TNB Night Owl – Remembering Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Model 10-E Electra. Public domain.

Amelia Earhart’s story is well known, particularly her doomed attempt to be the first woman to fly around the world. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared 84 years ago on July 2, 1937 – without a trace – somewhere in the Pacific.

On the morning of that day, they departed Lae, New Guinea, on a 2,223 mile leg to Howland Island where they would refuel and rest for the night before making the 1,900 mile journey to Honolulu, Hawaii, on July 3. The schedule called for completing the round-the-world on July 4, landing where they started weeks before in Oakland, California. Another navigator, Captain Harry Manning, was to be on the crew originally but his skill with a sextant and celestial navigation, while good, could be off by as much as 20 miles over the course of a long flight. It was felt that wasn’t good enough for such a challenging trip, so Noonan was brought on. Manning was a highly skilled radio operator. Neither Earhart nor Noonan had much radio experience, so Manning was kept on. His skills would be indispensable in the Pacific where radio homing beacons would be deployed to assure that the relatively tiny islands could be found in the vast ocean. The aircraft was being pushed to its limit: fuel would be nearly gone by the time they reached Howland and Hawaii. These conditions made the Pacific crossing the hardest part of the record attempt. However, the aircraft was badly damaged shortly after beginning the first around the world attempt in March and required two months to repair. Manning decided the project was wasting his time and quit.

On the flight from New Guinea to Howland Island on July 2, thick cloud cover obscured the ocean below, making visual sighting of the island impossible. Due to a misunderstanding or miscommunication, or possibly equipment malfunction, Noonan was unable to get a signal from the radio beacon. It’s known they were somewhere in the vicinity of Howland based on their last radio transmissions. What happened after that last contact is anyone’s guess.

Without any existing evidence to prove or disprove what happened to the pair, numerous theories have been conjured up to explain what might have taken place. Some of those theories have made money from book deals and the like, providing incentive to keep the theories alive no matter how unlikely or far-fetched.

Two women have replicated Earhart’s flight. On the thirtieth anniversary, Ann Pellegreno completed the trip in a Lockheed 10A Electra (nearly identical to Earhart’s), and dropped a wreath on Howland Island as she flew over it on July 2, 1967.

On the sixtieth anniversary, Linda Finch also completed the trip in a Lockheed Electra, and also dropped a wreath on Howland Island as she flew over it on July 2, 1997. Both women cited Earhart as a great inspiration to them.

Question Of The Night: Who would you commemorate, honor, or give tribute to through a great accomplishment?

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About Richard Doud 622 Articles
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