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Amelia Earhart

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Redsetter02/07/2018 15:34:56
132 forum posts

Today is the 81st anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in a Lockheed Electra over the Pacific.

Whatever you may think of AE as a person or as a pilot, she had plenty of guts. She had a good aeroplane (or should that be airplane?) and plenty of fuel, and she was used to flying long distances over water.

So, what went wrong?

Brian G02/07/2018 16:03:56
705 forum posts
28 photos

Big ocean, little island?


Bob Stevenson02/07/2018 16:16:22
411 forum posts
6 photos

A while back there was an interesting item about her on the BBC website. It was suggested that she landed on a pacific island which has been discretely militarised by the Japanese. She was arrested and apparently kept a prisoner until well into WWII when she either died of her harsh treatment or was executed. The plane was broken up and hidden in the jungle but parts apparently were discovered a few years ago.

The Japs regarded her as a spy and there is indeed a suggestion that she had been asked by US Gov sources to find out about the discrete militarisation of Pacific islands by the Japs.

Jon Lawes02/07/2018 16:24:33
380 forum posts

Navigation was a hell of an achievement back then, especially over such a large expanse. I suspect those who did succeed was more luck than judgement.

SillyOldDuffer02/07/2018 17:06:01
5936 forum posts
1282 photos

I prefer the simple theory; they were flying long-range over a remote part of the Pacific; their radio was wiped out by tropical static, and their navigation wasn't good enough to sight Howland Island. They flew about a large ocean looking for a tiny island until they ran out of fuel.

Navigating an aircraft was seriously difficult until after WW2. In 1937 ocean flying was done by dead reckoning, corrected occasionally by sextant, with both supported by moving an antenna to null out known radio stations and thus triangulate a rough position. Sextants are harder to use in a plane than a boat and primitive radio communications and direction finding equipment likely made it too difficult for Earheart and Noonan to get good bearings in poor radio conditions.

Attempting to fix position with a sextant on dry land taught me that manipulating them is skilled work. It also involves a stopwatch and an accurate time source. You have to take accurate readings, and then sort out the maths and almanacs. There are numerous sources of error. I doubt navigating an aircraft by sextant alone could get you better than 40 or 50km from a destination. Not a problem in good visibility, but awkward if you can't see the ground. I wasn't accurate on dry land in good weather and can imagine it being much worse in a plane or small boat, perhaps having very limited time to identify a star and get a reading in bad weather.

Early radio equipment was also challenging to operate; much skilled twiddling of dials and drifting off frequency. For many years larger aircraft carried professional radio operators. Partly because they were trained to make the best of the simple equipment available, but mostly to reduce the load on the flight crew, who were busy at the best of times.

Worst of all, navigational systems weren't resilient back then. Flying an aircraft over the sea near a tropical storm means your dead reckoning is likely to be wrong. Clouds and buffeting might make it impossible to get a star sight with the sextant. And static caused in the region by lightning could make radio reception difficult as well. With only a compass to rely on you could easily be a 100 miles or more off course and be unable to find a small isolated island.

After WW2 came radar, VHF radio, ergonomic equipment, beacons, crystal control, and a host of other radio aids. Even though it's much less likely to happen with modern aids pilots still get lost!


Roderick Jenkins02/07/2018 17:13:46
1898 forum posts
489 photos

There are claims that her remains have been identified on Nikumaroro island **LINK**


Edited By Roderick Jenkins on 02/07/2018 17:14:06

Cornish Jack02/07/2018 18:03:58
1139 forum posts
163 photos

Opening sentence of first lecture in aviation navigation ... "Man/woman is not lost, just temporarily uncertain of his/her position.

The reality was stuck under a Continental Low, can't climb because of icing, vis was 'eyes on stalks' level.Too low for VorTac reception and every bit of Belgium/Holland looks like every other bit! Boss was driving so I diplomatically suggested a landing at the next bit of habitation to check position, especially since we had to pass Schipol Airport.! Caught sight of a nice open sports field area and got the wheels on. Chap in a white coat came out and told us where we were, re-plotted and off we went arriving at Valkenberg with little more than fumes in the tanks. As we hover taxied in, the Tower instructed us to report to operations immediately on shutdown!?? Operations informed us that our ad hoc landing site was the Dutch Foot and Mouth research establishment and that we were, therefore, contaminated. Ag and Fish, in UK had been informed and we would be put into quarantine for 4 weeks when we got back to Base! This was 3 days before Xmas and we had been on Winter Icing trials for the previous 6 weeks - NOT happy bunnies! If that day's events were 'difficult', the next day was even worse and ended with being hosed down by Kent Fire Service on North Foreland!

" Even though it's much less likely to happen with modern aids pilots still get lost!"

Won't argue with that, Dave!



oldvelo02/07/2018 18:45:32
218 forum posts
51 photos

Hi All

Here is a link to BBC about Amelia Earhart


Sixty years after the Amelia Earhart flight Linda Finch successfully completed the circumnavigation in 1997

in a restored Lockheed Electra with a Grumman Albatross as a support aircraft.


larry phelan 102/07/2018 19:08:43
769 forum posts
14 photos

Who knows what she was asked to do ? This would not be unusual for the US Gov,when they could deny everything,if it went wrong. They still do it.

fizzy02/07/2018 19:14:03
1716 forum posts
116 photos

Her aerial was destroyed on take off - if you study the film carefully you can see it happen. Just the start of a cascade effect?

Chris Evans 602/07/2018 20:06:53
1702 forum posts

I believe the VC10 was the last commercial aircraft to carry a sextant. The had an astrodome ? in the cockpit.

Going off topic a lovely flypast by a Spitfire over the National Memorial Arboretum yesterday.

Alan Johnson 702/07/2018 21:31:14
84 forum posts
13 photos

I lived in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea up until 1984. We had a Meteorology Officer whose career included flying Spitfires! His research led him to the conclussion that Fred had spent the evening before departed drinking, and was "under the weather!" That alone would have been the differece between life and death. Also, the weather over Lae, and the region generally was poor - visibility with tropical clouds etc.

ronan walsh02/07/2018 22:22:11
541 forum posts
32 photos

Right then, where is Glenn Miller ?

Ady103/07/2018 00:25:16
3736 forum posts
519 photos

--Navigation was a hell of an achievement back then, especially over such a large expanse. I suspect those who did succeed was more luck than judgement--

Navigation is a skill just like lathe work and some people are really good at it

That mutiny on the bounty captain is one example after he was set adrift

During the war the best aero navigators became pathfinders for the bomber streams

David Billings03/07/2018 00:58:29
1 forum posts

Hello Model Engineer members, …..David Billings in Queensland Australia….

One of your members alerted me to this Forum Topic as I have my own interest and theory concerning the loss of Earhart, Noonan and the Electra.

In April 1945, a Patrol of Australian Diggers saw some interesting wreckage in the Jungle of East New Britain, located about 40 nautical miles from Rabaul. A map used by this Patrol, which had been kept as a souvenir, was found to have some cryptic writing on the map edge hidden under old tape, when the tape was removed in 1994.

The writing has a reference to "600 H/P S3H1 C/N1055", which are identifiers to two engine parameters and one airframe parameter which are pointers to the wreckage they found being of the Lockheed Electra 10E owned by Earhart.

The full story is on my website:

My email is on the website if anyone wants to contact me personally.


David Billings... formerly of Carlton, Nottingham.

Ady103/07/2018 01:44:15
3736 forum posts
519 photos


Bligh had confidence in his navigational skills, which he had perfected under the instruction of Captain James Cook. His first responsibility was to bring his men to safety. Thus, he undertook the seemingly impossible 3,618-nautical-mile (6,701 km; 4,164 mi) voyage to Timor, the nearest European settlement. Bligh succeeded in reaching Timor after a 47-day voyage,

All done In a 23 foot boat with 18 men, yikes

Edited By Ady1 on 03/07/2018 01:46:45

Bill Pudney03/07/2018 03:41:54
454 forum posts
16 photos

As they say, "...when ships were made of wood, the men were made of iron..."



Cornish Jack03/07/2018 10:43:08
1139 forum posts
163 photos

The difficulties of aerial navigation, particularly in that area, are well covered in Sir Francis Chichester's recounting of his flight from Australia in the Gypsy Moth aircraft. He, apparently, operated on a process of ''induced deviation', or something similar. Don't understand the principle but it obviously worked!

Chris Evans 6 - yes, correct but the sextant was a periscopic version - the astrodome wasn't compatible with pressurised aircraft.



Edited By Cornish Jack on 03/07/2018 10:43:45

John Hinkley03/07/2018 11:19:25
899 forum posts
298 photos

Bill (Cornish Jack),

Unless I'm very much mistaken, Sir Francis Chichester was a nautical man and his Gypsy Moth was a yacht! At least it was when my father met him at a dinner at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich many moons ago. I dare say the same navigational principles apply, however.



steamdave03/07/2018 12:17:05
443 forum posts
35 photos
Posted by Cornish Jack on 03/07/2018 10:43:08:

The difficulties of aerial navigation, particularly in that area, are well covered in Sir Francis Chichester's recounting of his flight from Australia in the Gypsy Moth aircraft. He, apparently, operated on a process of ''induced deviation', or something similar. Don't understand the principle but it obviously worked!

Francis Chichester searched for his island location by flying deliberately off course.

Instead of heading directly on course to the target, he would fly (say) 5 degrees to the right of his intended course. After flying the calculated time to reach his destination, he knew that his target would be on his Port side, so he altered course 90 degrees to Port towards his destination. This made the search window a lot smaller and therefore had a greater chance of success.

His system obviously worked because he lived a long and eventful life afterwards.

John: Francis Chichester was a pilot long before he became a round the world yachtsman.

The Emerald Isle

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