Amelia Earhart - Last Flight - Part 2
To begin, I should describe how the world flight project developed. I have already told that the fond idea of acquiring a multi-motored plane first took form when I was flying over the Gulf of Mexico. After being just a passenger over the Atlantic in 1928, I wanted to duplicate the crossing alone in my own plane. I pursued the dream of a solo flight for four years before it became a reality in 1932. One ocean led naturally to another and two years later, through hard work and generous help, the opportunity came to try the Pacific. After that crossing from Honolulu to Oakland I thought of a hundred things I could do with a new plane. I was so full of ideas that they spilt over and my husband had to listen to my burbling by the hour. Not only did I want to make a longer flight than any I had attempted before, but I wanted to test some human reactions to flying. Of myself, and others as I fond them, I planned to make human guinea pigs.
The aviation industry has been so busy with mechanical and economic problems that the effects of flying on personnel have not always been given the attention they deserve. I am interested in finding out whether one kind of food is better than another during flight; i.e., the effects of altitude on metabolism. Also I should like to know the rte at which fatigue is induced by the myriad instruments a modern pilot must use. What will stratosphere flying do to creatures accustomed to the dense air of lower altitudes? Are men and women different in their reactions to air travel? If so, how? And perhaps, why? With the modern plane it seems to me that too often in the attainment of speed other considerations have been sacrificed. Safety, especially. Perhaps we would do well to go back to the elementary flying-machines of the early days and work forward from them all over gain.
The existing standards of speed, size and luxury cannot practically be abandoned, now that the air-travelling public has become accustomed to them. But rather than focusing on the problem of making tomorrow's planes bigger and faster, I, for one, would like to see the technical genius of present-day aviation - and the industry possesses extraordinary genius - develop a plane that actually could stay in the air while moving perhaps only forty miles an hour, and one that in a pinch could land at thirty. Which, I think, can come without sacrificial top speeds, size or comfort. Many flyers feel the modern plane has become too complex. In the cockpit of my own Electra, for instance, there are over a hundred dials and gadgets which I either have to look at or twiddle. The pilot's prayer, I am sure, is not for more cunning and specialized instruments, but for a simplification of those existing. However, these are but the opinions of one flyer who finds herself particularly interested in the human aspects of the machine, as it affects those using it.
For a couple of years I had been pleasantly associated with Purdue University of Lafayette, Indiana, as a periodic and rather peripatetic faculty member. Purdue is a forward-looking institution building an important aviation department. It is one of the few universities in the world that has its own landing field. Additionally, it is co-educational. Of its 6,000 students approximately 1,000 are women. The problems and opportunities of these girls were quite as much my concern as aviation matters. Perhaps I have something of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to modern feminine education. Often youngsters are sadly miscast. I have known girls who should be tinkering with mechanical things instead of making dresses, and boys who would do better at cooking than engineering. One of my favourite phobias is that girl, especially those whose tastes aren't routine, often don't get a fair break. The situation is not new. It has come down through the generations, an inheritance of age-old customs which produced the corollary that women are bred to timidity.
The mechanical-minded boy may have a field-day from the time his legs are long enough to toddle to the corner garage. for all anyone cares, he may be weaned on piston rings and carburettors, and may remain beautifully grimy for indefinite periods. but with his sister it is different. With rare exceptions, the delights of finding out what makes a motor go, or batting the bumps out of a bent fender, are joys reserved for masculinity. The girl who wants to do that sort of thing has such a hard time finding a place to do it that for long I have harboured a very special pet ambition. Among my other somewhat suppressed desires it is classified under the letter "T." The imaginary file card reads, "Tinkering" For Girls Only." The plan is to endow a catch-as-catch-can machine-shop, where girls ma tinker to their heart's content with motors, lathes, jigsaws, gadgets, and diverse hickies of their own creation. Where they may sprawl on their back, peering up into the innards of engines, and likely as not get oil in their hair. Where they can make things and have the fun of finding out how things are made, why engines perk, clocks tick, radios yowl, and something of the everyday mechanical marvels which - given the chance, many of them would master quite as well as Brother Bill. And emerge somewhere in the scale between grease-monkeys and inventors. or, negatively, with at least their lack of attitude revealed. All of which is a considerable digression in an account which is supposed to deal with my world-circling project. The subjects, however are related.
The flight was to be the forerunner of activities at Purdue, where miraculously, there exists a real comprehension of the quaint view-point I have tried to indicate. Practical mechanical training, engineering and the like, is available without discouragement to women students thee. An alluring field was opened in our discussions of a course to be designed in "household engineering." Many a stay-at-home girl would welcome practical training in what to do when the door-ell fails to function, the plumbing clogs, the gas-range leaks, the fuse blows out, the windmill pump goes haywire, and the thousand-and-one other mechanical indispositions that can occur about the house, often easily enough fixed if one has rudimentary knowledge how to fix them.
Which, perhaps, explains my enthusiasm for Purdue, woman wise as well as aviation-wise.
One day last summer president Edward C. Elliott of Purdue asked m husband what most interested me beyond immediate academic maters. Mr. Putnam, a practising believer in wives doing what they do best, is an approving and helpful partner in all my projects. So he divulged my suppressed pilot's yearning for a bigger and better airplane. Not only to go to far places further and faster and more safely, but essentially for pioneering in aviation education and technical experimentation. So, in due time, I came into possession of m two-motor Lockheed Electra. Its purchase was made possible chiefly through the Purdue Research foundation, aided by such friends as J.K. Lilly, Vincent Bendix, and others, mostly within the aviation industry, and by he generosity of manufacturers who seemed to feel that my activities were helpful in promoting aviation, and especially, perhaps, in overcoming women's "sales resistance" to air travel.
I had attended to undertake a year's research with m plane and thereafter plan some interesting flight. but circumstances made it appear wiser to postpone the research and attempt the flight first. My "flying laboratory" became equipped with all that is modern in instruments. It has a Sperry Gyro-Pilot, an automatic device which actually flies the ship unaided. There is a Bendix radio direction finder which points the way to any selected broadcasting station within its range. 'there is the finest two-way voice and code Western Electric communication equipment in whose installation the Bell Laboratories, under the aegis of Dr. Frank B. Jewett, co-operated. The plane itself is a two-motor, all-metal monoplane, with retractable landing gear. It is a big brother to the two Lockheed Vegas which I have used on previous flights. It has a normal cruising speed of about 180 miles an hour and a top speed in excess of 200. With the special gasoline tanks that have been installed in the fuselage, capable of carrying 1,150 gallons, it has a cruising radius in excess of 4,000 miles. With full load the ship weighs about 15,000 pounds. it is powered with two Wasp "H" engines, developing 1100 horse-power.
Anticipation, I suppose, sometimes exceeds realization. Whatever the final outcome of the trip itself, certainly there was extraordinary interest in the months of planning for it. Preparation, I have often said, is rightly two-thirds of any venture. Preparation for the world flight occupied many months. There were the mechanical problems of the ship and its operation and far-flung arrangements for the journey. When you plan an automobile journey through New England, or, say, to Yellowstone, the needed maps can be had at any filling station. but with a flight around the world, much of it off the beaten paths of established air transport, there are complexities. It took many weeks to get all the maps and charts we wanted. Once secured, the courses to be followed wee laid out in detail on them, mostly by Commander Clarence Williams of Los Angeles, who had helped me plot previous flights. In final form flight chart are really lovely things. On them are drawn the compass courses with their periodic changes, distances, airports and the like. As supplementary data accumulates the marginal notes assume encyclopaedic proportions. They concern details about airports, service facilities, prevailing winds, characteristics of local weather and terrain, critical altitudes, emergency landing possibilities and the like.
In assembling the precious data a tower of helpfulness was Jacques de Sibour, an old friend of ours who, with his wife Violette (both pilots), is intimately familiar with flying conditions in much of the most difficult territory involved. All important in our budding campaign were the arrangements for fuel and service. As our plans progressed the world-wide organization of the Standard Oil Company of New jersey and its associates co-operated in assembling information and in "spotting" fuel supplies at designated points. At certain fields scattered here and there, competent mechanics sere provided for and spare parts assembled. Living with those maps and charts was absorbing and instructive. My knowledge of geography - at least theoretically - increased from wee and take-off conditions at African airports, was an adventure in itself. Some day I would like to write a piece about the fun of voyaging with maps - without ever leaving home.
The proposed route, as originally laid out, was from Oakland or Honolulu, thence to Port Darwin in Northern Australia, via new Guinea and a tiny pin-point of an island called Howland, half a degree north of he equator about 1,800 miles southwest of Hawaii. That was part one. Part two, a lengthier stretch over fabulous lands, extended from Australia to the west coast of Africa by way of Arabia. The third section was the South Atlantic. The fourth from Brazil north. I felt that if I could do an on of these creditably I should not be disappointed.
While on previous flights I had always been alone, this time I planned to take a navigator with me. In three hops the Electra and I had to cross more than 6,500 miles of water, two of them broken by no land, whatever, and all the way with no intermediate landing fields. It did not seem good sense to try such a crossing without the aid of celestial navigation. On two previous ocean flights and from Mexico across the gulf I've dead reckoned" and made my landfall. But then I was aiming at continents, not small spots of land in the mightiest ocean. Hawaii, 2,400 miles from California, would be hard to find b this method alone. Howland island - dimensions, les than a mile by two miles- 1,800 miles further on, would be a fantastically tiny target. To take very precaution to find it, I had four means. on, dead reckoning (which is simply the estimate of position based on speed in a given direction maintained for a definite time); two, radio bearings from ships at sea and shore stations; three, a radio direction finder in m cockpit; four, celestial navigation. So far as m experience goes I believe a lone pilot cannot take an accurate sight at will, airplanes being the complicated mechanisms hey are today. So I asked Captain Harry manning to be navigator.
My first meeting with Captain Manning was when he was skipper of the united States liner Roosevelt, on which I returned after my first flight across the Atlantic in 1928. On that trip he talked navigation to me. We agreed that some day, when the chance came, we would team up on a flight. Now, eight years later, he still wanted to ship on such an aerial voyage and I still wanted him to. The plane had been fitted with special windows for his work. he had a good-sized table to hold necessary charts. Chronometers were beside the table, shock-mounted on rubber. Other "chart-room" equipment included altimeter, air-speed and drift indicators, pylorus and compass. The navigator had access to any part of the plane, for a catwalk over the large gasoline tanks connected the cabin in the rear with the cockpit.
There, briefly, is the Foreword to the flight. Enacting it occupied me (and many others) through last winter. By March we were approaching the goal of departure. To a large degree I had been able to launch previous flights without discussing them in advance. In aviation, talking before one has anything to talk about is unusually poor policy. So many things can happen before the take-off to change the plan of action, or even cause complete abandonment of the adventure, that most pilots prefer to play owl and say nothing. However, in this case that wasn't possible, one result being that for many months I was privileged to answer many questions - if I could.
"Why are you attempting this around-the-world flight?" Such was one of the most pertinent queries, whose answer may as well be recorded here.
"Because I want to." That was as near a complete reply as I could devise. here was shining adventure, beckoning with new experiences, added knowledge of flying, of peoples - of myself. I felt that with the flight behind m I would be more useful to me and to the program we had planned at Purdue. Then too, there was my belief that now and then women should do for themselves what men have already done - and occasionally what men have not done - thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women toward greater independence of thought and action. Some such consideration was a contributing reason for my wanting to do what I so much wanted to do.
About half past four on the afternoon of March 17 we took off from Oakland, bound for Honolulu.
That "we" of this departure was a crew four times more sizeable than I had ever embarked with before. Beside myself, there was Harry Manning, Fred Noonan, and Paul Mantz. I planned to drop Mantz at Honolulu, Noonan at Howland, and Manning in Australia. At the time we said here would be an occasion where it would be the males who'd do the walking home! but the best laid plans of mice and pilots can go awry, and so awry went mine that all four of us returned together from the islands by steamer. But before getting to that, let me set down the story, of the flight itself.
Fred Noonan, tops among aerial navigators, was a veteran of a dozen Pacific air crossings for Pan American, who signed on to co-operate with Harry Manning on the first two difficult over-water hops. Appropriate to the day, which was St. Patrick's, and the forebears the name Noonan implied, he wore a shamrock. At the last minute Paul Mantz decided he would like to hitch-hike to Honolulu. I was glad to have him, for his presence meant not only a relief pilot on the way over, but the benefit of his technical skill in checking the ship before the long jump to Howland. Parenthetically, it was only after I had agreed to take him that I awoke to the fact that I was unwittingly playing the role of understudy to Cupid. For Paul confessed that the big reason he wanted to go to Honolulu just then wasn't solely his professional devotion to my project, but the fact that his fiancee, Mrs. Theresa Miner, was already at sea on the Matson Line steamer Malolo, Hawaii-bound. It seemed the quickest way for him to rejoin her was to fly with me.
For a week intermittent rain held us at Oakland. On the day of our departure more rain fell and from lowering clouds some final showers descended even while the ship was being gassed. But by four o'clock the sun shone through gray cloud-banks to the westward, gilding the Golden Gate with good omen. With 947 gallons of gasoline on board, the Electra had a heavy load to raise from the wet field. Paul Mantz and I had carefully worked out the piloting technique of that start. It was a team-play take-off - each with his job, I at the controls, Paul handling throttles and retractable landing gear. The 1100 horses of my two Wasp engines leaped so gallantly to the task of lifting 14,000 pounds into the sky that our wheels left the ground after the almost unbelievably short run of 1,897 feet - as subsequent measurement showed. Incidentally, special one hundred octane gasoline gave the motors extra power.
Once aloft, I throttled down. engines have human attributes - they usually respond to kindly treatment. With a long grind before them I wished to give mine the least possible punishment. The first few hours of flight are often indicative of what is to come, mechanically. Therefore, I wanted daylight for a while in order to be able to watch more easily plane and engine reactions. further, a sharp horizon line is an aid to pilots, whether they are conscious of it or not, in keeping an overloaded plane on even keel. As we passed through it, the golden Gate was truly golden. Behind us dark clouds closed in. But westward the sky was cheerful with late afternoon sunlight, which burnished the slopes of Mount Tamalpais on one hand and story-book San Francisco on the other, as we headed westward over the great new bridge, a thread of steel below us, specked with crawling tiny beetles that were automobiles homeward bound.
An hour out from alameda we sighted Pan American's Clipper, silhouetted against a towering bank of cumulus, sun-flecked clouds. We flew near enough actually to obtain a photograph. This was the first time I had seen another plane at sea, and later I learned that in all their Pacific crossings up to then Pan American ships had never sighted each other. For Ed Musick, pilot on this clipper, this was a "first" too. Shortly, with our greater speed, we slowly left the big flying boat astern. All of us, I am sure, were impressed with the unusualness of meeting, and then leaving, another plane out thee over the lonely stretches of the ocean. Unusual as such an occurrence is today, before long it doubtless will be as commonplace as passing transports on our continental airways.
Here are verbatim extracts from my log book as they were pencilled in it that night over the Pacific:
Golden edged clouds ahead, then the golden nothingness or sunset beyond. I am glad we started with as much daylight as we did. Some of the squalls we have come through would have been less pleasant at night.
Paul and I have some cocoa 3 hrs. Out. There is still a glow in the west. I have been flying most of the time. Now Paul does and I watch instruments. Stars about. The navigators are working like mad. Harry has just had a long radio discourse. The aft cabin is lighted with a weird green blue light. Our instruments show pink.
The sky rose yellow.
The night has come. It is eleven o'clock. Cal. time. The sea is lovely. Venus is setting ahead and to the right. The moon is a lifesaver. It gives us horizon to fly by. It shines on the engine cowls and into the cockpit.
We have much the same formation as on my flight. fluff clouds, tho more open sea.
6-7 ours out. The stars are brilliant but with the moon they cant be seen on horizon. Harry comes up to work the radio. Paul flies while Harry works over my head. 6.35 Harry reports we're ahead of the dead reckoning. Noonan is just figuring position. Gas so far is o.k.
The ship now flies like an airplane with almost 2000 lbs rt up.
180 mph boy oh boy I hope the navigators know what they're talking about.
KFI just reported at 12:15 PST Weather report from Steamer Monterey. Also W.T. Miller. Paul called Burbank on 3105.
Noonan asked to hold her steady while he takes string of sights. Pan am in Oa Pan Am says to contact Honolulu now 1 A.M.
Harry has just talked with Hon. The moon has sunk into a bed of clouds. We are now using the Sperry to save our eyes as there is practically no horizon. just the type of cloud formation and lack of vis. I had last time, only then I had no Sperry. little helper.
Clouds are getting fuzzy I think. for a while they were like mere firm white dumpling just under our wing. Then they ran down hill and lay swallowed in the moonlight several thousand feet below. now they are more formless. however stars still above.
The navigators are having coffee. I smell it.
The night is clearer now. The clouds are white with dark islands - where the sea shows through.
It is now 4.10 PST. We have been flying over a stretch of open sea so the sky looks light. Now we reach some clouds with holes in them. Now and then a star seems to rise from one of these holes. Curious illusion.
The sky certainly seems lighter. But its too early for dawn. I have just eaten an apple. Paul a tomato because there wasn't any for him.
This was the first time since the Friendship Flight in 1928 that I'd had company when voyaging over in ocean. Not that there were any particularly social aspects about this experience. In the cockpit we pilots were too constantly busy for much conversation, while the navigators were equally occupied in their fuselage chart-room aft of the extra fuel tanks, which in my Electra occupy much of the space normally used by passengers. There they had the tools of their exacting trade - the business of finding where one may be, from the stars, the sun and dead reckoning, aided by such devices as sextants, octants, chronometers and drift indicator.
Communication between our pilot's cockpit and the navigators in their cubbyhole was carried on by means of a cut-down bamboo fish pole, with an office clip at the end to hold the cards upon which pilots from the "navigation department." Not only was it important to know our position at a given moment, but our rate of speed and the computation of fuel consumption and quantity remaining in the tanks. incidentally, we arrived at Hawaii with more than four hours' supply of gasoline remaining, which would have given us over 600 miles of additional flying, a satisfactory safety margin.
Compared with the Atlantic flights, made without benefit of radio, this venture seemed almost chatty and neighbourly. Constantly we were in touch with the world, almost surfeited with the programs on which we could tune in, not to mention the messages broadcast for our special benefit, and the periodic reports of our position and progress we sent out. All of us were so occupied throughout the night there was no time to doze, even had there been inclination. Indeed, there was hardly opportunity to eat. We carried box lunches, but I noticed upon arrival very few sandwiches were missing. I ate one sandwich myself and an apple. The others satisfied themselves with hot chocolate and coffee, snatched in paper cups from the thermos bottles.
Fred Noonan's navigation proved all one could expect. Throughout the night the stars told him (via his bubble octant) where we were, while Harry Manning worked the radio. At one point, when we were a couple of hundred miles from Hawaii, Fred told me to drop down through the clouds and steer a certain course. "Keep the Makapuu beacon ten degrees on the starboard bow," he ordered.
What he meant was that I should tune my Bendix radio direction finder to indicate the location of the beacon, and then had the plane as he directed. This was the first time I had used this recently developed Bendix instrument. On this Pacific hop it was one of the most interesting and valuable on board, performing perfectly.
Here are some further extracts from my flight diary:
Daylight comes at last. The stars fade. We are throttled down to 120 indicated airspeed so not to arrive in darkness. We are burning less than 20 gals. of gas at 10000 ft. We have tuned in on Makapu. Keep it 10 degrees to starboard bow is the order.
The generator just went out. Harry has held the key down so long it grew tired. Whats a gen. if he got his bearings? We cant see yet what we're over. it might be desert. Looking back the silhouetted clouds might be hills (rolling) against the twilight sky and now and then we pass over a 'lake."
80 miles from Makapu. Fred says start down.
At 5.40 in the morning, Honolulu time, we sighted diamond head, that friendly landmark which I had last seen on January 11, 1935, when at dusk on a cloudy afternoon my heavily laden Lockheed Vega headed eastward bound for the California coast. It put in an appearance through the morning mists exactly where and when Fred expected it, which was most comforting. Making the landfall that morning was even pleasanter than my first view of California's shore line two years ago. After all, it would require ingenuity to miss a continent, which I as aiming for then. Hawaii, however, is something else again and we all knew how easily it could be passed by.
I felt I owed an apology to the people who rose early to greet us when we landed at Wheeler field. Perhaps I should have been more considerate and tried to arrange the arrival at a later hour. but that was difficult, because it was so desirable to time the departure from Oakland in daylight. Having visited those lovely islands before, I was accustomed to the very special hospitality of Hawaii, but I did not expect so many of its friendly people to go without breakfast that they might welcome us. And speaking of breakfast, a bright particular memory of the immediate aftermaths of our arrival were the so-fresh scrambled eggs miraculously awaiting us at the home of colonel and Mrs. John McDonnell.
We had hoped to push on to Howland promptly but soon found that weather conditions to the southwestward weren't what they might be. Delay was evidently inevitable. But if one has to wait, in all the world thee is no pleasanter place to do the waiting than in Honolulu. Again, as before on my 1935 Pacific solo, I was ensconced in the lovely Waikiki beach home of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Holmes. Six hours of sleep there, topped off by luxurious sun-bathing on the lanai, whence one may regard the tropic scene through the rippling fronds of cocoanut palms, banished all traces of fatigue. meals appeared wherever and whenever one awoke, while the quantities of pineapple juice I consumed between times were fabulous.
Back in the field Wilbur Thomas, Pratt & Whitney's representative in Hawaii, was on his toes to get at the Wasp engines. I told him he was one of the very few men in the world I would let touch them before the time rolled around for their regular overhaul, many hours away. Beautiful motors, you know, are sometimes best left alone when they are functioning perfectly. However mine, under the best possible direction, forthwith received appropriate mechanical rub-down and massage, so to speak, just to keep them in the pink of condition. In passing, I do want to record some "thank yous" among the many due hose who were kind to me. Army and navy officers and men all contributed their utmost, my gratitude going particularly to General Barton K. Young, Colonel John McDonnell, and Major Samuel Grierson. Two civilian accomplices of my previous visit, "Bill" Cogswell and Nat Farbman - island representatives of our good friend Sydney Bowman of San Francisco - were helpfully on hand always. There are so many! Richard B. Black, and all the personnel of the Itasca, with their fruitless waiting at Howland, bill Miller of the Department of commerce, Lieutenant Frank Johnson of the Coast guard, Bob Oertel of Standard Oil, women friends like Benigna Green and Bess Young at Honolulu. And especially the mechanics and technicians who labored in and out of hours at Burbank, Oakland, Honolulu, and elsewhere. To them I owe so much. Some day I hope to shake their hands and have them know I realize what a helpless part of any flight a pilot, without them, would be.
Our time - 15 hours and 47 minutes from Oakland to Honolulu had established a record for the east-west crossing. That is an interesting commentary on the progress of flying equipment, particularly as concerns speed. Actually, we were going about as slowly as possible. We throttled back the engines and most of the way our craft was "under wraps." For once, tail winds wee almost an embarrassment: so far as concerns speed, it would have been easier to go faster. The Electra, or similar craft, can comfortably cut a couple of hours off the left-handed record we set up 'most any time under favouring conditions.
From Honolulu I wrote on march 19: "The element of speed as far from uppermost in such a flight as this. It can't be. Quite truly, I'm in no hurry. It was disappointing yesterday that had weather prevented us carrying on. But doubles similar delays will occur later. My ambition is no time mark. There is no 'record' to shoot at. That twill come for others later. We'll see globe-girdling flights whose brevity will take your breath away. As for this present venture, I just went to progress as safely and sanely as day-to-day conditions make possible, give myself and the Electra the experience of seeing what we can of this very interesting world at its waistline, and, with good fortune, get back with plane and pilot all "in one piece.'"
Seemingly I spoke out of turn, for the next morning my poor plane was anything but "in one piece." Badly battered, it lay wrecked on the runway of Luke Field. In m life I had come to realize that when thing were going very well indeed it was just the time to anticipate trouble. And, conversely, I learned from pleasant experience that at the most despairing crisis, when all looked sour beyond words, some delightful "break" was apt to lurk just around the corner. The first gray light of day was seeping down over the eastern hills upon Peal Harbor. From Wheeler, where we landed, we had moved to Luke Field, where a fine 3,000-foot concrete runway offered better take-off facilities. We had decided on a dawn start. It is amazing how much can happen in one dawn. We had 900 gallons of gasoline on board. That was almost as much as we carried coming from Oakland, although the contemplated distance to Howland was 600 miles shorter than the first leg of the journey. From the reports at hand I as doubtful of weather and wanted to take along enough fuel to enable us to return after eight hours, if necessary for any reason.
However, this load was not by any means the ship's limit. Several times we had taken off comfortably with greater weight. Indeed, so easily was the plane moving down the runway that I thought the take-off was actually over. In ten seconds more we would have been off he ground, with our landing gear tucked up and on our way southwestward. There was not the slightest indication of anything abnormal. Ten seconds later the airplane which brought us so gallantly to Honolulu lay helpless on the concrete runway, a poor battered bird with broken wings. As for the crew, only our spirits were bruised when this sudden disaster overtook us. by good fortune, Harry manning, Fred Noonan and I emerged without a scratch. But the plane, her landing gear wiped off and one wing damaged, was a sad sight to see. At that, the comparatively slight damage was a fine testimonial to the sturdiness of Lockheed construction - such an accident might well result in a total wash-out. it was one of those incidents in aviation which, small in themselves, may have vastly serious consequences. Witnesses said the tire blew. however, studying the tracks carefully, I believe that may not have been the primary cause of the accident. Possibly the landing gear's right shock absorber, as it lengthened, may have given way.
Watchers on the ground saw the wing drop. suddenly the plane pulled to my right. I reduced the power on the opposite engine and succeeded in swinging from the right to he left. for a moment I thought I would be able to gain control and straighten the course. but, alas, the load was so heavy, once it started an arc thee was nothing to do but let the plane ground loop as easily as possible. With the excessive weight, the landing gear on the right was wrenched free and gasoline sprayed from the drain-well. That there was no fire was surely the result of the generous good wishes which had come to me from all over the world. No one of the three of us on board was even shaken, a testimony to the safety of a modern metal plane such as mine. In retrospect, I am thankful that the failure occurred where it did rather than in some isolated corner of the world far from help. And I must say a good word for Fred Noonan and Harry Manning. They were both as game as could be. In fact, when the first men reached the plane and opened the cabin door, they found Fred methodically folding up his charts. He said that then I flew again he was read to go along.
I think it was not more than two minutes after we emerged from the crack-up that I knew exactly what I wanted to do - if ways and means could be devised for doing it. My own desire, I'm sure, was et almost before the slithering slide along the concrete ended. "If we don't burn up, I want to try again." Something like that flashed through my mind. Miraculously, fire spared us. . . . the two minutes above mentioned were needed to appraise the state of the plane itself. it were completely washed out, I knew we'd not be able to get another. If it were repairable, I thought we could carry on. Hasty examination indicated its broken bones could be mended.
"Of course now you'll give up the trip?" the speaker's inflection implied more a statement of fact than a question. I shook my head. "I think not."
"Tough luck," another newspaperman commiserated. "Anyway, you're fortunate to be alive. By the way, I understand your husband will be greatly relieved because now you can't go on with the flight." I knew better. Just to set the record straight, I was able later to show the inquirer a telegram sent by Mr. Putnam immediately following the accident after learning he still had a wife to wire to. This was the message: "So long as you and the boys are o.k. The rest doesn't matter. After all, it's just one of those things. Whether you want to call it a day or keep going later is equally jake with me."
That considerate spirit was "jake" with me, too! Anyway, he knew perfectly well I'd want to "keep going." Under the circumstances he'd want to himself. I think my husband has always found a sort of grim satisfaction - a species of modern martyrdom - in being, for once, the male left behind while the female fares forth adventure-bound, thus turning topsy-turvy the accepted way of the world in such matters.
The plane and its crew back in California, the obvious task was not to lament the past but prepare for the future. Like broken bones which Nature knits slowly in her own special process, the injured parts of an airplane must be painstakingly restored. There is no short cut to full usefulness in either case if perfect healing is desired. In addition to "healing," a strengthening of certain members to withstand the excessive strain to which overloading subjects them as in order for my Electra. This meant some actual redesigning, another process which could not be hurried. As to the precious engines, they were already in the Pacific Airmotive shops at Burbank being thoroughly checked. After the plane and engines were together, some time would have to be allowed for testing.
With the rebuilding of the plane in hand, our next task was to appraise the effect of delay upon our flying plans. We had picked mid-March as about the best time for the flight from the standpoint of weather - so far as one could expect consistent "bests" on such a long route. Setting back the date three months would see seasons relentlessly progress. In some places progress would be with benefit to pilots, in others the reverse. Here rains began, there they abated, here winds were favourable, there monsoons and choking dust-storms wee due. So we set to studying again the weather maps of the world and consulting with meteorologists who know the habits of fogs and rains and temperatures around the long equator. The upshot of those consultations was that I decided to reverse the direction originally chosen for the flight. Earlier it had seemed that the advantage lay in passage to the west, at the later date the contrary appeared true. After all, for practical purpose and disregarding Mr. Einstein, the world measures the same distance from west to east, as east to west, on any given route.
A compelling factor in our decision was the probable imminence in the Caribbean and African areas of much less favourable weather later than early June. So it seemed sensible to get this part of the journey over as promptly as possible. Also we altered the original course which was to have been from Brazil up through Panama, Central America and Mexico. Instead of following that route I decided that the journey across the United States to Miami could be a practical shake-down flight, testing the rebuilt ship and its equipment, and thereby saving the time of running such tests in California. At Miami I knew there was fine mechanical assistance to master such "bugs" as developed in the 3,000 mile transcontinental trip. We had worked for many months making the original plans. By reversing the route we abandoned much that had been arranged and brought a new welter of detail down upon ourselves and, I fear, considerable inconvenience to others.
Supplies of fuel and oil, spare parts and mechanics, had been spotted at many points. The revision of all this involved sundry headaches. For instance, under the original schedule thee was to have been an engine overhaul at Karachi for which my Wasps would have been ripe by the time we reached here as originally planned. The very day we landed in Honolulu the technician elected for that job started by air from London to Karachi so as to be on hand in ample time. Arriving in India he was greeted by the news of our Honolulu crack-up and forthwith turned around and went home again. Naturally all that was at our expense. Those days in April and May were full of horrid realization like the costly Karachi excursion, forcibly driving home the sad truth that the stress and strains of an airplane accident and its aftermaths are just as severe financially as they are mechanically. On the prosaic dollar-and-cent side friends helped generously, but even so, to keep going I more-or-less mortgaged the future. Without regret, however, for what are futures for?
Revising the Pacific program was a sizeable task in itself. The Coast Guard had arranged its routine cutter cruise to Howland Island so as to be on hand thee at the time of my flight, and other provisions had been made by the navy. All that had to be worked out again, with a minimum of inconvenience to official plans. Then there was the matter of "permissions." We had already accumulated, with the kindly co-operation of the State Department, an impressive collection of credentials. They wee multitudinous and varied. In addition to routine passports and visas, in much of the territory it was necessary to secure special authority to land a plane. here and thee wee forbidden regions over which one might not fly. In and over other territories no firearms or motion picture cameras were permitted. Medical credentials were necessary; pilot and navigator were swollen with a full personal cargo of vaccines and inoculations. A couple of countries required testimonial of character and a negative police record. These I contrived.
All these arrangements were made through the State Department which I surmise must grow wear of such activities foisted upon it by peripatetic pilots. Its good nature under the stress of my troublesome requests is perhaps just a normal symptom of trained diplomacy. but before the State Department could officially act, it was necessary for me to have the approval of the Department of Commerce which has authority over civil flying. my craft had to be declared airworthy for the task in hand, and its pilot competent. it was necessary to secure this sanction all over again for the second start. It is only fair to record that the Bureau of Aeronautics probably would have preferred that I abandon the effort. Its policy was to discourage extracurricular undertakings of the kind, the common or garden term for which sometimes is "stung flights." But having granted me permission once, the ship, personnel and flight plan being the same, it would have been difficult to withdraw it.
During these two months I was seemingly busier even than before. Nearly every day thee wee hours at the Lockheed plant, consulting with engineers Hibbard, Gersler and Johnson, or checking into the thousand-and-one details of the rebuilding with Harvey Christian and Firman Grey in charge of the job. With my technical adviser Paul Mantz, and the others, we worked out many refinements of technique in the installation of fuel lines, tanks, dump valves, instruments and the rest of it. Because of our changed direction and re-routing over the Caribbean, thee was much to be done with our charts, mostly worked out by Fred Noonan and me. And with all, there were pleasant interludes of domesticity involving the completion of our new home not far from the airport at Burbank, and some treasured getting-away-from-all visits near Indio.
And my mail! A good way to realize how many people would like to fly around the world is to start such an undertaking and then see what the mail man brings. Many of m most precious letters came from youngsters. To air-minded youth - especially in the lower brackets of youthfulness - a jaunt around the equator appears petty inviting. Judging from the messages, a staggering number of boys and girls stood ready embark with me - bless their hearts.
"I am 15 years old, 105 pounds, quiet and want to see the world. I have no money, but will work my head off. . . ." That was from Michigan. Mostly, the volunteers ranged in age from ten to fifteen years, as many girls as boys. But where were grown-ups too. A persistent applicant listed among his qualifications that he was "a single fella" and carried "Government life insurance which is good in case killed in an airplane." there was a sweet child in Kentucky who begged: "Please teach me to fly. . . . I will repay you if it takes the rest of my life. . . . I haven't got much because my father loads coal in a mine." then the custom of being "named after." It's a common phenomenon for babies to have fastened on them the names of newsworthy people, and divers infants, apparently, have been inflicted with "Amelia." but the habit doesn't stop there.
"Behind a brick plant near our home," recorded a little girl, "thee is a beautiful little lake with blueish water so I named it "Lake Amelia" . . . I had no middle name so I adopted 'Amelia' as my middle name. I would have named my duck Amelia but since it is a he duck I can't." A namesake I enjoyed meeting later was a Wyeth-Logan cross dark hen introduced to me at the airport in Miami. In case you don't know, that's a homing pigeon. She holds the record for the fastest flying (pigeon) in Florida - as I recall, something over fifty miles per hour. her owner permitted me to hold and release her with what I fear must have seemed to Amelia a thoroughly unprofessional chuck into the air.
"She'll fly straight home," said Mr. Hamilton. "By the time I get back she'll be on her nest."
"A good example!" that was my husband's dour comment. "My dear, you might get pointers about this homing instinct."
Criticism, good -natured and otherwise, sometimes becomes a bit personal. I suspect it's always an open season for aviatrix. My hair, and the state it's often in is apt to be an object of uncomplimentary comment. The Sage of Kansas (I was born there) is concerned about that hair. Wrote William Allen White in the Emporia Gazette, after we'd started for Honolulu.
"Amelia Earhart is speeding across the Pacific on her round-the-world flight. She will have long boresome hours with little to do and much to think about. If we could catch her we would have just this one message, about as follows: 'Amelia dream, we knew our puppy when he was an amiable, care-free cake-eater in the University of Kansas, fifty years ago. So we have a right to take you aside and tell you something. It is this - we hope to heaven when you wee packing your grip you put in a pocket comb. For you certainly need to comb your hair. now is the time to get the tangles out and give it a good straightening. So in the long lone watches over the gray and melancholy ocean, comb your head, kid, comb your head!'"
But to return to our renewed flight plans. In retrospect I came almost to welcome our Honolulu mishap. That may have been either the mechanism of self-defensive philosophy, or just good sense. High as was the price paid, it seemed as if the knowledge gained was almost worth the cost. I mean in such things as better arrangements in navigation facilities and radio, exact reactions of the plane under heavy load conditions at various altitudes, and appreciation of its superb performance in taking off. "has the accident shaken your confidence?" That question was asked me many times. Its answer was clear in my mind. Nothing which happened changed my attitude towards the original project. indeed, I felt better about the ship and its equipment that I ever did before. I was eager to fly it again.
The plane's performance had been all that could be asked. If anyone had cause to lament, it was the Electra itself. For I put burdens upon her which in normal flying she was not built to bear. She carried a heavy overload. As a matter of fact, very few times since we started our partnership have I flown her without one. come to think of it, most of my flying for some years has been with overloaded planes seeking distance performance. so that the problems - and the risks - of this phase of the flight were not unfamiliar to me.
Speaking of loads, the human cargo for the next flight was paired down. As Captain Manning had to return to his Atlantic command, his place as navigator was taken by Fred Noonan, whose desire to go along seemed unshaken by our experience. As to Noonan, I came to realize that there was a humanitarian aspect to the flight. Shortly before the Oakland take-off Fred was in a serious automobile accident. Soon after our return to California he survived another highway smash-up. So he and Mrs. Noonan were eager for him to take to the air for safety!
The rebuilt Electra came out of the Lockheed plant on May 19. Two days later we flew it to Oakland where our friend Elmer Dimity quietly slipped on board the cargo of "covers"* carried for philatelists. As that time we had made no announcement of my decision to reverse the direction of the flight. It seemed sensible to slip away as quietly as we could. While I was actually heading for Miami, with hope of keeping on from there eastward, technically the journey from Burbank across the country was a shake-down flight. If difficulties developed we would bring the ship back to the Lockheed plant for further adjustments.
*These had voyaged on the first flight to Honolulu and then had been returned to Oakland. They wee the ship's only "payload" sold by a large New York department store in New York to collectors. The risk of final return and delivery perforce was assumed by the purchaser, whose share of the gamble was infinitesimal compared with the pilot's.
Accompanying me on this hop across the continent was Fred Noonan. "Bo" McKneely my mechanic, and Mr. Putnam. A leisurely afternoon's flight ended at Tucson, Arizona. The weather was sailing hot as Arizona can be in summertime. After landing and checking in, when I started my motors again to taxi to the filling pit the left one back-fired and burst into flames. for a few seconds it was nip-and-tuck whether the fire would get away from us. There weren't adequate extinguishers ready on the ground but fortunately the Lux apparatus built in the engine killed the fire. The damage was trivial, mostly some pungently cooked rubber fittings a deal of dirty grime. The engine required a good cleaning and the ship a face-washing.
On this trip when someone asked how many times I'd flown across the continent I realized that I actually did not know. My coast-to-coat commuting has been going on for quite some years now, in planes of many sorts, from m first little Avro Avion, and an autogyro, up to the Electra. Not to mention many crossings on the air line, and about half-a-dozen by automobile. Adding it all up, it's hard to know just when I was static enough to get much done that required doing in one place. The next morning at Tucson a dense sandstorm blocked our way. but despite it we took off, leap-frogging at 8,000 feet over El Paso with a seemingly solid mass of sand billowing below us like a turbulent yellow sea. That night we reached new Orleans and on Sunday morning, May 23, headed on southeastward for Miami. From New Orleans we laid a straight course across the north-easterly "corner" of the gulf of Mexico to Tampa, a matter of about 400 miles. It was Bo's first considerable over-water flying and I am not sure he was very enthusiastic about it. That Sunday afternoon we reached Miami, and dug in for a week of final preparation, with the generous aid of Pan American personnel.
* * *
(In the days that followed, A.E. had no time to write. "We'll catch up on that later," she said. "I want to do a careful account of this final job of getting ready for a long flight. It's really colorful and I think could be made interesting even for nonflyers."
The opportunity to "catch up" never came. Instead of filling myself, I've chosen to present something of the story of that work before departure in words written at the time by C.B. Allen of the New York Herald Tribune, a good friend who was with us at Miami.
In a letter sent to his wife at Oakland when the flight had run about half in scheduled course, Fred Noonan wrote: "Amelia is a grand person for such a trip. She is the only woman flyer I would care to make such an expedition with. Because in addition to being a fine companion and pilot, she can take hardship as well as a man - and work like one."
(Those who knew A.E. best, and especially those who saw her working with the men who were prep0aring her ship, realized her delight in the job at hand. She was seldom happier, I think, than when perched on a service-stand watching some adjustment of her beloved engines, or sprawled on the concrete tarmac observing experts wrestle with a troublesome strut or dump valve. And probably as grimy as a grease monkey. . . . It's illuminating to record what she'd planned for her first "party" following her return, a characteristic house-warming of her new home in Southern California. The guests wee to be exclusively the men (and their wives) who had worked on her plane, the gang who had "put out" the best they had, in hours and out of hours, at the Lockheed plant, at union Air Terminal, and at Oakland. She had a full list of them. They were the ones whose help she wanted them to know she appreciated.
Prior to that dawn of June first, when A.E. took her silver plane up into the sunrise at Miami, she confided a secret. Before getting on with its pilot's story of Last flight itself, I close this chapter with this brief piece of Carl Allen's, written by him later: