I Believe I Can Fly

Dreams are only an indication of what you can do but a burning desire combined with action is the way to live its’ reality.  By Byron Pulsifer

It was announced today that a team of researchers trying to solve the mystery of aviator Amelia Earhart’s 1937 disappearance said that underwater video from a Pacific island has revealed a field of man-made debris that could be remnants of her plane.

The video was collected in July during an expedition to Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati.  Unsolved questions about Earhart’s fate have heightened her legendary status as a pioneering aviator.

Amelia Earhart was born 24 July 1897, disappeared in 1937.    She was the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.  She received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this record.  She set a host of other records and wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots.

During her attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.

During Earhart and Noonan’s approach to Howland Island the Itasca received strong and clear voice transmissions from Earhart identifying as KHAQQ but she apparently was unable to hear voice transmissions from the ship.  At 7:42 am on July 2, Earhart radioed “We must be on you, but cannot see you—but gas is running low.  Have been unable to reach you by radio.  We are flying at 1,000 feet.”  Her 7:58 am transmission said she couldn’t hear the Itasca and asked them to send voice signals so she could try to take a radio bearing (this transmission was reported by the Itasca as the loudest possible signal, indicating Earhart and Noonan were in the immediate area).  They couldn’t send voice at the frequency she asked for, so Morse code signals were sent instead.  Earhart acknowledged receiving these but said she was unable to determine their direction.

In her last known transmission at 8:43 am Earhart broadcast “We are on the line 157 337. We will repeat this message.  We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles.  Wait.”  However, a few moments later she was back on the same frequency (3105 kHz) with a transmission which was logged as a “questionable”:  “We are running on line north and south.”  Earhart’s transmissions seemed to indicate she and Noonan believed they had reached Howland’s charted position, which was incorrect by about five nautical miles (10 km).  The Itasca used her oil-fired boilers to generate smoke for a period of time but the fliers apparently did not see it.  The many scattered clouds in the area around Howland Island have also been cited as a problem:  their dark shadows on the ocean surface may have been almost indistinguishable from the island’s subdued and very flat profile.

Whether any post-loss radio signals were received from Earhart and Noonan remains controversial. If transmissions were received from the Electra, most if not all were weak and hopelessly garbled.  The last voice transmission received on Howland Island from Earhart indicated she and Noonan were flying along a line of position (taken from a “sun line” running on 157–337 degrees) which Noonan would have calculated and drawn on a chart as passing through Howland.  After all contact was lost with Howland Island, attempts were made to reach the flyers with both voice and Morse code transmissions.  Operators across the Pacific and the United States may have heard signals from the downed Electra but these were unintelligible or weak.

Searches for her plane began almost immediately.  The official search efforts lasted until July 19, 1937.  Immediately after the end of the official search, Putnam financed a private search by local authorities of nearby Pacific islands and waters, concentrating on the Gilberts. In late July 1937, Putnam chartered two small boats and while he remained in the United States, directed a search of the Phoenix Islands, Christmas Island, Fanning Island, the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands, but no trace of the Electra or its occupants were found.  Back in the United States, Putnam acted to become the trustee of Earhart’s estate so that he could pay for the searches and related bills.  In probate court in Los Angeles, Putnam requested to have the “death in absentia” seven-year waiting period waived so that he could manage Earhart’s finances. As a result, Earhart was declared legally dead on January 5, 1939.

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” by Amelia Earhart

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3 thoughts on “I Believe I Can Fly

  1. Kitt Crescendo

    I’ve always been a big Earhart fan… Between she and Eleanor Aquitaine, they show what women with strength and determination are capable of. Having said that, knowing Earhart was lost somewhere out there has always made me a bit sad. She deserves a hero’s homecoming. I hope they find her and are able to put one of my female heroes to rest.

    Reply

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