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Author Topic: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.  (Read 450771 times)

Gary LaPook

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #105 on: January 06, 2012, 04:32:13 AM »

Is there evidence that the lights would be on at the Guano mines?  Was it a 24/7 operation or was there down time and thus 'lights off'?


I have noticed that others have not calculated correctly the distance that the lights of Nauru could be seen from the plane. I am attaching an excerpt from the American Practical Navigator, U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office Publication Number 9, (H.O. 9) including the table for calculating this distance. Earhart reported flying at 8,000 feet at 0718 Z and if she was still flying at this altitude then Table 8 shows the visibility to be 117.8 SM. This is similar to the values posted by others before. However, these other posters did not realize that they also had to allow for the height of the lights. In figuring the distance you can see a light you enter Table 8 with the height of the light and extract the distance that the light could be seen by an observer with his eye at sea level. You then enter the table with the height of the observer and extract the distance that the could see a light that was mounted at sea level. You then add these two distances together to get the distance that the light can be seen from the height of eye of the observer.

The lights on Nauru are 5,600 feet above sea level. Looking at Table 8 we see the distance for 5,000 feet is 93.1 SM and for 6,000 feet it is 102.0 SM so for a light mounted 5,600 feet above sea level the distance should be somewhere between these two values. Adding these numbers to the 117.8 SM for the height of only the plane we come up with a total distance that the lights could be seen of somewhere between 210.9 SM and 219.8 SM. This is just the geographic range determined by the curvature of the earth. However, powerful lights can often me seen at even greater distances due to their "loom." (See attached pages.)

Ontario was only 195 SM from Nauru near the course that Noonan would fly on the way to Nauru so they could have seen the lights of Nauru 25 SM before they could see Ontario (if they could ever see Ontario.)


gl
« Last Edit: January 06, 2012, 04:52:14 AM by Gary LaPook »
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Gary LaPook

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #106 on: January 06, 2012, 04:44:57 AM »


AE did send a telegram out stating that they were running late and that she wanted to inform the Ontario. If they had devised an alternative route by that point in time I am sure they would have advised someone on the ground or via telegram. If you are making such a risky journey chances are you would want to tell someone where you are headed in case you do not make it and they need to come searching for you. In that case it would be best to stick to the plan that everyone knew.

One piece of information would tend to contradict a Nauru fly over, the radio logs. First, at 10:30 GMT, they would have still been on an approach to Nauru even assuming 150 mph from the last known position. The 10:30 GMT report from Nauru stated "fairly strong signals, speech not intelligible". At 14:10 GMT the Itasca Bridge reported hearing Earhart, at 14:15 GMT the Itasca radio room reporting hearing her. There was not report from Nauru about the these transmissions suggesting that the Electra was already out of radio range. This would tend to suggest that at 10:30 GMT they were closer to Nauru than they were at 14:10, 40 minutes later. I suppose if you tossed in a radio doughnut hole theory this might still be plausible.

As Ric would say, speculation. Do you have a copy of any flight plan that Earhart filed stating that they were going to fly directly to Howland or are you relying in the outdated Williams strip chart? If they did not affirmatively say that they were going to follow the route you imagine then they had no reason to tell anybody of a change to go over Nauru.

When you get out over the ocean you are on your own, even today, since you are out of radar range from the shore, so you can do anything you want out there. This was even  more true in Earhart's day.

How is 14:10 only 40 minutes after 10:30?  It looks like 3:40 to me.

gl
« Last Edit: January 06, 2012, 04:50:44 AM by Gary LaPook »
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Heath Smith

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #107 on: January 06, 2012, 05:32:24 AM »

Quote
How is 14:10 only 40 minutes after 10:30?  It looks like 3:40 to me.

The reason is that I should not be posting before I have coffee. lol

But even though I am incapacitated in the morning, we can surmise that AE would have continued the half hour regular reports. None were heard so we can guess that they were probably out of range of Nauru by the next report. I have not found any documentation about faint signals from Nauru, do they exist?
« Last Edit: January 06, 2012, 05:44:22 AM by Heath Smith »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #108 on: January 06, 2012, 07:08:28 AM »

So the island would have been lit up like a quarry or open mine being worked at night which would look different to a few lights on a ship?  Glare of flood lights on guano making for a larger area of light, seen at a greater distance.  Sure FN would spot the difference.

The telegram Gary quoted was to Earhart and Noonan.

One would think that would have suggested that they should do their level best to distinguish between lights on Nauru and shipping lights.

But, then again, I don't think either Earhart or Noonan was infallible, nor do I like putting too much weight on "coulda, woulda, shoulda" arguments.

Gary apparently is holding two discordant thoughts simultaneously: Noonan had to have taken usable star sightings (he called Jacobson's assumption to the contrary "GIGO") and he had to have navigated well north of the planned route in order to see Nauru rather than the Ontario or the Myrtlebank.

In my mental simulation of the flight, I'd assign flying close enough to Nauru a low, but not non-zero probability.
LTM,

           Marty
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #109 on: January 06, 2012, 07:24:28 AM »

I have attached another chart showing two options for flying from the position reported in the 0718 Z radio transmission to Howland. Flying directly to Howland is 1,716 SM while over flying Nauru to Howland is 1,746 SM, only 30 SM longer, about 12 minutes more flying time, about eight gallons of gas.

The assumption you are making in your calculation is that after flying on the approximation of the great circle route to the 0718 Z position, Noonan then abandoned the preplanned flight segments and started from scratch to add time and distance to the route.  Only if he decides to do so from 0718 Z does he "only" spend 12 minutes and 8 gallons of gas.

But he could have saved even more by flying directly to the Naura light from Lae.

He couldn't wait to decide the issue until he missed the Ontario and still have the fuel and time economy that you have calculated--nor the blessed assurance that he would be able to find Nauru as a way of finding where he was.

You're not talking about the natural variations from a flight path that happen all the time.  You're talking about charting an entirely different course.

I don't see any indication in the radio traffic that supports your contention that Noonan didn't want the Ontario on station around the mid-point of the flight.  Quite the contrary. 
LTM,

           Marty
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John Ousterhout

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #110 on: January 06, 2012, 08:25:48 AM »

You don't have to fly directly over a light to use it for a navigation fix.  Even the Nauru loom could give usable azimuth bearings from 100+ miles away.  I agree with Gary - don't fixate on the straight lines drawn on a map.
If AE said "ship", then I'm inclined to assume they correctly determined they saw a ship.  If she said "lights", then the message is ambiguous.  Why do the records disagree?

Also, GL sez: "...The lights on Nauru are 5,600 feet above sea level."  According to the telegram, that's the height of the 5000 cp fixed light (singular), not necessarily the lights (plural) from the mining operation.  What do we know about the altitude of the mine?  The fixed nav light would likely have been on the highest point of land, and on a tower.  The mine would obviously have been at some lower altitude.
Cheers,
JohnO
 
« Last Edit: January 06, 2012, 08:36:08 AM by John Ousterhout »
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Richard C Cooke

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #111 on: January 06, 2012, 09:08:44 AM »

Maybe they didn't think precise position reports mattered.
I think I would upgrade this one from "Maybe" to "Definitely"  ::)

rc
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Gary LaPook

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #112 on: January 06, 2012, 10:55:13 AM »

I have attached another chart showing two options for flying from the position reported in the 0718 Z radio transmission to Howland. Flying directly to Howland is 1,716 SM while over flying Nauru to Howland is 1,746 SM, only 30 SM longer, about 12 minutes more flying time, about eight gallons of gas.

The assumption you are making in your calculation is that after flying on the approximation of the great circle route to the 0718 Z position, Noonan then abandoned the preplanned flight segments and started from scratch to add time and distance to the route.  Only if he decides to do so from 0718 Z does he "only" spend 12 minutes and 8 gallons of gas.

But he could have saved even more by flying directly to the Naura light from Lae.

He couldn't wait to decide the issue until he missed the Ontario and still have the fuel and time economy that you have calculated--nor the blessed assurance that he would be able to find Nauru as a way of finding where he was.

You're not talking about the natural variations from a flight path that happen all the time.  You're talking about charting an entirely different course.

I don't see any indication in the radio traffic that supports your contention that Noonan didn't want the Ontario on station around the mid-point of the flight.  Quite the contrary.
"Belt  and suspenders," he could have both, he didn't have to choose.  Because Ontario was planned to send out a radio beacon so they didn't have to aim directly towards the Ontario to come within range of the radio beacon, if they started receiving it then they could turn directly towards Ontario (similar to flying the offset approach to Howland.)

It was not a very different course and added only 10 SM to the flight.

gl
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #113 on: January 06, 2012, 11:22:05 AM »

You don't have to fly directly over a light to use it for a navigation fix.  Even the Nauru loom could give usable azimuth bearings from 100+ miles away.  I agree with Gary - don't fixate on the straight lines drawn on a map.

Don't obliterate what little data we have with idle speculation, either.

The text is, "Ship in sight ahead," not "Light in sight to port."

Quote
If AE said "ship", then I'm inclined to assume they correctly determined they saw a ship.  If she said "lights", then the message is ambiguous.  Why do the records disagree?

There is a clue in Ric's original post on this topic in this Forum not so long ago.

I know how hard it is for folks to navigate the website.  Rather than asking you to dredge up the post from this April, let me reprint it here for you.  Then you won't even have to click on a link to get up to speed on the controversy.

Ric Gillespie, Forum, 25 April 2011, to van Asten:

"The original source is a State Department telegram from Sydney, Australia dated July 3m 1937, which reads: “Amalgamated Wireless state information received that report from ‘Nauru’ was sent to Bolinas Radio ‘at 6.31, 6.43 and 6.54 PM Sydney time today on 48.31 meters (6210 kHz), fairly strong signals, speech not intelligible, no hum of plane in background but voice similar that emitted from plane in flight last night between 4.30 and 9.30 P.M.’ Message from plane when at least 60 miles south of Nauru received 8.30 P.M. Sydney time, July 2 saying ‘A ship in sight ahead.’ Since identified as steamer Myrtle Bank sic which arrived Nauru daybreak today."

"Unless Mr. Cude  produced the actual radio log for that night, the contemporary written record (the State Dept. telegram) trumps his 20+ year-old recollection."

Quote
What do we know about the altitude of the mine?  The fixed nav light would likely have been on the highest point of land, and on a tower.  The mine would obviously have been at some lower altitude.

"We" can find this by using the astonishingly easy Google search on this page to find out what has been suggested in the past.

Date:         Wed, 1 Nov 2000 09:48:37 EST
From:         Ross Devitt
Subject:      Re: Navigation discussion

Depending how close they were to the equator they possibly could see
Nauru workings at night from altitude as a glow in the distance.  I
believe the guano workings were at an altitude of around 180 feet
above sea level.  A 5000 candlepower light 5600 feet above sea
level may only be visible to ships at 34 miles, but to an aircraft
at 9000 feet it is a whole other ball game.  One or two degrees
from the equator and they just might see, given a few breaks in the
clouds.  Bearing in mind it was not just one light, but the greater
part of an island that was lit up.

Picture flying at night - and how far away you can see small towns
at night. Then add the light high up for good measure.  One thing
that does bother me though.  I thought Nauru's elevation was about
180 feet.  The phosphate workings were.

The CIA Fact book confirms this elevation.
LTM,

           Marty
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« Last Edit: January 06, 2012, 11:27:20 AM by Martin X. Moleski, SJ »
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JNev

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #114 on: January 06, 2012, 12:17:25 PM »

That's a wild set of possibilities for different nav paths - and I can see logic in some of it.  I can also see strong logic in sticking to a more direct route and relying on distantly visible lights (or their glow), etc.

Whether there was an intentional change enroute, deviation northward, lost-and-found exercise, plenty of unannounced star shots or FN passed-out in the cabin, what bearing does this all have on AE announcing approach to Howland, believing 'must be on' same, and finally describing 'on the line'?  Something made her believe those things, but they did not 'bear' out for her, did they?

FN was either on top of things and guiding her (I would hope), a contributor at some level (compromised - hope not), or AE was stuck doing best on pilotage from whatever last firm position they had (no wonder she never found Howland...).

As has been pointed out, my ESP, however wonderful, isn't likely to win any horse races.
I'd like to think FN didn't really have an incapacitating issue, but "Was Noonan a drunkard?" isn't easily dismissed.  Gore Vidal's recollection is 'sobering' to me now:

"Gore Vidal: "Well, just the night before the final flight, she reported in and they had a code phrase, 'personnel problems,' which meant Noonan was back drinking. And my father said, 'Just stop it right now and come home,' and G.P. agreed and said, 'Come back, abort the flight, forget it, come home.' And then she said, 'Oh, no,' and she said, 'I think it’ll be all right,' something like that. So you may put that down to invincible optimism or it may have been huge pessimism."

I'm not saying that to tar poor FN, but it's hard to ignore when we still really can't account so well for how NR16020 failed to appear at Howland after what should have been a fairly basic exercise for a sober navigator like Noonan.  One could also 'wonder' (ESP again) about a possible lack of a second set of eyeballs looking out for the island - I believe the 1967 re-creation flight found itself dependent on that approach when they finally spotted Howland.

"Personnel unfitness" (or if "personal unfitness") was apparently a very private term devised between AE and GP which seems intended to import real meaning but without bringing negatives to the light in their publicity efforts.  What was so dark about it that they didn't want it creeping into the headlines?

If the Vidal observation is reliable the term carried potentially grave meanings - it would be no light thing to cancel plans, and AE resisted it at least on the occasion mentioned by Vidal.

Could AE have toughed it out without FN's full help and pressed on by dead reckoning after reporting "ship" or "lights"? 
Could she have had enough savvy to note time and apparent sunrise to gain what she thought was a good LOP through Howland?
Would she have considered such a thing, or would she have turned back?

Now I'll use my "ESP" again (call it what you will) and share some thoughts (that's all they are - I don't "know" what happened) -

- She could have toughed it out.
- She might have believed enough about herself to think she could discern distance-east (longitude) by sunrise / time (FN had run her through a similar arrival exercise on trip from Oakland to Hawaii) and thereby to find a LOP through Howland.
- She may well have considered such a thing - and may have acted on it.  At least by Gore Vidal's recollection, AE also had a tendency to 'tough things out' - better die than look bad is about how it comes across.

If AE did act on this -
- Could she have arrived at a reasonable LOP that would pass 337 - 157 through Howland?

I'll upset at least half the audience here and say I believe she well might have: IF she had a chart in hand with the concept in front of her, she was smart enough to 'get' the concept.  I don't know about a time piece, but at least in basic form it is quite within reason that she could have set a time piece as closely to FN's as possible.

We'll never know how much advance discussion AE and FN may have had about the navigation planning - I would hope 'a great deal' but we can't know.  We see her as something of a charming dingbat at times - but she was not stupid or completely devoid of aeronautical capability (and certainly had more large cabin-class twin time and trans-oceanic flight time by the time she was lost than I've had in a lifetime).

So, IF she did attain the LOP / close to it, HOW could she miss Howland?
- Only one set of eyeballs?  Possible.
- LOP off?  Quite possible.

Could she have still made her way to Gardner?
Possibly so.

Coulda-shoulda-woulda and lots of ESP, for sure.  I don't know what happened except that they missed Howland somehow.

I am compelled by the evidence found on Gardner of castaway(s) - there have been too many tell-tale items that are gender / time / article-specific to someone 'like' AE that have been found there. 
I am compelled by the evidence of credible post-loss radio signals.
I am compelled by the nature of the fringing reef in that place, it's ability to support a landing - and then to hide the evidence later.
I am also still compelled by the hypothesis and how it is supported by so many painstakingly developed details of how the LOP could have been flown down to Gardner.  I am not alone: the navy seemed to grasp the concept at the time.

I don't know how they got into the fix, but despite that I still see Gardner (Niku) as the best ground to search today - more than ever.

MUCH LTM - and Gore, and bless FN, I wonder so...
- Jeff Neville

Former Member 3074R
 
« Last Edit: January 06, 2012, 04:52:41 PM by Jeff Neville »
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #115 on: January 06, 2012, 12:56:27 PM »

Also, GL sez: "...The lights on Nauru are 5,600 feet above sea level. According to the telegram, that's the height of the 5000 cp fixed light (singular), not necessarily the lights (plural) from the mining operation.  What do we know about the altitude of the mine?  The fixed nav light would likely have been on the highest point of land, and on a tower.  The mine would obviously have been at some lower altitude.

Stupid question but Wikipedia (font of all accurate knowledge) states the highest point of the island is is 200ft so thats got to be some tall mother of a lighting rig?

Right on Chris   Nauru has an elevation of 180' above sea level.  No mountains or hills.  Yet somehow there is a light that is 5600 feet above sea level which is twice the height of the worlds tallest free standing structure.  See this Wilipedia link.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_and_structures_in_the_world#Tallest_structure_by_category   
Something seems not right with the reported elevation.  Todays tallest guyed masts are tv towers typically topping out at 1330 feet.
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #116 on: January 06, 2012, 01:34:55 PM »

That's a wild set of possibilities for different nav paths - and I can see logic in some of it.  I can also see strong logic in sticking to a more direct route and relying on distantly visible lights (or their glow), etc.

Whether there was an intentional change enroute, deviation northward, lost-and-found exercise, plenty of unannounced star shots or FN passed-out in the cabin, what bearing does this all have on AE announcing approach to Howland, believing 'must be on' same, and finally describing 'on the line'?  Something made her believe those things, but they did not 'bear' out for her, did they?


I have to agree with you Jeff.  See this quote from Ameliapedia.  Fifteen minutes later, Earhart sent a telegram to George Putnam:
""Radio misunderstanding and personnel unfitness probably will hold one day. Have asked Black for forecast for tomorrow. You check meteorologist on job as FN must have star sights." Earhart is concerned about the weather forecasts (she hasn’t received any that are worthwhile), and is clearly concerned either about the radio protocol arrangements or about the time signals needed for Noonan’s calibration of his chronometers. Much discussion by various researchers as to the meaning of "personnel unfitness" has been put forth, without any consensus.".  Full article at http://tighar.org/wiki/Delayed_in_Lae
No one wants to think that FN had a drinking problem and was incapacitated enough that this contributed to not finding Howland but it must be considered.   I do believe AE got somewhere close to Howland and just didnt see it.    Then flew the LOP to Gardner.
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #117 on: January 06, 2012, 04:59:54 PM »

"Was Noonan a drunkard?" isn't easily dismissed.

It is infinitely arguable.

Quote
Gore Vidal's recollection is 'sobering' to me now:

"Gore Vidal: "Well, just the night before the final flight, she reported in and they had a code phrase, 'personnel problems,' which meant Noonan was back drinking. And my father said, 'Just stop it right now and come home,' and G.P. agreed and said, 'Come back, abort the flight, forget it, come home.' And then she said, 'Oh, no,' and she said, 'I think it’ll be all right,' something like that. So you may put that down to invincible optimism or it may have been huge pessimism."

Gore Vidal's recollection sounds over-the-top.  GP and AE did not talk on the telephone when she was in Lae.  Gore is telling the story as if they were.  Something is very fishy about that.  It makes me think that GV was not an ear-witness.

Quote
I'm not saying that to tar poor FN, but it's hard to ignore when we still really can't account so well for how NR16020 failed to appear at Howland after what should have been a fairly basic exercise for a sober navigator like Noonan.

Why should our inability to account for the loss count against Noonan?

We have unanswered questions.  He has unsubmitted answers.

He got them within range to use RDF to home in on the island.  That's what he did for Pan Am.  If AE hadn't made such a thorough hash out of flight planning and radio preparation, we wouldn't be here today.

Quote
"Personnel unfitness" (or if "personal unfitness") was apparently a very private term devised between AE and GP which seems intended to import real meaning but without bringing negatives to the light in their publicity efforts.  What was so dark about it that they didn't want it creeping into the headlines?

They didn't want to spend money to transmit extra words.

I don't believe Gore's recollections about a "secret code" are at all reliable.

Quote
If AE did act on this -
- Could she have arrived at a reasonable LOP that would pass 337 - 157 through Howland?

Do you mean to ask, "Could a well-equipped, well-trained pilot dead reckon and fly the plane at the same time?"  The answer
is "yes."  Wiley Post flew around the world solo, acting as his own navigator, in 1933.

Could Amelia have done so?  My own view is "No."  YMMV.

Quote
I'll upset at least half the audience here and say I believe she well might have: IF she had a chart in hand with the concept in front of her, she was smart enough to 'get' the concept.  I don't know about a time piece, but at least in basic form it is quite within reason that she would have set a time piece as closely to FN's as possible.

No, I'm not upset.  Things that are asserted as exercises in fantasy may be dismissed as fantasy.  It doesn't take any research to have a brainstorm nor does it take any research to reject a brainstorm.
LTM,

           Marty
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Gary LaPook

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #118 on: January 06, 2012, 07:11:33 PM »

Also, GL sez: "...The lights on Nauru are 5,600 feet above sea level. According to the telegram, that's the height of the 5000 cp fixed light (singular), not necessarily the lights (plural) from the mining operation.  What do we know about the altitude of the mine?  The fixed nav light would likely have been on the highest point of land, and on a tower.  The mine would obviously have been at some lower altitude.

Stupid question but Wikipedia (font of all accurate knowledge) states the highest point of the island is is 200ft so thats got to be some tall mother of a lighting rig?

Right on Chris   Nauru has an elevation of 180' above sea level.  No mountains or hills.  Yet somehow there is a light that is 5600 feet above sea level which is twice the height of the worlds tallest free standing structure.  See this Wilipedia link.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_and_structures_in_the_world#Tallest_structure_by_category   
Something seems not right with the reported elevation.  Todays tallest guyed masts are tv towers typically topping out at 1330 feet.
Well, duh, what did you expect? Remember what they were doing there, they were shoveling that mountain of guano into ships so it is no wonder that the island is a lot lower today, 75 years later, than it was in 1937.

gl
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JNev

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Re: The flight plan, magnetic course, headwinds.
« Reply #119 on: January 06, 2012, 07:22:00 PM »

"Was Noonan a drunkard?" isn't easily dismissed.

It is infinitely arguable.

JN - Yes, as are so many things about the disappearance.

Quote
Gore Vidal's recollection is 'sobering' to me now:

"Gore Vidal: "Well, just the night before the final flight, she reported in and they had a code phrase, 'personnel problems,' which meant Noonan was back drinking. And my father said, 'Just stop it right now and come home,' and G.P. agreed and said, 'Come back, abort the flight, forget it, come home.' And then she said, 'Oh, no,' and she said, 'I think it’ll be all right,' something like that. So you may put that down to invincible optimism or it may have been huge pessimism."

Gore Vidal's recollection sounds over-the-top.  GP and AE did not talk on the telephone when she was in Lae.  Gore is telling the story as if they were.  Something is very fishy about that.  It makes me think that GV was not an ear-witness.

JN - I considered that - and agree, no, they did not 'speak' the way Vidal 'recalls'.  I doubt Gore Vidal was an eyewitness - I think it is more likely that he's recounting something told by his father Gene, the director of the Bureau of Air Commerce, who was close to Earhart and Putnam.  He seems to be summing up an understanding of an exchange, perhaps as told by Putnam well after the fact.  That would make it about... third hand, if so.  He WAS closer to the people involved than you or I though, wasn't he?

I find it interesting: we can see that the first part of his statement is true - the 'personnel problems' comment is accurate enough; did he then go 'over the top' for some reason about the rest of it?  You say it 'sounds' over the top; I may see it as a retelling of an understanding - and 'why would he create a fictional outcome of the report?  I believe FN's situation may well have had a bearing on the outcome of the flight that followed.  Although he was not fired by Pan Am apparently, he left abruptly in protest.  What was this guy really like?  He could be cool in public - emerged unscathed and unrattled after folding his charts in the Lockheed after it ground looped at Luke Field and stated he was ready for the next flight with AE whenever she was ready; he could also run short on patience and walk away even as people like Musick were trying to get better arrangements for Pan Am crews - after a significant personal contribution to success.  He was articulate - and seems to have had some thirst (pardon expression...) for publicity.  He moved himself to Texas briefly to establish residence for a divorce before undertaking the world flight, did divorce from Mexico.  I'm not trying to indict him - and could not anyway: can't prove anything.  I also admire his talents - and to some degree his charm, and regret his loss.  But somehow I'm just not getting a sense of a super-stable fellow here.  Nope - probably not fair - but I'm not really trying to judge a man who can't answer, just trying to understand what may have gone on.

I also get a reinforced sense of AE being willing to make a concession or two too many for her own good for the sake of completing the flight, against better judgment.


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I'm not saying that to tar poor FN...

Why should our inability to account for the loss count against Noonan?

We have unanswered questions.  He has unsubmitted answers.

He got them within range to use RDF to home in on the island.  That's what he did for Pan Am.  If AE hadn't made such a thorough hash out of flight planning and radio preparation, we wouldn't be here today.

JN - AE and FN both have unsubmitted answers.  Fred should have been fairly smart about RDF limitations - where was his alarm?  This actually goes straight to my thinking about one thing wrong with the flight - flaws in the humans (both) that disabled the outcome. 

We think he got them within range to use RDF.  How do you know they ever got that close?  I'm not keeping score so my opinion doesn't have to count 'against' a dead man.

Nor must it count solely 'against' a dead woman who had her failings, you see - 

FN wasn't entirely the victim of AE's hash; he had far more experience in airplanes reliant on RDF than AE did - should I believe he should be so ignorant of the equipment, capabilities and limitations? 

She was PIC, for sure - the safety of the flight lies with her; but what was FN doing all that way to not spot a glaring deficiency or two regarding coordination of frequencies, etc.?  Can't speak for FN, but if you put my country butt in the back of NR16020 with a trans-oceanic newby like AE up front and no boat bottom under us to navigate that far and home in on a beacon, I'm going to be looking into the arrangements pretty firmly with all I do know, especially after a steller experience with Pan Am, etc.  That's a crack in the perception of FN as the perfect navigator: he wasn't that pefect - it's evident to me that he wasn't applying his full acumen to this flight. 

A blinding quest for publicity by AE and FN may have been more of the culprit than anything else - and I think both of them had plenty of flaws (there's a little speculation for you - but note I called it what it was).


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"Personnel unfitness" (or if "personal unfitness") was apparently a very private term devised between AE and GP which seems intended to import real meaning but without bringing negatives to the light in their publicity efforts.  What was so dark about it that they didn't want it creeping into the headlines?

They didn't want to spend money to transmit extra words.

I don't believe Gore's recollections about a "secret code" are at all reliable.

JN - Well, it was 'code' of sorts, and it meant something they both apparently would understand, didn't it?  But maybe it saved them 40 cents of so from having to say "...dammit George, Fred's drinking again - I need at least 12 hours to stop him and get him to set his watches...".  Gee, what better way to get all that 'straight' for the public than a well-observed FN setting his times so deliberately? 
That's kind of nice - but of course what ELSE would we expect of FN?  Not to ask AE if she bothered to get the radio-stuff straight for that last 60 miles... oh no.
 
Just a thought. 
You know what I think; we each have our thoughts on the matter. 
That's all they are - that's all I've claimed. 

Point really is: NR16020's crew's behavior.


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If AE did act on this -
- Could she have arrived at a reasonable LOP that would pass 337 - 157 through Howland?

Do you mean to ask, "Could a well-equipped, well-trained pilot dead reckon and fly the plane at the same time?"  The answer
is "yes."  Wiley Post flew around the world solo, acting as his own navigator, in 1933.

Could Amelia have done so?  My own view is "No."  YMMV.


JN - No, I asked what I meant to ask (actually more like postulated) - whether AE might have.

But you do admit the possibility of the feat, if not by the particular person (and I take it that you mean you don't believe AE could - you couldn't possibly know that).  That's at least two of us...

Post (my favorite Golden Ager) - "MAYBE".  You are more optimistic than I am.

Post is a wonderful hero to me.  He also cracked-up Winnie Mae more than once (once on a round-the-worlder - first or second I don't recall) - and inadvisably flew off in a Lockheed hybrid with over-sized wing and floats and an undersized tail-plane resulting in a nasty pitch-over after engine loss / stall in Alaska, killing himself and Rogers. 

The one-eyed forgotten eagle also had many triumphs - some like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.  He was our first 'astronaut' in a great way, considering the time.  Great mind and more guts than were good for him.  Highly intuitive and apparently persuasive.  Maybe even a man of... 'fantasy'... at times -

How else to dream of such goals?  How else to pursue greater understanding than to first conceive?  How else to get into so much trouble... yes, the risk of 'fantasy' is real, I agree.

Post also never took on a landfall challenge ANYTHING like Howland - he flew a northern, shorter route with greater landmasses to hit.  Siberia was no doubt a major effort, but we'll never know.  MAYBE.

Shoo-in for AE?  NO. 
Against the odds?  We're still looking for her, aren't we?  I'd say "yes - and she apparently missed by enough to at least not spot Howland island".
Possible?  MAYBE.
Fly the headings and pray hard for calm air, call in at first light in east, turn right (or left...) at dawn, or after a presumed interval by the clock - and tell the world all is soon to be well... and she believed it.  I do believe that.
She was a cool one, whatever else failed her.  Better die than look bad, seems to me.  Gutsy.
She failed herself and Noonan (even if he was drunk); Howland failed her. 
I think maybe Gardner did not. 

Big, colorful thing, Gardner.  Might have been relatively forgiving that day - imagine doing your best to hang in there on a LOP that you hope will lead to something and stumbling on that big bright lagooned ring just when you need it most. 
Hard to say when it might have been spotted, too.  I've seen almost nothing among all our strings approaching optic 'looming', etc. although 'dip' in celnav terms has been covered.  Funny how things appear - and disappear - on the ocean; the atmosphere is a really weird lens.  But I think I've seen more on the effects of islander's testicles giving navigation clues than anything about long-distance visual cues...

Post was really good.  He also had some luck at times - who knows...


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I'll upset at least half the audience here and say I believe she well might have: ...

No, I'm not upset.  Things that are asserted as exercises in fantasy may be dismissed as fantasy.  It doesn't take any research to have a brainstorm nor does it take any research to reject a brainstorm.

JN - Didn't think you would be; me either, Marty.  But I've learned that some of these harebrained 'suggestions' bring out the color in many of us  ;)
Exercise in fantasy?  Don't feel so threatened - I've said nothing to even criticize the Gardner landing hypothesis - and in fact have said I believe it as the most likely outcome.  Nothing here excludes that possibility.

But, fantasy?  Do I really violate the bounds of reason here?  I've proceeded more by reason and given observations than by the heart of the poet (wouldn't you know it).

Last time I checked I came to suspect that I am perhaps more rational and capable of critical  thought than either AE or FN when they departed Lae... but dismiss as fantasy as you will.  Fanciful.

I could go after some other things here and hypotheses as fantasy too - but choose to cling to hope out of 'reason' and in a spirit of seeking to understand what went in history.  'Reason' is a thing of the mind - all you disagree with is not necessarily 'fantasy'.

I'm not claiming any new research in this - but brainstorms (thanks for the credit) can certainly be based on existing material (which I have cited) and reason - as this one is, I believe.
TIGHAR's own hard-won hypotheses are not all based on new 'research' at all so much as on a learning and applying of historic things as much as possible - and then by connecting rational dots by reason.  SOMEONE had a fairly 'fanciful' mind to CONCIEVE of some of the things that led to the fruit that's been found - that's the value of 'brainstorm'. 
Interesting, but we all have an ox I suppose.  It also takes no research to reject a rejection; you have your oxen, I mine.


Comments in blue above.  Ideas, Marty - that's all they are - with reason.

It's odd to me that they missed that island - until I think about the way AE and FN were (mal)functioning at the beginning of the flight - that raises so many doubts. 

Some things are obvious:
Money might have been better spent at the telegraph office giving information about radio coordination, etc. instead of 'personnel problems' and trying to get the 'business' straight.  What was the evident priority?  Coordination with the publicist was primary; flight and navigation specifics were given over to second-hand. 

What a shabby outfit -
- A lady who wanted to fly at any cost and scrambled for just the right publicity,
- A shoe-string backer in GP (yes, money was a real concern) who allowed his wife to go around the world but on the condition of having to scramble for telegraph change,
- An able navigator with a mix of charm (letter to Weems, manager of many former aviation enterprises, colofrul, unruffled master navigator and master) and hints of darkness (protest resignation from Pan Am, alcoholism dismissed as 'norm' among pilots of his time, a convoluted divorce arrangement, so many different roles as manager of so many aviation enterprises... ever think about that?  Didn't stay put much...) in his character...

Not indictments against the dead.  Just observations - and beginning to have less wonder at 'what went wrong'.

Where was FN's insistence in getting this right?  I'm not convinced FN was using all of his acumen - except for the clock-setting exercise, the guy that left Lae doesn't seem like the same guy that glowed aboard NR16020 from Oakland to Hawaii.  Of course he can't be directly reported on, so we don't know.

We know that FN visibly 'got it right' with the timepieces - that's a beautiful shot of the able navigator.  But FN also had seen RDF used more with Pan Am than AE would ever see - can he not have realized the gravity of it?  I don't buy that he was ignorant of the need for coordination of frequencies, etc... you don't get to be a ship's master, master oceanic navigator for the first major trans-oceanic airline and pilot to boot without realizing something about that sort of stuff.  Call it speculation if you will, but I suggest he had more understanding of RDF than is usually assumed.  So why didn't he apply it?

Too many odd things.  Two very odd people on a critically long flight to a puny island.  Odd, but not bad people; flawed, like us all.  Ambition: much hunger for glowing success and image in a pencil-thin mustache aviation era.  Despite all, lost; too much cast onto the air gods.  I think luck finally found them at Gardner, personally; I think it then went out a few days later with the tide.

Much to understand.

LTM -
- Jeff Neville

Former Member 3074R
 
« Last Edit: January 06, 2012, 08:22:48 PM by Jeff Neville »
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