Advanced search  
Pages: [1]   Go Down

Author Topic: Belly antenna loss  (Read 485 times)

Ric Gillespie

  • Executive Director
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 5804
  • "Do not try. Do or do not. There is no try" Yoda
Belly antenna loss
« on: September 02, 2020, 08:13:39 AM »

Nai'a co-owner and TIGHAR friend Bob Barrel writes:
"This comment popped up on the NAI’A YouTube channel. It may be nothing but I thought you should at least know about it….
 
'Well, her trailing antenna, VITAL for HF communications broke off during the PNG departure. I know, as I spoke to Sid Marshall as a teenager, who was a veteran pilot operating in PNG at the time. Sid also helps Earhart and Noonan re-fuel. One thing that always puzzles me is WHY Fred Noonan went along with it. I thought they would have turned around and landed to fix it, but the axel weight was too high for the landing gear.'
 

The Youtube comment is interesting.  He has several things wrong.  It wasn’t the trailing wire antenna that broke off.  The trailing wire was not re-installed after the Hawai'i accident.  It was the belly wire antenna that was lost on takeoff at Lae.  We’re not sure about its function but it was probably being used as the “sense” antenna” for the Bendix radio direction finder.  Due to the aircraft’s heavy weight, the aft mast supporting the antenna probably struck the ground while Earhart was turning around to take off at the far end of the field. The broken mast was then pulled along by the antenna wire during the takeoff run.  At some point, the token mast snagged on the ground and pulled the wire free.  With a gross weight of 15,000 pounds, none of this would be felt in the cockpit so Earhart and Noonan were unaware they had lost the antenna.

The most interesting thing about this account is that he attributes it to Sid Marshall.  Sid was, indeed, a veteran pilot operating in New Guinea and he was present for Earhart’s departure.  It was Sid Marshall who shot the famous 16mm home movie film of Earhart’s takeoff and it includes a puff of dust that may be the broken mast snagging on the ground.  The loss of the antenna was apparently common knowledge on the airport.  I first head the story from an American serviceman who was stationed in Lae during WWII.  We subsequently confirmed the event though forensic imaging of the film.
This is the first time I’ve heard that Sid Marshall knew about it.  What’s curious is that there is no mention of the incident in Guinea Airways manager Eric Chater’s detailed letter describing Earhart’s time in Lae nor is it mentioned in Aviation District Superintendent James Collopy’s letter describing the takeoff.
Logged

Simon Ellwood

  • TIGHAR member
  • *
  • Posts: 15
Re: Belly antenna loss
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2020, 09:17:19 AM »

It's interesting that 'everybody knew' about the loss of the antenna at Lae, but it seems that no attempt was made contact the aircraft to report the loss to Earhart. Had she known, presumably she'd realise her (admittedly doubtful in retrospect) DF capability was compromised and abort the flight?
Logged

Friend Weller

  • TIGHAR member
  • *
  • Posts: 149
Re: Belly antenna loss
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2020, 11:01:31 AM »

Depends on when the antenna wire/mast was discovered....if it was found the next day there obviously would have been no point.  If it was found right after take-off or even within an hour, relaying the message of "Come back, you left your antenna behind!" might have not been enough to get them to turn around.  Landing with nearly full tanks (could they even dump fuel?) and then having to get back in the air again with refilled tanks (flaps....what flaps?) mixed with a the usual amount of hubris and pluck would be yet another challenge.
Friend
TIGHAR 3086V
 
Logged

Ric Gillespie

  • Executive Director
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 5804
  • "Do not try. Do or do not. There is no try" Yoda
Re: Belly antenna loss
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2020, 11:39:32 AM »

If it was found right after take-off or even within an hour, relaying the message of "Come back, you left your antenna behind!" might have not been enough to get them to turn around.

Although the plan was for Earhart to report in to Lae at 18 minutes past every hour, she was five hours out before Lae heard anything from her and it was never clear whether she heard anything from them.  Apparently Balfour, the Lae radio operator, was not aware of the antenna loss anyway.

  Landing with nearly full tanks (could they even dump fuel?) and then having to get back in the air again with refilled tanks (flaps....what flaps?) mixed with a the usual amount of hubris and pluck would be yet another challenge.

A second Lae takeoff would be complicated by the fact that Earhart presumably used up her remaining 50 gallons of 100 octane fuel on the first departure.
Logged

Friend Weller

  • TIGHAR member
  • *
  • Posts: 149
Re: Belly antenna loss
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2020, 01:25:15 PM »

Those are exactly the conditions I had in mind....and you expressed them better than I did!   ;D
Friend
TIGHAR 3086V
 
Logged

Jon Romig

  • TIGHAR member
  • *
  • Posts: 93
Re: Belly antenna loss
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2020, 06:33:15 PM »

Would the assumption that it was a trailing wire antenna have reduced the importance/urgency to the point that the aviators who knew did not feel it was important to tell Earhart? Otherwise, I don’t get it.
Jon Romig 3562R
 
Logged

Jim Zanella

  • TIGHAR member
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: Belly antenna loss
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2020, 07:42:07 PM »

Did AEs trailing wire have a counterpoise? or is the airplane the counterpoise.
I have been in the business of wire VLF antennas for our airplanes for many years at the “balloon works” (Boeing).
We had a guillotine  switch in the flight deck on the pilots side if things went wrong and they did occasionally.
We guiltinetined the antenna once and killed a horse after that we were relegated to the pacific for flight test.
Jim
Logged

Ric Gillespie

  • Executive Director
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 5804
  • "Do not try. Do or do not. There is no try" Yoda
Re: Belly antenna loss
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2020, 10:49:29 AM »

Did AEs trailing wire have a counterpoise? or is the airplane the counterpoise.

It had a weight on the end, if that's what you mean.  But there was no trailing wire on the airplane during the second world flight attempt.

We guiltinetined the antenna once and killed a horse after that we were relegated to the pacific for flight test.

Not one of the risks we normally associate with horse ownership.
Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up
 

Copyright 2020 by TIGHAR, a non-profit foundation. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be reproduced by xerographic, photographic, digital or any other means for any purpose. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be stored in a retrieval system, copied, transmitted or transferred in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, digital, photographic, magnetic or otherwise, for any purpose without the express, written permission of TIGHAR. All rights reserved.

Contact us at: info@tighar.org • Phone: 610-467-1937 • Membership formwebmaster@tighar.org

Powered by MySQL SMF 2.0.15 | SMF © 2017, Simple Machines Powered by PHP