The Persistence of Mystery

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It's almost 75 years since Amelia Earhart went missing, yet the mystery of her fate continues to fascinate aviators and the general public. One interesting thing about this fascination is that there is absolutely nothing to be gained at this point from knowing. Investigators spend years trying to figure out why a commercial airplane crashed, and that makes sense, since presumably lessons can be learned that will save lives in the future. But what is to be gained from solving the Earhart mystery? Nothing that I can think of, yet we can't let it go.

Arguably there is financial gain to be had for whoever finally finds an answer. Book deals, TV appearances, all that. But those few adventurers aren't the only ones who yearn to know. Maybe it's the power of an unfinished story, the attraction of mystery for its own sake. Maybe Earhart's loss reminds us of a time when the world was a bigger place, less well-monitored, easier to get lost in. Maybe the story has become a fable, like the sinking of the Titanic, reminding us that despite our confidence and daring, every next moment is full of unknown and unpredictable hazards.

The guys at TIGHAR think they have figured out what happened to Earhart and Fred Noonan. If they are successful in the effort to extract DNA from a bone fragment found on the Nikumaroro atoll and it matches DNA from an envelope that Earhart licked, that could be the end of the mystery -- but the start of a new one. What happened to the two aviators as they waited for the rescue that never came? How long did they last? We can only imagine their expectation of rescue, slowly turning to despair.

Maybe that's why the story still resonates, after all these decades. We've all had that feeling of somehow ending up somewhere that is not quite where we were planning to be. We've all felt a little off-course and disoriented at times, in a big world where the right path to our destination is not always clear. We're all hopeful that somebody somewhere is looking out for us, and we all fear that maybe we shouldn't really count on it. Even if a scientist in a lab matches the DNA, or an underwater robot finds the wreck of the Electra, the mystery of Amelia will remain.

Comments (57)

She pushed a bad situation in uncertain weather over the Pacific ocean with primitive instruments. It's no mystery.

What happened? They died. It's kinda morbid that people want to know the details of the exact last moment. We don't need robots picking their bones to "feel better that we know". It's gross.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 24, 2011 8:16 AM    Report this comment

Personally, I think it's a great story. Hopefully there is something to learn from the disappearance, and perhaps if they find the crash, some artifacts will be recovered and find their way into the Smithsonian.
Earhart and Noonan might have perished on the island waiting for help, but they knew someone was coming. It has always amazed me the risk and effort our armed forces expend to retrieve a fallen soldier, or lost citizen but again, these values are what make America great!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | February 24, 2011 1:59 PM    Report this comment

Maybe its because she was a woman? And a sassy one at that? Maybe because of the lingering suspicions that they came achingly close to rescue? That those ham radio operators really were in contact with them and were unable to make people listen. Whatever, the story touched me and I will watch any developments with interest.

Posted by: John Hogan | February 25, 2011 4:16 AM    Report this comment

Charles Lindbergh was one cool dude to have exposed himself to similar risks of disappearing over the Atlantic in May 1927, but in spite of lack of sleep for 33 hours was somehow able to make it. It is indeed unfortunate that A.E. wasn't as lucky -- and perhaps, not as cool and competent.

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | February 25, 2011 2:28 PM    Report this comment

Her flights were "self promotional". It did not help aviation to continue the idea that flying was still a dangerous stunt. Judging from here many near-fatalities, she was a well financed loose cannon. Gutsy only goes so far without skill and planning. Nothing to "learn" from it any more than "learning" from John Denver to check the fuel. If you put yourself into high risk, you'd better have extraordinary skill.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 26, 2011 8:51 AM    Report this comment

Here is an interesting issue that can go round and round for ever like a hole in the bucket. What's to say she was happy to stay on the island far away from the madding crow. The story indicated that aircraft parts were found on the island and used by those living there? This make me think that the aircraft is not 300 foot down in the sea but was broken up and used.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | February 28, 2011 11:14 AM    Report this comment

There really doesn't need to be a practical reason to know what happened to Earhart and Noonan. Ask anyone who has known a missing person; even if they are long gone there is a human desire for closure.

Posted by: A Richie | February 28, 2011 11:15 AM    Report this comment

I was a college kid around 1970 in southern Florida and some of us guys went to Tampa one weekend to look for fun. We were suddenly imprisoned at a 4-way stop sign by a constant stream of cars filled with crying, screaming females(we saw no guys at all)horns honking. We soon found out, despite being surrounded by hundreds of ladies, we would still drive home that night unlucky.

They were just getting out of an Elvis concert.

My non-sexist point is that though there might be some who identify with the many suggested reasons for lingering interest in the Earhart story, to me it is mostly about the cult of personality that occasionally captures many of us to identify strongly with someone else, no matter their worthiness of it or not. I don't see a mystery here, just a plane lost from natural causes. But occasionally an Elvis, Earhart, Wayne Newton or Michael Jackson can put millions in a trance beyond the performer's flight, word, or song. Does anyone really want to hear Danke Schoen again? I know..I can't get tickets either.

Posted by: David Miller | March 1, 2011 1:56 AM    Report this comment

I have to agree with Mark. AE was a low-time pilot with a rich husband who paid for her stunts. She got in over her head, plain and simple.

The TIGHAR folks (who once went to Nikumaroro during typhoon season and seemed surprised that they encountered -- and were almost wiped out by -- typhoons!) are in it for the money and infamy, plain and simple. AE did nothing for GA and even less for women in aviation. We'd have been far better off without her bad example.


Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 1, 2011 3:17 PM    Report this comment

I've always found it odd that women's pilot groups use Earhart as their icon--a woman controlled by her husband, who had her doing publicity stunts she was unable to carry out.

There's a great new book out--"Amelia Earhart--The turbulent life of an American Icon." It's available from Amazon. I worked with the author, Kathleen Winters (who died young just before the book was published)on the content. Winters captures the real Earhart--including her many mistakes and the control by her publicist husband.

Posted by: jim hanson | March 2, 2011 12:38 PM    Report this comment

It's just a open ended story from the glory days of aviation... It's a great story that happens to be fact, so why would we not want to find the answer in all the detail we can? If 20,000 leagues under the sea were based in fact then we would still be looking for the Nautilus after all we found the Titanic!

Humans love a mystery and almost as much as we love them, we love to solve them... I think its why we climbed out of the oceans and came down from the trees in the first place... It's nothing less then the power that drives humanity at work.

Posted by: Timothy A | March 2, 2011 12:58 PM    Report this comment

"It's a great story...a mystery"

I beg to differ. It was a waste of 2 lives and an expensive aircraft on a rather pointless flight. Around the world flights started in the early twenties. Earhart was not mapping air routes or testing new technology or doing anything new. It only held advertising value for an upcoming book. The flight started badly and ended worse. There is no mystery that nothing was found of a light twin lost in the south pacific the 1935.

I agree, people LOVE a mystery. They'll even make one up if one does not exist. Now THAT is interesting.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 2, 2011 7:02 PM    Report this comment

Why does the Earhart story still resonate? Journalist Walter Lippman had something to say about it just after her disappearance that may help explain:

"The best things of mankind are as useless as Amelia Earhart's adventure. They are the things that are undertaken not for some definite, measurable result, but because someone, not counting the costs or calculating the consequences, is moved by curiosity, the love of excellence, a point of honor, the compulsion to invent or to make or to understand......Such energy cannot be.....weighed by the standards of utility or judged by its social consequences. It is wild and it is free. But all the heroes, the saints and the seers, the explorers and the creators partake of it. They do not know what they discover. They do not know where their impulse is taking them. They can give no account in advance of where they are going or explain completely where they have been. They have been possessed for a time with an extraordinary passion which is unintelligible in ordinary terms.

No preconceived theory fits them. No material purpose actuates them. They do the useless, brave, noble, the divinely foolish and the very wisest things that are done by man. And what they prove to themselves and to others is that man is no mere creature of his habits, no mere automaton in his routine, no mere cog in the collective machine, but that in the dust of which he is made there is also fire, lighted now and then by great winds from the sky."

Posted by: ROBERT THOMASON | March 3, 2011 8:38 AM    Report this comment

Frankly, I don't think it was a waste of 2 lives. They were trying to fly around the world. There doesn't have to be a "valid" economic or scientific reason in anyone elses' eyes to attempt it. This, my friends, is called Freedom. Anyone can sit here in a comfy chair and play Monday-morning quarterback.

What would they say about your $100 hamburger flight if you didn't return? "What a waste, he should have DRIVEN to McDonalds!"

Posted by: A Richie | March 3, 2011 9:04 AM    Report this comment

Charles Lindbergh's flight was a demonstration of how far the existing technology could be pushed. It was a couragious undertaking, but, like the Apollo program that it has been compared to, the risks were carefully considered, the experience level of the crew was high, the preparation was considerable, and the scientific benefits unquestioned. If Mr. Lindbergh was able to stay awake and the aircraft proved its reliability, the chances of him completely missing the European continent were fairly remote! This really can't be compared to the likelyhood of finding a pinhead of an island in the middle of the vast Pacific, with its volatile and uncharted weather, using the crudest, unreliable forms of navigation. By this time, long duration, overwater flights were already routinely being made by flying boats, which, if they became lost, could float!

Posted by: Steve Tobias | March 3, 2011 9:27 AM    Report this comment

So, if we are now to believe that the Electra crashed at Matsungun Island near Bougainville Island, then AE flew less than a third of the way to Howland Island? This would mean that virtually all of the speculators, the data and the radio transmissions are dead wrong? The existence of this wreckage has been known about for years and just now investigated? Interesting!!!

Posted by: Carl Willis | March 3, 2011 9:50 AM    Report this comment

Robert Thomason posted:
"The best things of mankind are as useless as Amelia Earhart's adventure. They are the things that are undertaken not for some definite, measurable result, but because someone, not counting the costs or calculating the consequences, is moved by curiosity, the love of excellence, a point of honor, the compulsion to invent or to make or to understand......Such energy cannot be.....weighed by the standards of utility or judged by its social consequences.

Yeah.... I don't think so. AE did it for the publicity. She was a low time pilot who didn't even know how much she didn't know. She argued often with Noonan, who, by all accounts, was a highly experienced navigator. Why can't folks just admit she screwed up and move on?

TIGHAR has found a "bone" they want to do DNA test on. The island was inhabited for 20 years. Of course there will be bones! If anyone ever does find verifiable evidence of AE's flight, then we'll have to hear years of conspiracy theories as to who knocked her out of the air. Let's move on folks, there's nothing to see here.


Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 3, 2011 9:55 AM    Report this comment

Why the enduring fascination?

Mysteries inevitably cry out for answers, and the greater the celebrity, the greater the cry.

Posted by: Peter Kushkowski | March 3, 2011 10:36 AM    Report this comment

Steve why do you think Lindbergh demonstrated how far technology could be pushed? Nonstop Atlantic crossing was done 8 years prior by the British in a Vickers Vimy. Lindbergh was the first to cross non-stop *solo*.

Posted by: BYRON WARD | March 3, 2011 11:27 AM    Report this comment

When a friend of mine set off from An Khe field in SE Asia long ago to pursue a mission and never returned and is still missing today, I'm hard pressed to find anyone outside of family to be fascinated with the mystery of his loss. All of the fine words from Mr. Thomason apply to this lost airman too, maybe more so, but alas, no paparazzi followed him into the jungle.

I like the thought seeded by Bruce of the possibility AE survived on an obscure island, finally free of checklists, the worship and crowds and her domineering mate, having babies and eating fruit, diligently covering her 'landing'tracks, happy as a clam until old age.

This so called mystery is about nothing but celebrity and personality. We should be careful what we adore and wish for when pursuing 'mysteries', our learning experience might not be anything like we imagined.

Posted by: David Miller | March 3, 2011 12:07 PM    Report this comment

It would be a real mystery if there WERE NOT a lot of smaller twin-engined late 1930's airplanes crashed near Bougainville. Think about it.

It does not take a Monday-morning quarterback to know that her likelihood of success would be less than 50/50. YouTube is full of people that making similar (obviously bad) decisions. We don't call them heroic, we call them what they are.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 3, 2011 12:26 PM    Report this comment

B.Noel, I believe that it was significant that Mr Lindbergh was a civilian, his effort was privately funded, and that he arrived where he had planned after covering a much greater distance, with no damage to himself or his aircraft. I feel that this proved that engines were reliable enough and aircraft and systems were durable enough to make long distance flying a reality. This paved the way, in a few short years, for regular scheduled trans-oceanic service, which, by the way, Lindbergh continued to pioneer and promote. It is also well known that, during WWII, he (despite being shunned by our government for his political beliefs) helped develope and train techniques for military pilots to increase their aircrafts' range. I certainly did not intend to minimise Alcock and Brown's amazing feat; I was answering Alex's comment about about Lindbergh's "luck".

Posted by: Steve Tobias | March 3, 2011 1:26 PM    Report this comment

All so very true, most anyway. Makes me want to go back to just sailing Hobie Cats.. The average flamboyant image among pilots, well, let me just say, it has me rethinking the whole idea.

Posted by: Patty Haley | March 3, 2011 3:40 PM    Report this comment

It seems those who make bold attempts that are successful are deemed heroes while those who make bold attempts that fail are deemed fools by the great masses. The Wrights were lauded while Langley was publicly humiliated and shamed though they both worked very diligently at what was considered a fools errand. Of course the Wrights succeeded and who can argue with success? Obviously Amelia loved to fly, she new more through her experience than I know through mine. We get flight following, carry personal locator beacons, and double check our preflight just to cross lake Michigan. I give Amelia credit for chasing her dreams in spite of unreliable technology and over whelming odds. She had more gumption than I do. Lived more than me too. Her tale is no different than Apollo 13 or any of the other great dramas that we as a people have shared in. We need to read the final chapter, even if it is predictable.

Posted by: Kenneth Miess | March 3, 2011 3:47 PM    Report this comment

Regarding the recently found wreck, remember there are a couple of Japanese aircraft resembling the Lockheeed, let's see what they find!

Posted by: Bill Stout | March 3, 2011 4:24 PM    Report this comment

Wayne--good comment! I interviewed Geraldine Mock as part of creating a museum display in 1998. She was kind enough to send me all of her papers--which I photocopied for the story. She was quiet and unassuming. She was "racing" Joan Merriam Smith, an accomplished pilot flying a Piper Apache.

A small correction--it was a Cessna 180 (it is now in the Smithsonian)

Posted by: jim hanson | March 3, 2011 4:49 PM    Report this comment

From reading "Aviatrix",(Elinor Smith) I feel that after her earlier "records", (while in essence a student pilot), as she got more experience and realized what real pilots thought of them, she felt driven to attempt continuously more risky and extreme goals to redeem herself not so much in the eyes of the public(who adored her anyway)as fellow pilots that she understood the earlier "stunts" were shameful.

Posted by: Gregory Myers | March 3, 2011 5:23 PM    Report this comment

Kenneth Miess posted:
"she new more through her experience than I know through mine. We get flight following, carry personal locator beacons, and double check our preflight just to cross lake Michigan. I give Amelia credit for chasing her dreams in spite of unreliable technology and over whelming odds. She had more gumption than I do."


She didn't have more gumption than you do -- as I said before, she didn't even know what she didn't know. I know how confident and knowlegeable I thought I was when I had 1000 hours (in another century and another lifetime) and I know now how lucky I was to live through some of my confidence! Ignorance sometimes IS bliss. I survived, tho, so we call it experience.

Amelia had no business attempting that flight.


Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 3, 2011 5:43 PM    Report this comment

Read "Amelia--the turbulent life of an American Icon." Kathleen Winters did amazing research (as she did on the book on Anne Morrow Lindbergh). As winters says--she started out to write the "star pilot" book--but the more she found out, the less enamored she was of Earhart. Example: "She was not the world's most skilled woman pilot in her day, by any means, nor even the best in America. She was not a 'natural stick' in pilot's parlance, and struggled through her flight training. Despite this, George Putnam catapulted her to fame, controlling her image ferociously and orchestrating the illusion that indeed she was the best."

Winters quotes her contemporaries--that she hadn't logged many hours (and inflated the ones she did), that she didn't take flight training seriously, and "bypassed the meticulous work necessary for consistent, successful long-distance flights."

In reading the book, she seems to often be tired of flying and maintaining the image. On takeoff from Oakland on her final flight, she said "i have a feeeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system and I hope this trip around the world is it. Anyway, when I have finished this job, I mean to give up long-distance stunt flying."

Posted by: jim hanson | March 3, 2011 5:49 PM    Report this comment

Amelia was a poor example of a pilot who was very experienced at crashing aircraft not honing her flying skills. Noonan was nothing short of being a drunk and the pair deserved each other. why anyone would consider her an icon for their group is a mystery to me. She couldn't fly and only wanted to see her self in the papers, Who cares what happened to her.

Posted by: Unknown | March 3, 2011 6:03 PM    Report this comment

I must say that I feel strongly both ways. But the only reason I wanted to write was to share what Amelia's sister (Muriel Earhart Morrissey, a.k.a. Pidge) said to me back in 1986. It was something like "I wish they would all leave her alone. She was lost at sea and died." So much for the need for closure (at least as far as her sister was concerned).

I also asked Muriel if there was anything that Amelia was afraid of and she said that "she was afraid of growing old".

Posted by: Mary Higgins | March 3, 2011 6:06 PM    Report this comment

What due you mean she is over due. I saw her just lat week at Wal Mart........

Posted by: Johnny Carter | March 3, 2011 6:26 PM    Report this comment

My late grandfather, Alfred M. Wilson, was an RAAF intelligence Officer seconded to Central Bureau based in Brisbane during WW11. He worked on Foo Fighter or UFO issues along with the hazard to airmen of water spouts in tropical maritime areas. These spouts were quite capable of knocking down aircraft. Over time allied planes along with Japanese ones went missing - simply vanished off the radar screens at times. Forensic analysis of the Amelia wreckage may determine such an event or else throw the entire case into X-File mode if something like an unknown craft intercepted it. The Japanese thought high speed traffic were new secret weapons and vice versa. Ever since the war we are still no closer to unravelling the UFO mystery which has intriqued many of us for decades. As a researcher I still look into this area which is a continuation of my grandfathers work.

Posted by: RIC D T WILSON | March 3, 2011 11:55 PM    Report this comment

No need for x-files. Her plane had already crashed once before. Crashing a second time (and this time in the ocean while completely lost) is reason enough. I'm not sure why people can't accept simple and have to fabricate elaborate and unreasonable explanations.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 4, 2011 9:21 AM    Report this comment

"Noonan was nothing short of being a drunk and the pair deserved each other." That old canard has been out there for years--with no proof. Many people couldn't accept the fact that their hero (Earhart) had crashed--"It must be someone elses fault."

Noonan did drink--but no more than any other aviator at the time. There is no evidence that he was a habitual drunk, or ever drank on duty. He was a former Pan Am navigator, and had navigated the giant flying boats all over the world. On this flight, he had navigated the aircraft 3/4 of the way around the world--hardly the mark of an incompetent.

If anyone deserves fault for navigation, you have to turn again to Earhart. Celestial navigation works well--but is not precise enough to find a 2-mile long island after a flight of 2000 miles. To do that, Noonan would get them close, then they would get bearing from the cutter Itasca, sent their specifically for that purpose. Neither Earhart nor Noonan was proficient in Morse Code, so Earhart had the telegraph key removed and said she would communicate via voice on 6210 and 3105 KC. For the same reason, she declined an offer for 500 KC equipment to be installed. There was no way the Itasca could help her--Itasca didn't have the radio frequencies.

She had been couseled by the best--Paul Mantz--but she over-rode his advice.

Posted by: jim hanson | March 4, 2011 12:05 PM    Report this comment

This tale, to me, still smacks of life and love on a desert island in the Pacific. The more I read the more I believe that was what her and Noonday's plans were. They both are long time dead so lets leave sleeping (in this case dead) dogs lie. How many of the readers in this forum would just love (dream) to pack up and live on a desert island lying on the beach drinking coconut milk whiling away the days. Ah what a life.

I once worked for a news agency in Rhodesia and at that time there were many car accidents with no mention in the newspapers. One weekend one of my collogues had an accident with no injuries and this story was front page news for three days. Again its not what you know it's who you know.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | March 4, 2011 2:05 PM    Report this comment

That's pretty far-fetched. Noonan was only recently married, and there aren't any Pacific Paradises anywhere near Howland Island--the islands are uninhabitable due to lack of water.

File that one with "Elvis is alive and well--living undercover, and cooking cheeseburgers in Detroit."

Posted by: jim hanson | March 4, 2011 2:26 PM    Report this comment

Lol. Its worth a try though stranger things than that have happened. There are a ;lot of inhabitants on those islands and we still don't know which island they landed on. If it was planned do you think they would have ensure they would not be found.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | March 5, 2011 3:58 AM    Report this comment

"We don't know that they landed on an island."

I don't think it is plausible that Earhart--the ditz that couldn't plan her own flight--that crashed the Electra on a calm day takeoff in Hawaii--that famously refused to bother with learning Morse Code, fuel consumption, engine operations, that sealed her own fate by eliminating the radios that she would need to receive and take bearings on Itasca--would be clever enough to A. FIND a habitable island. B. Ensure that everything she needed was pre-placed there. C. Successfully hide the Electra? D.Covered up not only her disappearance, but any subsequent discovery?

Earhart wasn't capable of doing much for herself--do you REALLY think that she and Noonan would intentionally go to live on a desert island, telling nobody--with no hope of contact with any other living individuals?

Posted by: jim hanson | March 5, 2011 3:18 PM    Report this comment

"There are a ;lot of inhabitants on those islands "

If that were the case, it would be pretty hard to keep it a secret for all these years, wouldn't it?

"Again its not what you know it's who you know." And in this case, the person she knew was FDR--she had campaigned for him, and he had the American taxpayers build an airstrip especially for her in the middle of the Pacific. Do you think she would embarrass him by contriving her own disappearance?

The search covered 250,000 square miles--an area about the size of Texas. Every inhabitable island was searched. The search was ordered by none other than FDR, and it involved ten ships, 100 aircraft, and over 3000 men over a period of months.

It also ignores the question of WHY she would "choose to disappear"--she had news contracts, personal appearances, and book deals immediately available upon her return. It would make her as wealthy as Lindbergh. She had already announced her retirement from publicity flights,and she was only one week away from her scheduled return.

Posted by: jim hanson | March 5, 2011 3:36 PM    Report this comment

And maybe some persist in the mystery for personal disputation, here shown by perhaps a hopeful romantic in Bruce being cut and chopped by the sharp blades of reason and logic, fueled by presidential guilt and the power of gold, under the awesome, certain knowledge of knowing the 'ditz's' heart.

And he's not cooking cheeseburgers in Detroit - word is out there was a white-haired, 76 year old Elvis impersonator recently at the Burger Bar in Vegas, and he ordered his meal all deepfried...all while tossing scarves to stunned patrons.

Posted by: David Miller | March 5, 2011 8:48 PM    Report this comment

Mark Fraser would be well advised to put down some solid facts rather than show total ignorance and demonstrate lots of piffle. Sounds to me like he has a real chip on his shoulder. Keep the hot air coming Mark. That is what you do best. In the mean time let those in the know continue the search and that includes proper forensic analysis of any findings. That just has to be the bottom line. The tall poppy syndrome is alive and kicking around such famous aviators - even to condemn their efforts for trying.

Posted by: RIC D T WILSON | March 5, 2011 10:59 PM    Report this comment

A reminder to please check AVweb's Commenting Rules and refrain from name-calling and insults.

thank you.

Posted by: Mary Grady | March 6, 2011 12:51 PM    Report this comment

She is of interest because she was a girl, and we men have been trying to get girls interested in our efforts for ever - shooting, hunting, NASCAR, Flying and so on. Her hubby was a publisher, don't forget, and keep the lash to her hyde to sell articles. She was pretty scrawney, and not too technically minded (no trailing antenna, remember?) and she did what a lot of the dead do: Push beyond their limits and go boldly forth where no man has gone. Some survive, most dont't. That crappy Lycoming 0-360 is going to get me killed, but it's either that, or back to the C-150 at 500 fpm / 105 kts.

Finding out what happened is what the FAA is supposed to do. They couldn't have cared less, nor do they do now.

Posted by: Francis Hale | March 6, 2011 12:54 PM    Report this comment

Sorry Jim I just don't see this the same way you do and every time you say something just strengthens my case. To have all those resources looking for someone and still not finding them really says a lot. I don't want to think she died at sea. It doesn't say much for women and that is wrong.

I read a book some time ago called "I Must Fly" by Sheila Scott. What an inspiration she was to me and if any woman is to be held up as an ambassador for women flying she should be.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | March 6, 2011 1:46 PM    Report this comment

Psychologists point out that happenings viewed as being significant always bring out elaborate fantasies such as seen in the Amelia situation. Notions of abduction by UFOs, imprisonment as spies by the Japanese, government conspiracies, etc. are ways of trying to bring a mental balance to the incident. After all, someone that “important” couldn’t have just been the victim of something as mundane as bad luck or bad judgment, could they? Unfortunately, by far & away the most likely scenario is simply that the Electra eventually ran out of gas, is somewhere in deep water many miles from any land, and will never be found. Not that people will give up….and who cares as long as someone else is footing the bill.P.S. I love my GPS.

Posted by: John Wilson | March 6, 2011 6:28 PM    Report this comment

Ric, Reason would suggest that reasoned searches would be based on the facts and radio logs. What do 2 searches 2,500 miles apart suggest?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 7, 2011 7:05 AM    Report this comment

I was wondering if anyone over the years has calculated the prevailing current and wind drifts in that area. My own navigational and oceanographic skills are sadly lacking in that area or I would probably have written my own book.
Assuming the Electra’s wing and especially the long range tanks in the fuselage were dry and assuming an open ocean landing didn’t rupture them how long could it reasonably be expected to float? Would they provide enough buoyancy to float it with a significant portion above the water surface? If they could provide enough buoyancy to float, the engines would tend to raise the tail section higher and provide some sail area. So my question is where would the prevailing winds and currents move the plane in the next two weeks or so before it hits another reef that punches a hole and sinks. I base this on an observation of an out of gas Chinese C-46 that floated for days while local salvage crews wrangled over salvage rights. It finally bumped into the reef enough times to sink.
Assuming it’s still intact, a sinking plane could “glide” for a considerable distances underwater if they act anything like my models do in the water. Another possibility would be it partially fills with water and is carried by currents while beneath the surface before finally settling on the bottom. Of course if it broke up on impact or sank in a relatively vertical attitude all bets are off.

Posted by: DENNIS KAROLESKI | March 7, 2011 11:08 AM    Report this comment

With ferry tanks, there is the possibility that the aircraft will float--but no guarantee. Putnam held onto hope for 2 weeks based on that--but also recall that the aircraft in the Dole race to Hawaii that were lost ALSO had long-range tanks installed.

Bruce--"Sorry Jim I just don't see this the same way you do and every time you say something just strengthens my case. To have all those resources looking for someone and still not finding them really says a lot. I don't want to think she died at sea. It doesn't say much for women and that is wrong. "

The facts are just that--FACTS--whether you "like" them or not. The facts say that Earhart WASN'T a good pilot, and DIDN'T pay attention to detail, no matter how much you would like that to be true. Does the word "Pollyanna" have any special meaning for you?

As far as "not saying much for women"--who raised that question? It's about COMPETENCE, not gender.

Posted by: jim hanson | March 7, 2011 2:06 PM    Report this comment

I would surmise it would depend on tank integrity after impact and the actual location of any ruptures. If punctured near the bottom they could still hold air if, and it would be a big if, someone was able and savvy enough to somehow close off the vents. Considering her history and fatigue after such a grueling trip I would guess it unlikely. Still, it would be interesting to know if any of the old records of such a study have survived.

Posted by: DENNIS KAROLESKI | March 7, 2011 3:25 PM    Report this comment

In my experience when something bad happens and it does not get to bed and die there is something that still need to be brought to the surface. reading the above much has been said but something is still missing and what that is I do not know but it sounds like it will carry on for a long time.

What are the chances she is still alive?

Posted by: Bruce Savage | March 7, 2011 4:02 PM    Report this comment

Bruce Savage said: "What are the chances she is still alive?"

Absolutely zero. I know, I haven't seen the body, but nothing else makes sense.


Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 7, 2011 4:18 PM    Report this comment

I had a pilot colleague back in 1978. His name was Fred Valentich and he tangled with an unknown object off Cape Otway Victoria. This was witnessed by several people that confirmed he was in a close encounter situation of a very dangerous kind. Quite simply he vanished without trace. In short this was nothing new. There had been many other instances. I myself have seen things and heard lots of detail around this subject as a researcher that would blow your mind. So people, keep an open mind and don't be so quick with your opinions. I will have one final say and that is people perish through lack of knowledge. I rest my case. We should not be so quick to bucket such famous aviators as Amelia without all the facts placed on the table. She may have been as innocent as Valentich upon setting out. Remember, it could have been you....

Posted by: RIC D T WILSON | March 7, 2011 4:30 PM    Report this comment

Dennis--I think I can help you with that. I've flown a Caravan single-engine turboprop to 78 countries, (including Antarctica)and across the Atlantic with a ferry tank. Our tank held 300 gallons of fuel. Flying a single-engine airplane, obviously, I had an interest in whether it would float.

The Electra held 1100 gallons of fuel, with ferry tanks. About 600 of that was internal fuel. That would require about 80 cubic feet of tank. That volume would provide 5120 pounds of buoyancy in seawater (64 pounds per gallon of buoyancy), minus the weight of the tank, or a little less than 5000 pounds--IF there was no breach in the tank. The Lockheed weight at takeoff was 15000 pounds, but the applicable weight here is the equipped empty weight of 7265 pounds--add 300 pounds for the crew, or 7565 pounds. The aircraft had a negative buoyancy of 2265 pounds.

The seas at the time were 6 feet--a landplane would have had severe damage in ditching. Though some of the tanks may have held out the seawater for a while, they would eventually fill--overcoming the 5000 pounds of buoyancy of the ferry tank EVEN IF IT WASN'T BREACHED.

Posted by: jim hanson | March 7, 2011 5:02 PM    Report this comment

Ric--"We should not be so quick to bucket such famous aviators as Amelia without all the facts placed on the table. " I think the preponderance of evidence shows that she was NOT the innocent many would like to believe--lack of proficiency in flying the aircraft, lack of proficiency in Morse code, leaving behind the very radios she would need to find the island or to communicate with ITASCA. Paul Mantz--the person originally hired to shepherd her, described her continuing the trip without professional guidance as "I knew I was going to watch her kill herself." Her contemporary women aviator, Laura Ingalls, said whe would attempt new records to "increase the prestige of women aviators that were endanged by the disappearance of Amelia Earhart."

In the end, you have to apply the old test--"Would you ride with Amelia Earhart?" My answer is NO.

Sometimes, things just ARE. Being a pilot is about facing challenges as they ARE, not as we WISH them to be.

Posted by: jim hanson | March 7, 2011 5:15 PM    Report this comment


Posted by: DENNIS KAROLESKI | March 7, 2011 6:56 PM    Report this comment

Ric Wilson said: "We should not be so quick to bucket such famous aviators as Amelia without all the facts placed on the table. She may have been as innocent as Valentich upon setting out.

Well, I think the facts lie on the bottom of the Pacific in the vacinity of Howland Island. A lack of findable facts does not indicate she must be alive somewhere.

Amelia didn't have enough experience to realize what she didn't know. I have thousands of hours more than she had and I don't believe I'd try that flight in that equipment. I've also flown the breadth and width of this country both in daytime and night at altitudes up to FL510 and I've never seen any UFOs -- acutally I kinda feel cheated in that regard.


Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 8, 2011 10:07 AM    Report this comment

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