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Author Topic: Fuel consumption?  (Read 1119 times)

Don Yee

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Fuel consumption?
« on: March 03, 2022, 09:46:28 AM »

After Amelia and Fred landed on the reef one would assume they had some fuel left in the tanks (as they were able to still start and run the engines to transmit during low tide). Has anyone done a calculation to determine the range of fuel levels left once those communications stopped? I ask as there was a post on another thread about how far the plane may have floated once it was swept off the reef given the buoyancy of the tanks (which would depend on how much fuel was left). We know she had full tanks when they left for Howland, and I'm guessing someone smarter than me could estimate fuel consumption based on her arrival at various check points. It's obviously more of an academic question than something that may lead to answers.

Also, a related question. Is there any evidence that fuel was used to start a fire at the camp (where the bottles, etc. were found)? I'm guessing they didn't have an easy way to remove the fuel (hoses) so unlikely.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Fuel consumption?
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2022, 10:33:26 AM »

Has anyone done a calculation to determine the range of fuel levels left once those communications stopped?

Yes.  It's impossible to say exactly, but the remains fuel would be minimal.

I ask as there was a post on another thread about how far the plane may have floated once it was swept off the reef given the buoyancy of the tanks (which would depend on how much fuel was left).

How long the plane would have floated, if at all, would depend on how badly it was damaged in the process of being washed into the ocean.  How far it would have floated would depend on sea conditions, currents, and wind.
There is no evidence the plane floated away and lots of evidence suggesting it broke up in the surf.

We know she had full tanks when they left for Howland, and I'm guessing someone smarter than me could estimate fuel consumption based on her arrival at various check points.

Yes, that has been done.

Also, a related question. Is there any evidence that fuel was used to start a fire at the camp (where the bottles, etc. were found)?

No.

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Don White

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Re: Fuel consumption?
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2022, 06:58:18 PM »

There are so many variables in the equation about fuel consumption as to produce answers with a margin of error that makes them useless. That there was enough to get to Howland and operate the radio for a few days seems clear (to us, anyway).

The notion that the airplane floated away and sank seems to me to be wishful thinking based on the hope that an intact, recognizable wreck is on the ocean floor just waiting to be found a la Titanic. But I see nothing to indicate it's anything more than wishful thinking, because there is so much more evidence that the plane broke up on the reef, and most of the remains were salvaged by the islanders or sank there. That there might be an identifiable wreck, or big pieces of it, there has been explored with only a few smallish artifacts found that may indeed be Electra parts. The big bits have not turned up. If they are there and big enough to find, the available search methods haven't seen them. There is always the chance that expanding a search or using new techniques might find something, but also a chance that anything remaining is too broken up and buried to find. I have addressed this in another thread.

As for fuel starting fires, it's an interesting idea, but seems unlikely (and is unsupported by the evidence) that they got any fuel out of the airplane -- they don't seem to have gotten much of anything out of the airplane. There has also been much discussion of this. If they got much stuff onto shore, it's not been found. I consider not only that they might have waited too long to try it, but also that given what I have read about walking on the reef flat, it would have been very difficult to carry anything ashore. I don't think I'd want to attempt (or be very good at) carrying an armload of stuff, on the wet reef, in leather-soled street shoes, after surviving a plane crash. Adrenaline and necessity might make it possible, though.

LTM,
Don




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James Champion

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Re: Fuel consumption?
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2022, 07:46:29 AM »

This is touching on something I've always wondered about - fuel drains. The added fuselage tanks would have been the lowest point of the fuel system on the plane. Was there a drain to check for water contamination or drain fuel? Seems outside access would be needed. Maybe through a small panel.

If the plane ended up on the reef, and wave action broke-off landing gear, the plane would have been on its belly. Could the drains then have been quickly damaged? That would leave these big tanks vented at the top (vapor vents) and open at the bottom. Plane would not have floated long.

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Don Yee

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Re: Fuel consumption?
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2022, 08:02:29 AM »

The big bits have not turned up. If they are there and big enough to find, the available search methods haven't seen them. There is always the chance that expanding a search or using new techniques might find something, but also a chance that anything remaining is too broken up and buried to find
LTM,
Don

The engines for me have always been the items that a) have likely survived, and b) would put the whole thing to rest given the ability to recover something identifiable (serial number, unique configuration of parts). They are big, heavy (>600 lbs each), and won't go easily into the night so to speak. Are they likely to be encrusted with marine growth? Almost definitely, but they are metal and a device set up to search for metal signals would be the solution. If the plane broke up and the engines came free they could have rolled down hill and be deeper and outside the historic search areas, but they will be there for a very long time. The other item that has been mentioned is the center section (keel). It's large and as I recall reading mostly only one large piece that was heavier than the rest of the frame. Could little items be found that confirm the hypothesis? Of course, but the odds are it will be one of the items mentioned above.
Don...
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Don White

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Re: Fuel consumption?
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2022, 04:42:23 PM »

Don to Don---

You've summed up the engine and/or keel -- the big, heavy parts -- correctly I think. There's been lots of discussion about those parts -- see past threads -- and of course there were high hopes of finding the engines in particular, as serial-numbered parts that could be positively identified if the numbers were still readable. I think it likely that they are still there, wherever "there" is. So either the exact right place hasn't been looked at, or they are buried too deep to detect with the means then available, or unrecognizable in their present condition. Besides that they might just be out of range of previous searches, that they are big round lumps of metal and the area they may be in, means they can easily be mistaken for coral boulders or lumps of Norwich City. Equally, those items could be mistaken for corroded, coral-encrusted radial engines. Intense review of video from previous searches yielded various false positives. The hope, such as it is, is that improvements in search technology and/or searching beyond previously-examined areas may reveal them. If we could see through a pile of rubble and debris, or we look at areas so far unsearched, they might turn up.

This is kind of related to the question of whether further land search might yield anything significant. It seems to me that if someone had the means to search every inch of the island, including clearing all the overgrowth, some artifacts would turn up. But would they be worth the resources it would take to find them? Would more bits of rubbish add measureably to the evidence? Might there be something clearly identifiable with Earhart still lurking on Niku? The people with the most experience have said they don't think so. How pleasant it would be, to be wealthy enough to find out.

LTM,
Don


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