Advanced search  
Pages: [1] 2   Go Down

Author Topic: Get-there-itis  (Read 22908 times)

Chris Owens

  • T2
  • **
  • Posts: 64
Get-there-itis
« on: June 02, 2011, 01:33:24 PM »

A couple of threads in the navigation section have me trying once again to see into AE's and FN's mindset.

In a few days, you're about to head off on a trip where your life absolutely depends upon radio direction finding.  You take off on a test flight, and you can't get a good RDF bearing.  What do you do?  Do you look into the problem, or do you explain it away?

Then, you finally take off on the long trip.  If RDF fails you, you have a chance of saving your life by asking the Itasca to take a bearing on you. That depends upon two-way radio communication. Do you check to see that you've got good two-way comms before heading off into the unknown?

I know that this is Monday-morning quarterbacking in the extreme, but those two decisions alone point to an almost pathological indifference to risk. AE was reputed to be overly convinced of her own invincibility, but what about FN?  Why did he acquiesce to these two major blunders? 

Get-there-itis has claimed the lives of many pilots. Generally it comes in the form of an antsy customer, or some kind of personal timetable, or a deadline to meet.  Were any of these factors active here?  The whole decision-making process makes less and less sense to me the more I think it over.



Logged

Martin X. Moleski, SJ

  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 2905
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2011, 06:16:43 PM »

Get-there-itis has claimed the lives of many pilots. Generally it comes in the form of an antsy customer, or some kind of personal timetable, or a deadline to meet.  Were any of these factors active here?

There was, for a while, a hope that the flight might conclude on July 4th. 

By July 2nd, that was out of the question, according to Ric's outline of the second around-the-world attempt.

I'm not conscious of any other kind of deadline pressure.

Ah--of course, keeping the Coast Guard ship waiting at Howland might have been a consideration. 

LTM,

           Marty
           TIGHAR #2359A
 
Logged

Michael Frazier

  • T1
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2011, 08:05:54 AM »

That's exactly what makes me wonder too. The choice of equipment and supposed
failure of its proper use, if suitable at all, is one of the most puzzling points to me.

I can hardly imagine them not knowing exactly what they did. Besides that, there
must have been other people involved. No one makes decisions like this alone.

One antenna was lost during the departure at Lea. To me it's still not clear, if
this had any impact on the mission.

I don't know much about aviation, even less navigation. So I don't have a mind
of my own in this regard. However, a friend of mine has logged some thousand
hours as a captain on passenger aircraft. Considering what was in use then, in
his opinion even with a working equipment chances were to fail.

To me this casts a different light on the whole venture. But even considering
them overenthusiastic leaves us with more questions than answers.


Regards,
Michael
Logged

Don Dollinger

  • T3
  • ***
  • Posts: 239
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2011, 08:55:44 AM »

Quote
Considering what was in use then, in his opinion even with a working equipment chances were to fail.

You must take into consideration the fact that Fred Noonan was aboard.  He was one of the people instrumental in pioneering Pacific Ocean travel routes with American Airways.  Hardly, a slam dunk but IMHO "chance were to fail" is a bit of a stretch.

LTM,

Don
Logged

Martin X. Moleski, SJ

  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 2905
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2011, 09:04:23 AM »

... One antenna was lost during the departure at Lea. ...

I personally would say "it seems that one antenna was lost ..."  There are lots of assumptions involved in making this judgment and I'm not sure that this is a matter about which there is absolute certainty.

The loss of the antenna certainly would help account for the failure of the aircraft to hear any transmissions on 3105 kcs and 6210 kcs.  The only record we have of the crew hearing a transmission is on 7500 kcs at 1930 GMT, after they had selected the loop antenna for reception.

It would have been an interesting experiment for them to have asked for a voice transmission on 3105 kcs while leaving the loop antenna selected, but that thought does not seem to have crossed their minds or appealed to them if it did.  

Quote
To me it's still not clear, if this had any impact on the mission.

I would say that the failure of two-way communication was the final nail in their coffin.  There are so many things that might have been done differently if the folks on the Itasca could have give the crew instructions on what they needed to do to provide a transmission long enough to get a bearing and then to fly that bearing toward Howland.  If they had enough fuel to make Niku, they had enough fuel to make it to Howland.  With two-way communication and the proper use of their transmitter to give the Itasca time to get a bearing on them, the flight should have reached its destination.

Quote
I don't know much about aviation, even less navigation. So I don't have a mind
of my own in this regard. However, a friend of mine has logged some thousand
hours as a captain on passenger aircraft. Considering what was in use then, in
his opinion even with a working equipment chances were to fail.

Commercial flights flew safely to Hawaii and across the Pacific using the technology of the day.

The Navy pilots who searched from Hawaii and from the ships used the technology of the day.

My impression is that it was human errors that defeated them.
LTM,

           Marty
           TIGHAR #2359A
 
Logged

Michael Frazier

  • T1
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2011, 10:23:46 AM »

Thanks for the explanation.

As it was explained to me it makes a big difference if you are travelling on a well known
route supported by beacons and bearings or if you are on your own. Im afraid I can't judge
this.

FN was an expert for sure. The question is of a purely technical nature. So let me put
it another way: how close can you get to an arbitrary target in the middle of nowhere, using
a sextant sitting in a planes cockpit?

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be polemic but I still remember my friend laughing.
To me this only emphesizes the importance of getting a valid bearing while approaching
the target. Without it it's simply a hit-or-miss action. Missing Howland and hitting Niku.
A hit rate of 50% after all. As was pointed out to me, you can't expect more.
Even FN can't do better than the method.

Regards,
Michael
Logged

david alan atchason

  • T3
  • ***
  • Posts: 113
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2011, 10:34:33 AM »

I was thinking last night, the air search crew from the Colorado had no trouble  finding all the Phoenix Islands and Carondelet Reef, too, I believe. They were using the equipment of the day. Obviously, they were very well trained and experienced. Amelia's greatest talent was being Amelia, the celebrity. She didn't think somebody of her stature should be required to be qualified in details, coordination, planning, radio knowledge, navigation. Even for such a hazardous flight. True, it was more hazardous and difficult than what the Navy flyers were doing. I believe there was pressure for her to get it done. She was on her second attempt and even that was taking longer than it should have. The time value of her dwindling fame was ticking away. She needed to get that book published and the money rolling in, the sooner the better. I think the stress of all this was what was giving her the headaches, not her tooth. And the stress was not improving her skills.
Logged

Chris Owens

  • T2
  • **
  • Posts: 64
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2011, 11:05:16 AM »

David that sounds plausible to me.  I'm wondering about the entire psychology / group dynamics of the AE / FN duo; I think the question of how delusion spreads from one person to an entire group is an interesting one. There are ample cases of an entire team, usually operating under pressure and isolated from outside perspectives, thinking along the same, but wildly incorrect, lines.  In this case the team was two people (maybe 3 if you count George Putnam)...  Was AE's personal charisma so strong that FN got sucked into her worldview and started thinking that flying the leg without having successfully tested the RDF was OK?  Was there other pressure on him ("either you're in or I'm leaving you here, unpaid, in Lae?")
Logged

Michael Frazier

  • T1
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2011, 03:27:36 PM »

Interresting ideas. Fits nicely with "human errors". 

I entertain some doubt FN got ignored or was driven into something he
didn't support. On the other hand, who knows. Life is stranger than fiction.

I've got no idea how recon aircraft got their job done then. I'd be surprised
if they weren't backed or guided by the battleship somehow. It was certainly
not like: "Let's try finding the Phoenix Islands. Good luck." Starting back for
home must have been a safe bet too, I suppose.

Does anybody know about this?

Regards,
Michael
Logged

Monty Fowler

  • T5
  • *****
  • Posts: 1078
  • "The real answer is always the right answer."
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2011, 04:16:54 PM »

Michael, as for the Colorado's search planes, no, they were most emphatically not guided or controlled by the ship. This was 1937, remember - there was no radar, no homing gear, no LORAN or ZBX or any of the other "crude" navigational miracles that came about as WW II progressed. The naval aviators were taught navigation and the use of simple tools - a watch, a plotting board, a pencil, maybe a chart if warranted - and that was about it. They took off at a known time from a known position, and the ship was supposed to be at a known position when they were due to return. The Earhart searchers used charts (maps to us landlubbers) to get from where they were, the battleship, to each island, using those few tools. Yeah, it was crude, but most of the time, it got you where you needed to go.

During WW II, who knows how many reconnaisance planes (the dawn patrol guys) lost their lives when the carrier they left in the morning wasn't where it was supposed to be when they got back - conditions may have changed, a battle may have taken place, and the wartime rules about radio silence meant there was no way to get the word to the recon plane.

Military pilotes, as a rule, tend to be smart - Uncle Sam doesn't want morons piling his expensive little toys into the ocean or desert oe wherever unnecessarily. Naval aviators back then (and today, I would imagine) have to have an extra level of smarts due to the fact that their airfields move up and down and from side to side, so only the very brightest and the best make the cut.
Ex-TIGHAR member No. 2189 E C R SP, 1998-2016
 
Logged

Michael Frazier

  • T1
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2011, 06:24:49 PM »

Monty,

thank you for making this clear. This rounds off the picture.

Unapparent at first sight, going from Lae to Howland, sending
a recon plane from the Colorado to the Phoenix Islands and a
scheduled flight to Hawaii are different operations in regard to
navigation. At least in 1937.

If things get messed up it's difficult to understand what this is
all about.

Regards,
Michael
Logged

david alan atchason

  • T3
  • ***
  • Posts: 113
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2011, 08:55:37 PM »

I haven't read the book yet, but that one about the lost Flight 19 by Gian Quasar ought to shed a lot of light on the techniques Navy fliers used in 1945. Unfortunately for them the techniques didn't work very well that day. The subject of Fred Noonan sounds intriguing, too. Where did the stories or rumors come from about him being an alcoholic? Why did he leave his supposedly promising career at Pan Am to go with Amelia? I think I read in the archives here about his slightly bizarre love life. That doesn't mean he was a drunk but he seemed to be prone to rash decisions. I think I remember a TV program about Amelia that characterized her as an accident waiting to  happen and so other very competent aviators (who were experienced in radios and Morse Code) did not want to chance going with her.  I think there was a mindset in those days in the press to sugar coat the heros and heroines of the day and not present them as the rascals or scoundrels they sometimes really were. Or to dwell on their imperfections. I am reminded of an old saying about pilots that seems so trite I hesitate to say it, but here it is. "There are old pilots, there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots. Would this apply to our heroine?
Logged

Monty Fowler

  • T5
  • *****
  • Posts: 1078
  • "The real answer is always the right answer."
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2011, 08:50:22 AM »

For a contrasting view of what may have happened to Flight 19, may I suggest The Disappearance of Flight 19, by Larry Kusche? Not only is Kusche a pilot, but he sticks to primary souces like the Navy's exhaustive court of inquiry and interviews with surviving relatives, who contributed primary souce material (much of which, unattributed to Kusche, turns up in Quasar's book). He also has a detailed discussion of overwater navigation as practiced by Navy pilots during WW II. 

The book was still available used through Amazon or Barnes and Noble the last time I checked.
Ex-TIGHAR member No. 2189 E C R SP, 1998-2016
 
Logged

Chris Johnson

  • T5
  • *****
  • Posts: 1069
  • Trying to give a fig but would settle for $100,000
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2011, 05:13:28 AM »

The subject of Fred Noonan sounds intriguing, too. Where did the stories or rumors come from about him being an alcoholic? Why did he leave his supposedly promising career at Pan Am to go with Amelia? I think I read in the archives here about his slightly bizarre love life. That doesn't mean he was a drunk but he seemed to be prone to rash decisions.

David, some more light reading for you :)

The Noonan Project lite
Logged

david alan atchason

  • T3
  • ***
  • Posts: 113
Re: Get-there-itis
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2011, 06:02:40 PM »

Interesting. I think I have read the quote from Gore Vidal somewhere previously. I'm guessing Pan Am did can him for drinking, or at least not showing up, or some other jackpot he got himself into. Still, I believe he was a very good navigator and the fault probably does not lie with him. Even if he brought a jug with him on the plane to steady his nerves. Whatever happened with him, they were close enough to establish radio contact with the Itasca, which was the whole idea.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2   Go Up
 

Copyright 2018 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