is known about AE during the flight other than her words as logged by the Itasca radio personnel. ●The Bellarts (chief radioman) report: Finding Amelia, page 100. (Caveat: report made in 1973, but it is descriptively in line with the two contemporaneous reports.) ●The Thompson (Itasca captain) report: Thompson Report (click on the no panic.pdf attachment). (This is the second report--see Finding Amelia, p. 100 for parts of the first; the second is, IMO, more psychologically detailed.) ●The Kenner (Itasca XO) report: Kenner Report.
   Unprepared to Fly. Not being an aviator, I take on trust the prevalent belief that AE was apparently not cognitively ready for the 1937 flight. Specifically, she did not know Morse code sufficiently to use it effectively as a communication and navigational tool; and she did not seem to understand adequately what Ric calls "the capabilities and limitations" of the Electra radio. This is a useful source regarding the code feature ● Morse code. There are three sources regarding AE and her lack of preparedness to use the radio effectively. ● Joe Gurr on teaching pulls up a lengthy document but keep hunting because Mr. Gurr's comments about AE's lack of radio preperation and his attempt to teach her are, if assumed reliable, psychologically revealing. Also, give attention to AE apparently avoiding taking the radio test as part of the renewal of her pilot's license before the world flight. Dr. Jacobson Randall (● Randall on avoidance) was of the opinion that AE's apparent desire to avoid that test was “probably the first contributing factor to Earhart’s failure to reach Howland in July.” Last, Ric Gillespie (● Gillespie on radio) paints the big picture about AE and the radio, “The fundamental cause of the flight’s failure to reach Howland seems to be Earhart’s failure to adequately understand the capabilities and limitations of her radio equipment."
   Allow me to cast the psych dice by suggesting that there is a common element to AE being unprepared as per code and the Electra radio. Self-discipline refers to completing something that is difficult or something one does not want to do. It is a facet of a major psychological trait called Conscientiousness (diligence as a synonym). IMO, AE was short on conscientiousness in the aviation domain--there are other instances of that in AE's psychological history.
   If you are aware of more psychological (or behavioral or psychiatric) sources pertinent to the Niku hypothesis--I have bookmarked Noonan's injury and Betty's Notebook and read Butler and Lovell--I would appreciate you sharing them.
   Ciao, Guthrie
(JGF is a retired research psychologist)
« Last Edit: May 04, 2014, 03:42:11 PM by Bruce Thomas »
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Tim Gard

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2014, 12:09:57 AM »

Amelia was a stick and rudder, dead reckoning type pilot who knew that she was largely on her own after departure. Radio was a complication that guaranteed nothing, but which could also be a comfort as when she first flew the Pacific in her Vega.

Amelia wrote about her anxieties and expressed the view that no-one should be concerned if things turned badly for her, because she would have made that flight anyway.

Anxiety would dominate anyone after 20 hours of flight only to reveal the sight of endless water where land had been expected, but that experience is part of the career of aviating. Lots of aircraft were lost over the Pacific subsequent to the Amelia tragedy.

One form of aviating anxiety is *not* making the flight, which has in itself the basis for causing accidents as you have mentioned. The pressure of being landlocked by weather, financial pressure or the feeling that remaining one day longer might induce yet another set back, perhaps mechanical, is part of the pressure of the career. Earlier in the world flight Amelia had departed under less than ideal weather and subsequently had to return.

Ric commented about Amelia's over confidence in the Finding Amelia video wherein he says that Amelia suffered from "acquired situational narcissism" or believing her own press. In order to fly the routes that Amelia did, involved a level of courage most mortals simply lacked and for which she was revered. Whether that trait was denial, a dreamy separation from reality or pure escapism in equal parts is individual to the piloting experience.

Essentially this last promotion of her own career by performing a world flight had everything riding on it financially and having told everyone it was going to happen now positioned Amelia on the horns of a dilemma - make the flight or lose credibility.


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« Last Edit: May 05, 2014, 06:18:09 AM by Tim Gard »
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JNev

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2014, 11:59:36 AM »

Interesting prospect and summary, both of you (and I am woefully unqualified to judge in matters of formal psychology).

What does a situational narcissist do when confronted with the dare of her career, especially having left a fatalistic note (if I kick, no tears - I would have done this flight come hell or high water) approaching that of a suicidal's farewell?  She believes in her own press release and flies into the sun (apologies to Icarus). 

Makes total sense to me - and you two have illustrated the case very nicely.

What does Gary LaPook do when given a small single engine Cessna, a large gas-tank, a big ocean and an octant?  He delivers it overseas - to the right airport. 

What does Jeff do given same?  Stays home and thanks someone for the nice octant, which he couldn't use on firm ground.

Is Gary braver than Jeff?  Maybe well so - and then again, Jeff's not necessarily chicken - he's recognizing his own limitations, which are significantly greater than Gary's when it comes to celestial navigation getting his airborne behind out of a trans-oceanic crack.  I have no compelling notion about being the first woman to equatorially circumnavigate the earth and make Purdue and others proud of all they had invested in me, I'm more concerned about commuting safely to an office job for the rest of my career. 

Earhart was riding what amounted to a prairie schooner - 'Frisco or bust.  She does seem to have had deep faith in her native basics and apparently did not fully appreciate, by what we observe of treatment of radio, etc., the need of that subset of long-range aviation skills involving airwaves, etc.  Instead she seems to have placed Noonan there as a sort of 'preventer' and thought little more of it.

That leaves me as curious about Fred's mind-state as Amelia's - what was he thinking?  Was it lost on him just how short Earhart was on radio skills and coordination?  He doesn't seem to appear in the traffic regarding radio preparations and testing - so it is suggested to me that he was largely, and happily, ignorant of Earhart's ignorance - at least in sufficient degree to also become a lost person with her.

In sum it seems now that 1937 trans-Pacific aviation was just too dangerous for those having such blinders on - and the tragic motivations behind each individual are fairly clearly laid out: both were eager for success to come in the wake of having made this trip happen, each in their own way.  Well, motivations aren't necessarily tragic in of themselves - but the blind pursuit of them may well be, and so it may well have been - others may judge. 

Nowadays we fly oceans with nothing but the silent buzz of electrons pointing the way - it can be nearly mundane.  Little of the heroism attaches anymore.  Status has to do with risk, and risk has to do with loss; we have so much less of either today, thanks be.  Therefore most people fly oceans for relatively mundane reasons, not to become heroic pioneers. 

It then seems that cause celeb then is a great treasure to some - and it follows that it must raise a great risk, rational or not.  As such, it will often be taken up by those bent to have it.  Some of those who seek it will always fall into the literal or figurative ocean and disappear because 'no matter what' they'd 'do that flight', and being human - and driven, they can be strangely blind to the consequences of ignorance.

To this layman, it does seem radio wasn't important enough to rock Earhart's thinking before the flight because she did believe primarily in her own native abilities.  She'd by then flown to Hawaii with a  great team, but what was the big risk?  Noonan may well have fit the role of 'preventer' in her mind - a back-up to that which she took for granted - a radio that couldn't be that hard to handle, or Manning couldn't have done it (after all, she was the leader of this experiment, and therefore the smartest... as she might have seen it).  She did reveal a 'hell or high-water' mentality as I see it.

And here we are still looking for the most colossally lost flight of the 20th century... I wonder, what does that say of our own psychology?
- Jeff Neville

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« Last Edit: May 07, 2014, 12:05:55 PM by Jeffrey Neville »
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Monty Fowler

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2014, 12:07:26 PM »

Dirty Harry summed it up very succinctly: "A man's got to know his limitations."

LTM, who knows his for the most part,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 CER
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JNev

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2014, 12:10:29 PM »

Dirty Harry summed it up very succinctly: "A man's got to know his limitations."

LTM, who knows his for the most part,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 CER

Well put - and it may be noted that Harry was a thinking man with a dirty job, not a starry-eyed dreamer.
- Jeff Neville

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Friend Weller

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2014, 05:24:51 PM »

Well put - and it may be noted that Harry was a thinking man with a dirty job, not a starry-eyed dreamer.

Nag, nag, nag....   ;D
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Tim Gard

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2014, 01:48:05 AM »

For an insight into the aviator's psychology I've never been disappointed by Len Morgan's masterful Saturday Evening Post style. Within one sentence he could put me in the left seat of aircraft I'd never even flown ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Len_Morgan

I read his articles in Flying magazine every month for years.

One of Len's quotes that stuck with me pertained to pre-flight checks and whether or not the aircraft could be rolled (forward or backward) to reveal the state of any hidden part of a tyre.

Len said ..

"I only worried about the bit I couldn't see."

 
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Tim Gard

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2014, 01:53:36 AM »

Well put - and it may be noted that Harry was a thinking man with a dirty job, not a starry-eyed dreamer.

Nag, nag, nag....   ;D

LOL. The Gauntlet.
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JNev

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2014, 08:08:21 AM »

 ;D
- Jeff Neville

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manjeet aujla

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2014, 09:24:54 AM »

There does seem to be a prevalent opinion that she was overconfident or unprepared (no expertise in morse code etc.). And it takes a small detail (lost antenna at lae, which was not her fault, etc.) to bring tragedy, and a brave woman is lost. The greeks knew it as 'hubris', and icarus did not listen when he was told not to fly too close to the sun. And yet, maybe  another impulse in him dared to fly closer to the sun, even though he knew that a price may have to be paid. Call it bravery, thrill-seeking, but it pushes all limits of knowledge further. And we owe it to people like AE.

imho.
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Tim Gard

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2014, 11:25:17 AM »

There does seem to be a prevalent opinion that she was overconfident

I would have found both the Vega and the Electra to have been powerfully seductive aircraft. They would make heading out over an ocean seem a temptation rather than a concern. Position any newcomer at the controls and let them experience the power of those big radials and I'm sure they'd be back for more.

After all, no airframe or powerplant failure with either the Vega or the Electra was ultimately responsible for Amelia's loss, only the loss of an antenna which did not keep the Electra from flying.

 
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« Last Edit: May 09, 2014, 12:51:05 PM by Tim Gard »
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JNev

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2014, 06:58:13 AM »

There does seem to be a prevalent opinion that she was overconfident

I would have found both the Vega and the Electra to have been powerfully seductive aircraft. They would make heading out over an ocean seem a temptation rather than a concern. Position any newcomer at the controls and let them experience the power of those big radials and I'm sure they'd be back for more.

After all, no airframe or powerplant failure with either the Vega or the Electra was ultimately responsible for Amelia's loss, only the loss of an antenna which did not keep the Electra from flying.

You nailed it.  The old Lockheeds offered pure sex when it came to Golden Age aviation - none had better lines or beckoned for adventure more strongly in my view either, Tim.

Which is all part of the persona and therefore psychology of this whole thing, in my view.  The Electra was not some gawky will-fit / can-do solution, it was a streamlined beauty that looked like it was at cruising speed when sitting on the ramp and with a forward-looking attitude in its frontal features.  It was a reflecton of man's quest of the time - certainly the woman Amelia's. 

Can you imagine her doing the trip in a Boeing 247D?  Great bird, but not nearly the same thing.
- Jeff Neville

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Monty Fowler

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2014, 06:55:47 PM »

I'll be interested to see how the world feels when it turns out she wasn't "lost at sea" - she was lost on an island located on the navigational bearing given by her toward the end of the flight, and died of starvation waiting.

Leon - I, too, will be interested to see the reaction of The Earhart Conspiracy Theories Industrial Complex (TECTIC for short). I rather suspect that for some of them, the true facts, once established, will make absolutely no difference.

The intellectually honest ones will admit they weren't right, and rally behind TIGHAR as we go on to our next great challenge - finding the White Bird.

LTM, who has enough complexes of his own,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 ECSP
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Kent Beuchert

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2014, 11:52:29 AM »

“The fundamental cause of the flight’s failure to reach Howland seems to be Earhart’s failure to adequately understand the capabilities and limitations of her radio equipment."
   Allow me to cast the psych dice by suggesting that there is a common element to AE being unprepared as per code and the Electra radio. Self-discipline refers to completing something that is difficult or something one does not want to do. It is a facet of a major psychological trait called Conscientiousness (diligence as a synonym). IMO, AE was short on conscientiousness in the aviation domain--there are other instances of that in AE's psychological history.

Allow me to recast your dice throw and suggest that "lack of self discipline" had nothing whatsoever to do with Earhart's failure to successfully reach Howand Island.  The avoidance of learning Morse code, which in
the context of her original plans, would have been a complete waste of time, time better spent doing the crucial  things that would allow her flight. This was to be Amelia's last flight, so why on earth would she learn Morse code, which she would never have any further use for, and besides, when she not only had a capable radio operator onboard, but , more importantly, never had needed it before. Morse code was old school.. voice communication was the future. No one would ever have imagined that the success of her world flight would come down to her, of all people, having to know Morse code. That only happened because of a long, unpredictable string of events, most of which were out of her ability to control, which others here can enumerate. To imply that she, or anyone, could ever have anticipated what actually happened is simply not correct. So the claim that she "avoided doing what needed to be done" is simply not correct as well. Her central (and only) problems were that her navigator was unable to deliver her  plane to within sighting distance of Howland, and her directional finder would not work. One can point to Earhart's failure to adequately nail down the reason for her DF test failure at Lae as the critical failure. She therorized (wrongly) the reason for the failure. She should have tested her theory (too close, signal too powerfull) that's true, but I doubt that there was any obvious way she could have found anyone sufficiently knowledgeable to correct her wrong assumptions. Even the radio expert at Lae apparently wasn't knowledgeable enough. And she did, after all, actually perform a DF test at Lae. So complaints that she wasn't prepared lack substance. I'm sure she considered herself fully prepared It's also true that she had had communications with plenty of others about how she planned to use the direction finder and no one had offered any objection, which would tend to give anyone in her position confidence that all would work as planned.  So outside of being able to freely converse with an engineer at the radio factory about the characteristics of her DF  (which originally was not even her job), it's not clear that she had the opportunity to do otherwise with respect to her failed test. As we can all see, there is nothing in Earhart's failures that suggest any lack of self discipline. And not learning Morse code I do not  consider a fatal error, or even relevant in the context of her situation.  After all, she was in command of this flight and if she (or anybody associated with the fight) actually considered knowledge of Morse code a critical skill, she would have either carried a radio operator onboard, or had Noonan learn Morse code. After all, Noonan was a navigator, so why didn't he know  Morse code? Certainly there is no record of anyone demanding that a Morse code operator be onboard Earhart's plane. Or even a key. It's quite easy to understand why Amelia would have considered Morse code knowledge and a key useless baggage.
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JNev

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Re: 1937 Flight: Psychological perspectives
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2014, 04:35:47 PM »

“The fundamental cause of the flight’s failure to reach Howland seems to be Earhart’s failure to adequately understand the capabilities and limitations of her radio equipment."
   Allow me to cast the psych dice by suggesting that there is a common element to AE being unprepared as per code and the Electra radio. Self-discipline refers to completing something that is difficult or something one does not want to do. It is a facet of a major psychological trait called Conscientiousness (diligence as a synonym). IMO, AE was short on conscientiousness in the aviation domain--there are other instances of that in AE's psychological history.

Allow me to recast your dice throw and suggest that "lack of self discipline" had nothing whatsoever to do with Earhart's failure to successfully reach Howand Island.  The avoidance of learning Morse code, which in
the context of her original plans, would have been a complete waste of time, time better spent doing the crucial  things that would allow her flight. This was to be Amelia's last flight, so why on earth would she learn Morse code, which she would never have any further use for, and besides, when she not only had a capable radio operator onboard, but , more importantly, never had needed it before. Morse code was old school.. voice communication was the future. No one would ever have imagined that the success of her world flight would come down to her, of all people, having to know Morse code. That only happened because of a long, unpredictable string of events, most of which were out of her ability to control, which others here can enumerate. To imply that she, or anyone, could ever have anticipated what actually happened is simply not correct. So the claim that she "avoided doing what needed to be done" is simply not correct as well. Her central (and only) problems were that her navigator was unable to deliver her  plane to within sighting distance of Howland, and her directional finder would not work. One can point to Earhart's failure to adequately nail down the reason for her DF test failure at Lae as the critical failure. She therorized (wrongly) the reason for the failure. She should have tested her theory (too close, signal too powerfull) that's true, but I doubt that there was any obvious way she could have found anyone sufficiently knowledgeable to correct her wrong assumptions. Even the radio expert at Lae apparently wasn't knowledgeable enough. And she did, after all, actually perform a DF test at Lae. So complaints that she wasn't prepared lack substance. I'm sure she considered herself fully prepared It's also true that she had had communications with plenty of others about how she planned to use the direction finder and no one had offered any objection, which would tend to give anyone in her position confidence that all would work as planned.  So outside of being able to freely converse with an engineer at the radio factory about the characteristics of her DF  (which originally was not even her job), it's not clear that she had the opportunity to do otherwise with respect to her failed test. As we can all see, there is nothing in Earhart's failures that suggest any lack of self discipline. And not learning Morse code I do not  consider a fatal error, or even relevant in the context of her situation.  After all, she was in command of this flight and if she (or anybody associated with the fight) actually considered knowledge of Morse code a critical skill, she would have either carried a radio operator onboard, or had Noonan learn Morse code. After all, Noonan was a navigator, so why didn't he know  Morse code? Certainly there is no record of anyone demanding that a Morse code operator be onboard Earhart's plane. Or even a key. It's quite easy to understand why Amelia would have considered Morse code knowledge and a key useless baggage.

I dunno, Kent, as much as I admire Earhart, I'm not as certain about her judgment or self-discipline as you seem to hold for a number of reasons.  I was also not aware that this was to have been her 'last flight' (although events did overtake any different intent on her part...).  So if the dice are tumbled again -

I'm sure it's been covered ad nauseam, but Earhart and her team had clearly identified the need for a radio operator as part of the original plan.  After the Luke Field incident, Manning left (Earhart's radio operator).  Earhart then, for whatever reason, seems to have gone against her own initial plan and decided that she didn't need a radio operator after all.

Might that decision and action be considered as the root of the loss?  Consider that she had two and a half months to hire a new radio expert, or to learn about the technical aspects of radio direction finding herself.  Hooven himself was appropriately critical of Earhart's lack of attention here.  She also could have learned Morse code easily enough, as those I've inquired of assure me that while it takes time to have a confident, fast key, it's not that hard to learn for basic life-saving use (and in fact simply holding the key down apparently provides a more reliable signal for DF efforts, if on the appropriate frequency).

Never mind not having learned Morse code, however.  It really seems to have been more her apparent utter lack of understanding about much to do with radio.  Had she known more, even without key / Morse, then she would not likely have specified a homing frequency (7,500 kcs) that was beyond the capability of her radio direction finder.  She might then also have known enough to realize that the failed test in Lae showed that the RDF was not working on high frequency.  She might have then also sent out a signal on 500 kcs (if she had understood the importance of that standard frequency and had not removed her trailing antenna).  This the Itasca could have taken a bearing on even if she couldn't send or receive a Morse message.

BTW, the oft-claimed hassle of reeling the 500 Kcs antenna in and out may be questionable, but in any case it would only have been needed in the unlikely and apparently not expected event of needing to transmit on that frequency prior to approaching Howland.  If she had only communicated on HF then that antenna would never have been needed.  How ironic - and to me, at least subjectively, how telling of what amounts at the very least to poor foresight on Earhart's part: was it really worth dispensing with that 500 Kcs capability? 

Seems like a lot of trouble she went too to elminate those things - and by my view, it was a lack of disciplined thinking and application of poor judgment that led her there, with all due respect to her otherwise, and to those differing subjectively.  How pitiable too that an arguable case for having a Morse key and at least basic capability to use it went by the wayside. 

But the ironic comedy of tragic errors does add flavor to the whole thing, including this somewhat admittedly subjective point.  Earhart does seem to have added drama to the crap shoot of what did in fact become her 'last flight', that I will grant.

- Jeff Neville

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