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Author Topic: Timemachine  (Read 9089 times)

Ric Gillespie

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Timemachine
« on: March 21, 2016, 01:48:18 PM »

Forum members who don't watch the TIGHAR Facebook page may not be aware of a series I've been posting there that tracks events in the Earhart saga that occurred on this date in 1937.  Much of it is probably old news to many Forum veterans but it's a tremendously popular series and worth sharing.  I'll do each day as a separate posting.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Timemachine
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2016, 01:58:46 PM »

ST. PATRICK’S DAY MARCH 17, 1937

Amelia Earhart took off from Oakland,California on the first leg of her much-heralded world flight accompanied by (L to R) Paul Mantz, Harry Manning, and “happy-go-lucky Irishman” Fred Noonan – but there was tension behind the smiles.
Earhart’s technical adviser Mantz was a last minute addition to the crew. He was concerned about Amelia’s ability to handle the aircraft. She had never made a takeoff with the airplane as heavily loaded as it was for the 2,200-mile flight to Hawaii and the unpaved Oakland runway was puddled and muddy after heavy rains. His official reason for going along was to rendezvous with his new fiancée in Honolulu but it was Mantz who made the takeoff from Oakland.
Sea captain Harry Manning was under a cloud of doubt about his ability as an aeronautical navigator. His mistakes during recent test flights had caused Earhart to add a second navigator to the crew. On the flight to Hawaii, Manning was tasked with operating the radio.
Fred Noonan was known and admired for his pioneering navigation of Pan American’s Pacific routes but he had recently quit the airline over relentless transpacific flight schedules that had driven him to drink and cost him his marriage. He hoped the publicity surrounding the Earhart flight would help him make a fresh start.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Timemachine
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2016, 02:03:09 PM »

MARCH 18, 1937
SPOILER ALERT: The little-known facts reported here reveal a rather different picture of Amelia Earhart than is customary. They are presented not to debunk or disparage her legacy but purely in the interest of historical accuracy.

The photo shows the Electra in the hangar at Wheeler Army Airfield, Honolulu on the afternoon of March 18, 1937. Army mechanics are disassembling the propeller hubs.

At 5:40 am Honolulu time Amelia Earhart and company sighted Diamond Head and, soon after, touched down at Wheeler Army Airfield in Honolulu. They had set a new record of fifteen hours and forty-seven minutes from Oakland. The only problem Amelia mentioned publicly was a generator that failed because “Harry held the [morse code sending] key down so long it got tired.” A U.S. Army investigation found that the failure was due to a blown fuse caused by an improperly set current control. But there was more to story. For the last half of the flight the right-hand propeller had been stuck at a fixed angle of pitch – not a problem in sustained cruise flight but if a “go around” had been necessary on the landing approach the consequences could have been fatal.
After a congratulatory photo session, Earhart, Mantz, Manning and Noonan left the airplane in the Army’s care and, according to the later Army report, departed the airfield without leaving any instructions “whatsoever as to what was to be done to the plane in the way of service or check-over.” The previously announced plan was for Earhart, Manning and Noonan to take off from Wheeler on the flight to Howland Island that night at 10:00 pm, so the Air Corps engineering officer and the local Pratt & Whitney engine representative “took it upon themselves to do what is usually done to put an airplane in suitable condition for the continuance of such a flight.” In servicing the propellers they found that both hubs took a surprising amount of grease.
Mantz returned to the airfield that afternoon and, upon running up the engines, found that the right-hand prop was still stuck in fixed pitch. The Electra was rolled into the hangar and both propeller hubs were disassembled. The Army mechanics discovered that the blades on the right-hand prop were “badly galled and frozen in place.” The left-hand prop was almost as bad. The officer in charge judged the failures to be “due to improper lubricant.” It was the opinion of some of the technicians that “the hubs were nearly dry when the plane left the mainland.”
The engineering officer ordered that the hubs be taken across town to the Air Corps Hawaiian Air Depot at Luke Field, Pearl Harbor for overhaul. At 7:00 pm that evening Mantz informed the Army that Earhart might want to depart as early as 8:00 or 9:00 am the next morning. The Air Corps mechanics worked into the night and at 2:00 am the repaired propeller hubs arrived back at Wheeler to be installed on the Electra. “When the installation had been completed and the cowlings had been safetied and checked, the crew retired for a much needed three hours of sleep.
Earhart announced that her departure for Howland Island had been delayed “on account of weather.” The navy meterological officer later reported that he had forecast “favorable flying conditions over the entire route, except for cloudiness and showers near Pearl Harbor. It is understood that her delay was occasioned by other reasons.”
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Timemachine
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2016, 02:04:47 PM »

MARCH 19, 1937

The Army technicians and mechanics worked most of the night to make the Electra ready for a morning departure, but Amelia stood them up. The Army Engineering Officer’s annoyance was apparent in his official report.
“The crew and the Engineering Officer were back on alert at seven in the morning but found they could have used the time for sleep to advantage when none of the Earhart party arrived until nearly eleven o’clock.”
The Earhart party that arrived did not include Earhart, Manning, or Noonan. It was Paul Mantz who showed up with his fiancée and a local friend in tow. Mantz ran up the engines and found that the props were now working properly. He informed the Army officials that he was going to take his guests for ride as a test flight. The photo shows Mantz about to leave Wheeler. His guests can be seen by the cabin door.
Mantz said he would land at Luke Field, a shared Army-Navy airstrip on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. Wheeler was unpaved and local rain showers were predicted. Remembering the muddy takeoff from Oakland, Mantz thought that Luke’s three-thousand foot paved strip would be a better choice for Earhart’s takeoff for Howland. The Army accommodated this surprise last-minute change and “steps were taken to recall all airplanes and clear the airdrome.” After leaving instructions for the plane to be serviced and fueled for Earhart’s late-afternoon departure, Mantz left with his guests at 1:30 pm. The truck with Earhart’s gasoline arrived an hour later but the fuel proved to be contaminated. After “considerable arguing and wrangling” that occupied the entire afternoon it was agreed that Army fuel would be substituted. It was 7:30 pm before the fueling was completed and the plane locked in a hangar. The entire day had passed without Earhart or her flight crew being anywhere near the aircraft. The new plan was for the takeoff for Howland Island to take place at midnight or first light on the 20th.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Timemachine
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2016, 02:06:11 PM »

MARCH 20, 1937

Day was only a glow on the eastern horizon when Amelia Earhart swung the Electra into position at the end of the Luke Field runway. Harry Manning and Fred Noonan were aboard, ready to guide the big Lockheed to Howland Island, nineteen hundred miles to the southwest. Paul Mantz and a small crowd of well-wishers watched from the hangars as Amelia pushed the throttles forward. The two Pratt & Whitney Wasps shattered the morning air as the over-loaded ship reluctantly rolled forward. Earhart held the control wheel back to keep the tail-wheel on the ground while dancing gingerly on the rudder pedals to hold the plane straight as it gained speed. When it felt right she eased the wheel forward and the tail came up, allowing the Electra to race along on its two main wheels. This was the trickiest part of the takeoff. Any deviation from dead straight ahead could quickly get out of control and the airplane would try to swap ends in a “ground loop”, like a car spinning out on an icy road.
Witnesses saw the plane begin to drift toward the right-hand side of the runway. Earhart over-corrected and the plane swung into a hard left turn. As the tail came around, the right wing dipped to almost scrape the runway as the plane careened out of control. For a moment the plane balanced precariously on the right main wheel until the landing gear strut failed from the impossible side-load. The Electra came crashing down on its right wing and continued its spin to the left. The left landing gear immediately collapsed and the plane came to a stop sliding backward on its belly.
Fuel poured from a ruptured tank but miraculously there was no fire and crash trucks were quickly on the scene to hose down the area. Amelia and her crew were shaken but unhurt. The airplane was a wreck. Amelia vowed to try again and by noon that day she, Manning and Mantz were on an ocean liner headed home to California. It was left to the Army to prepare the aircraft for shipment back to Lockheed for repair.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Timemachine
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2016, 02:08:12 PM »

MARCH 21, 1937
As the Earhart party sailed for California aboard the Matson Lines' SS Malolo, the Army began preparing the wrecked Electra for shipment. Mantz judged the ship to be repairable but estimated that it would take Lockheed two or three months to fix the extensive damage.
Amelia was determined to try again and told the press that she was sure that the crash was due to a mechanical failure. The official Army accident investigation could find no evidence of a pre-crash failure but stopped short of ascribing the cause of the wreck to pilot error. Harry Manning did not. He was finished with Earhart and Putnam. Although the published reason for his departure from the team was that his leave of absence from his sea captain duties had expired, he privately made it clear that he had lost confidence in Amelia's piloting ability and he was fed up with Putnam's machinations. As the only person on the crew with expertise in radio, the loss of Manning was a serious set-back.
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Kurt Kummer

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Re: Timemachine
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2016, 11:51:11 PM »

Thanks Ric.  I can't wait to read what happens next.  Somehow the timeline is making it easier for me to understand how one thing lead to another.
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Joy Diane Forster

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Re: Timemachine
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2016, 09:37:21 AM »

This is really great!  I don't do Facebook, so thanks for posting it here.  It does provide a new perspective on the events as they unfolded.
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