“The Case for the Earhart Miami Plane Change”: Another unique Rafford gift to Earhart saga

November 14, 2014

In his introduction to Paul Rafford Jr.’s  “The Case for the Amelia Earhart Miami Plane Change,” in the November 1997 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, Bill Prymak quoted an unnamed, recently deceased “old-time researcher’s poignant reflection on the problems the Earhart case posed for inquiring minds.

“Fail to look under every rock, and you’ll never solve this bloody Earhart mystery,” Prymak began. “And so, patiently, deliberately, methodically, PAUL RAFFORD has plunged into this tangled, labyrinthine morass of inaccurate data, misleading information, speculation, ill-based rumors, all in an attempt to bring some sense to AE’s disappearance. The deep-six theory is too simplistic, leaving too many questions unanswered. In the following three articles, Paul explores some new (provocative?) territory.

In Paul’s revised 2008 edition of his book. Amelia Earhart’s Radio: Why She Disappeared, Paul reprised his April 5, 1997 piece, “The Case for the Amelia Earhart Miami Plane Change” and rewrote it in a more reader-friendly style. Following is my best attempt to combine the best elements of both pieces, which is then following Bill Prymak’s analysis.

by Paul Rafford Jr. (Extracted from Amelia Earhart’s Radio and Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, November 1997)

4th stop, Miami: 23 May to 1 June

A photo taken upon her arrival in Miami, shows the direction finding loop still installed and the short factory version of the fixed antenna in place. In 1940, John Ray was the flight instructor while I was the radio operator aboard Pan Am’s instrument training plane. Flying out of LaGuardia, we trained pilots in instrument approaches and letdowns. He told me that while moonlighting with his aviation radio service business in Miami, he had been contracted to remove Earhart’s trailing antenna. 

The shiny patch covering the spot where the aft window used to be, which is said to have appeared after repairs were made in Miami in late May-early June 1937, is the same sheet of aluminum that Ric Gillespie now claims he found on Nikumaroro in 1991.

The shiny patch covering the spot where the aft window used to be, which is said to have appeared after repairs were allegedly made in Miami on May 30 or May 31, 1937, according the information published in the Oct. 30, 2014 Miami Herald. This patch is the same sheet of aluminum that TIGHAR’s Ric Gillespie has claimed he found on Nikumaroro in 1991.

In January 1990, I wrote and asked him to confirm what he had told me 50 years before. He immediately telephoned and repeated everything he had originally claimed: soon after her arrival in Miami, he had removed her trailing antenna. Seemingly unrelated at the time, Dick Merrill and Jack Lambie made the first round-trip commercial flight from New York to London and back from May 8 to May 14 in 1937 with a Lockheed Electra 10E. They flew over newsreels of the Hindenburg disaster of May 6th, and returned with photographs of the coronation of King George VI of May 12th.

It was declared the first commercial crossing of the Atlantic, and the two men won several awards including the Harmon Trophy because of the feat. To make the flight, the windows of the aircraft had been removed and the plane was modified to carry 1,200 gallons of fuel. The fixed antenna was mounted as far forward as possible to create the best transmission, but no trailing antenna nor D/F loop were installed.

Merrill and Lambie then flew the Daily Express to Miami for the May 24 reception to be greeted by the Mayor plus 10,000 fans, and received silver trophies for their acheivement. Earhart, Noonan, and Putnam met them at the event. In April 1992, I had a long telephone conversation with Bob Thibert after I heard that he had worked on Earhart’s plane during her layover in Miami. I had known Bob in the 1970s. when we both worked for Pan Am. He claimed that the morning before Earhart’s departure, Len Michaelfelder, his boss, handed him a new radio loop and told him to install and calibrate it on the Electra, post-haste. However, newsreels of the Electra taken just after it arrived in Miami from Burbank show a loop already mounted on it.

Thibert was quite surprised when I told him that pictures of the Electra taken during its arrival at Miami clearly show that it already had a direction finding loop. So I asked him if he had seen any evidence that one might have been previously installed on the roof, such as filled-in bolt holes. He claimed he hadn’t. Later in the 1990s, I talked with both John Ray and Bob Thibert. To my surprise, neither of them knew that the other had worked on Earhart’s plane.

An early photo of the Daily Express, the only which had been flown to Miami on May 24, 1937 by  Dick Merrill and Jack Lambie following  the first round-trip commercial flight from New York to London. I can't find a photo of the starboard side of the Daily Express, but it left rear rudder clearly lacks the dark signature of the Earhart Electra.

An early photo of the Daily Express, which was flown to Miami on May 24, 1937 by Dick Merrill and Jack Lambie following their first round-trip commercial flight from New York to London. I can’t find a photo of the starboard side of the Daily Express, but its left rear rudder clearly lacks the dark signature  that marked the Earhart Electra throughout its world flight. 

The previous day, at Earhart’s request, Michaelfelder had modified the fixed antenna specifically to maximize transmissions on 6210 kHz. Although it was reported that he lengthened the antenna, he actually had shortened the antenna wire and moved the mast back several feet, bringing the lead-in down the right side of the fuselage. This arrangement was supposed to maximize transmission on 6210 kHz. Although never revealed publicly, Earhart switched airplanes after arriving in Miami. In 1940, John Ray told me how he had been called out to remove her trailing antenna shortly after she arrived from Burbank. Although John was an instrument flight instructor for Pan Am, he was also moonlighting an aeronautical radio service business.

Meanwhile, the sister ship to Earhart’s Electra, the Daily Express, had just arrived in Miami after a well-publicized round trip between New York and London. The two airplanes were secretly swapped and the Daily Express was turned over to Pan Am’s mechanics. They then prepared it for the world flight, never suspecting they were not working on Earhart’s original Electra. The Daily Express, however, had no trailing antenna. When queried, Earhart explained to the press corps that she had the antenna removed to save weight and the bother of reeling it out and in. But she did need a direction finding loop and this is how Bob Thibert found himself installing one the day before her departure. Later, the calibration curve he left in the cockpit would be Harry Balfour’s prime reference when he checked the loop at Lae.

During Earhart’s visit with Pan Am officials in Miami, she had a discussion with Charlie Winter, our local radio engineer. During World War II, he gave me the details. Now that she had dispensed with the trailing antenna, he suggested they replace the 500 kHz crystal and coils in her #3 transmitting channel with a Pan Am direction-finding frequency. This would allow our long distance direction finders to follow her progress across the Pacific.

To his surprise, she immediately cut him off with, “I don’t need that! I’ve got a navigator to tell me where I am.” Period. End discussion. Charlie was flabbergasted! He couldn’t believe she would turn down such an offer without further consideration.  Looking back, perhaps we can come up with at least one explanation as to why Amelia was so opposed to Charlie’s suggestion. Could it be that she didn’t want her whereabouts known while crossing the Pacific? In order to explain just what did happen during Earhart’s Miami transit I propose the following scenario. 

There was more than one Electra involved when Earhart departed on her second attempt to circle the globe. After the original plane was rebuilt, she flew it to Miami. There, John Ray removed the trailing antenna. She then flew it to an unknown destination, dropped it off, and returned to Miami in plane #2 [the Daily Express].  Jim Donahue [author of The Earhart Disappearance: The British Connection (1987)] claimed that Earhart left Miami in the Electra at least once during her layover.

However, some modifications were needed. Radio antenna-wise, the Daily Express was a bare bones model 10E. It carried no d/f loop or trailing antenna and its fixed antenna was the standard, short factory model. Legend has it that Earhart couldn’t be bothered with the problems involved with carrying a trailing antenna. However, I believe the reason she had her trailing antenna removed from plane #1 was because plane #2 [the Daily Express] would be delivered without one.

Removing it from plane #1 after her arrival in Miami would explain to the press and close observers why she had one when she arrived but not when she left Miami. She had to cover up the fact that she had switched planes. This is also why John Ray was contracted to remove the trailing antenna on #1, but Pan Am mechanics worked on the Daily Express. Had any of the three mechanics worked on both planes they would have immediately recognized the difference.

Amelia with Nilla Putnam, her step daughter in law, is said to be from May 29, 1937, in Miami. The second window is clearly visible to their right, and means it must have been covered over between then and June 1.

Amelia with Nilla Putnam, her step daughter-in-law, reportedly taken May 29, 1937, in Miami. The second window is clearly visible to their right, and means it must have been covered over between then and June 1, unless the original Electra was switched with the Daily Express. This photo was published in the October 30, 2014 Miami Herald Internet edition.

Although Earhart could dispense with the trailing antenna, she did need a loop and a more efficient fixed antenna. This is where Pan Am came into the picture. Radio mechanic Lynn Michaelfeller would lengthen the fixed antenna and Bob Thiebert would install a loop.

I made two telephone calls to Thiebert in April, 1992. We had both worked at Miami in 1970, when he was Superintendent of Pan Am’s radio/electronic overhaul shops and I was in charge of communications for Central America. … He said the job was top priority as the plane was leaving the first thing the following morning. He had to install a loop on it posthaste.

He went into detail about how he had worked alone doing both the metal and electrical work. I asked Bob the obvious question: during the installation had he seen any evidence of where previous loops might have been mounted? He said, “No,” and was quite surprised when I told him that at one time or another there had been at least two other loops mounted on Earhart’s plane. Bob had found only virgin skin where loops are mounted. He was also quite surprised when I told him that John Ray had removed the trailing antenna after the plane moved in Miami. He didn’t know John Ray, or know that anyone else but Pan Am mechanics had worked on the plane.

Although I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, the aforementioned TIGHAR Tracks article [Page 16 of the September 1995 issue of TIGHAR Tracks shows pictures of Earhart’s Electra parked at Burbank, Calif., and then taking off from Miami at the start of her round-the-world flight.] lends additional credence to the Miami plane change theory. In the last paragraph of page 16 the author claims: “The most apparent change made to NR16020 during the eight day stay in Florida was the replacement of the starboard rear window with a patch of aluminum skin. Again, legend has often described this feature as a removable hatch but the photographic record indicates otherwise. The opening first appears in 1937, and is present as a window in eyery known shot of the airplane’s starboard side until Miami, when it becomes shiny metal which grows gradually duller in photos taken at progressive stops in the world flight.”

The author implies that the starboard rear window was replaced by a patch of aluminum in Miami. However, I suggest that the plane is actually #2 [Daily Express], and the rear window was modified before the plane left Burbank. (Editor’s note: See photo of Amelia with Nilla Putnam, above.)

The Daily Express was preferable to Earhart’s original Electra for a round-the-world flight because it had approximately 100 gallons greater fuel capacity and hadn’t been through a bad crackup. Meanwhile, stripped of its trailing antenna and repainted, plane #1 would no longer be recognized as having belonged to Earhart. However, there was a discrepancy between the length of the fixed antennas on the two airplanes. Plane #1 arrived in Miami with the short, factory version. Its mast was mounted about midway between nose and tail. By contrast, the mast on the Daily Express was mounted over the cockpit in order to provide the maximum length of antenna wire possible. However, in order to make room for the new loop, it was necessary to move the mast several feet back toward the tail. The end result was that the length of the fixed antenna on plane #2 was longer than the factory version, but shorter than the original Daily Express version.

The crashed Electa at Luke Field. Hawaii, March 26, 1937. The standard Bendix d/f loop is clearly visible atop the Electra.  This rules out any possibility that Hooven's Radio Compass was installed at Miami in the original Earhart Electra.

The crashed Electa at Luke Field. Hawaii, March 26, 1937. The standard Bendix direction-finder loop is clearly visible atop the Electra. This shows that Fred Hooven’s Radio Compass had been removed from Earhart’s Electra  before the first world flight attempt. 

However, even though the longer fixed antenna of plane #2 would put out a better radio signal than #1, the radiated power was only 5 watts on 6210 kHz. and one-half watt on 3105 kHz. Thiebert’s work was documented by the New York Times.

We can only guess why Earhart would secretly swap planes and do it in Miami instead of Burbank. Was it done at Miami because it would be easier to cover up? What was different about the Daily Express that switching it for the original Electra  was so important? Did the powers-that-be feel it was better to switch to a new plane rather than risk flying the original, patched-up airframe around the world? Or, as proponents of the conspiracy theory would be quick to claim, was the Daily Express equipped with special aerial reconnaissance equipment?

As Professor Francis Holbrook wrote me some years ago in connection with the Earhart mystery, “Once you have answered one question about it you discover you’d raised ten more.

(End of Paul Rafford’s “The Case for the Amelia Earhart Miami Plane Change.”)

Undated photo of Amelia next to left read rudder and its characteristic "dark signature," as Bill Prymak described it. Prymak dispayed five separate photos of the Electra at various stages of the world flight, all with the dark signature in the left rear rudder.

Amelia next to left rear rudder and its characteristic “dark signature,” as Bill Prymak described it. In his November 1998 AES Newsletter story, Prymak dispayed five separate photos of the Electra at various stages of the world flight, all with the dark signature in the left rear rudder.  Photo taken March 4, 1937, according to Purdue University Archives.

“Did Amelia Earhart Really Change Airplanes?”
By: Bill Prymak, AES Newsletter, November 1998

Several serious researchers over the years have bandied about the possibility that AE, for some secretive covert reason, switched planes “somewhere along the route.” Strong anecdotal evidence backs these folks, but I have recently come across another way to identify her airplane as it flew some 22,000 miles from Oakland to Lae, New Guinea. I call it a “signature.”

Aluminum aircraft skin production in the mid-1930s was a new, burgeoning science, and the process produced various different tones and shades, even from sheet-to-sheet off the same lot. So, each tone or shade becomes a unique signature, and if we study the rear half of the left vertical rudder below the horizontal stabilizer as illustrated on the blow-up below you will find that the same dark shade consistently repeats itself on every photo I have ever seen as the plane wends its way around the world.

I have only included in this NEWSLETTER five photos showing this unique signature, and I would certainly like to expand my file on this issue. If anybody out there has a photo of AE’s airplane with the above signature clearly shown, please send a clear copy to me. It’ll be deeply appreciated. (End of Prymak analysis.)

The quality of the photos of the Electra displayed in the photocopy and electronic copy of Bill’s article isn’t good enough to reproduce here, but at the bottom of the piece are five photos of the Electra and its dark signature, reportedly taken during the world flight. Three locations are identified:  Caripito, Venezuela; Karachi, Pakistan; and Lae, New Guinea. It seems inarguable that this is the same Electra that left Burbank, Calif.

Although Prymak’s “dark signature” appears to be the key to dismissing Rafford’s plane change theory, nagging questions remain. Why did Bob Thibert recall seeing only “virgin skin” on the Electra’s roof where two other devices, the Hooven Radio Compass, a domed direction finder, and the Bendix Radio Direction Finder, with its unmistakable, disctinctive loop? How can this be a case of old age or faded memory, when Bob Thibert was simply confirming an incident he told Paul Rafford about more than 5o years previously? Could Thibert have actually installed a new d/f loop in the Daily Express, which then left Miami for parts unknown, instead of carrying Earhart and Noonan on to the next leg of their doomed world flight?

What is known about the fate of the Daily Express? Precious little is available on the Internet, but two sources agree that the plane wound up in Russia.  Paragon Agency Publisher Doug Westfall, who published Rafford’s Amelia Earhart’s Radio, writing on the Verkhoyansk, Siberia Trip Advisor, reported, “It was sold the the USSR in 1938, disassembled and reassembled, being used in WWII. It was last seen crashed on the tundra near Verkhoyansk about 10 years ago.”

The  TIGHAR site, when not promoting Ric Gillespie’s erroneous Nikumaroro “hypothesis,” is often an excellent source of Earhart-related material, and in its Earhart Project Research Bulletin,Detective Story,” of  July 12, 2007, we find:  “After its epic transatlantic flight, the Daily Express was sold to the Soviet Union and used in the search the lost transpolar aviator Sigismund Levinevski. The airplane’s ultimate fate is unknown.”

Once again, the reader should understand that I’m neither promoting nor dismissing Paul Rafford Jr.’s theory, but am presenting it for your information and entertainment.  In the big picture, it makes no difference whether Amelia and Fred landed at Mili Atoll in the Daily Express or the original Earhart Electra. 

One problem I have with Rafford’s proposed scenario, besides Prymak’s dark signature that appears to preclude its possibility, is that when Paul wrote that the “two airplanes were secretly swapped and the Daily Express was turned over to Pan Am’s mechanics” who then “prepared it for the world flight, never suspecting they were not working on Earhart’s original Electra,” he doesn’t tell us where, when or how the Daily Express was painted with “NR 16020″ on and under the wings and tail. This operation would have been necessary if the Pan Am mechanics working on the Daily Express “never suspected” it wasn’t the Earhart bird.

In a recent email, Paul Rafford’s daughter, Lynn, told me her father still believes in the “possiblity of  a plane switch at Miami, but does not really know what could have happened to the plane that was switched out.”  For now, that’s where we’ll leave it. 

LaPook destroys Gillespie’s latest false Earhart claim

November 2, 2014

In the opening sentence of my critique about Ric Gillespie and The International Group for Historic Recovery (TIGHAR) in the final chapter of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, I wrote the following: “Nobody in the history of Earhart investigations has made so much from so little as Ric Gillespie.” With this new phony claim from the TIGHAR chief, we can see Gillespie is more determined than ever to prove the validity of that statement.

The 26-year assault against common sense, logic and worst of all, the truth, which has been the hallark of Gillespie’s Earhart-Nikumaroro fundraising campaign since a USA Today headline screamed, “A piece for Earhart puzzle” on Jan. 4, 1991, continued its seemingly unceasing refrain Oct. 28.  Of a sudden, we were knee deep into another super media-hype prelude to what Gillespie ostentatiously labels “Niku VIII,” but which is, more accurately, TIGHAR’s eleventh trip to the long-picked-over island of Nikumaroro, formerly Gardner, in the Central Pacific’s Phoenix Chain.

As a result, I’ve been derailed from my track of highlighting Paul Rafford Jr.’s estimable and controversial theories about Amelia Earhart’s last flight, and forced to confront the latest affront to the truth in the Earhart case by Gillespie, inarguably among the greatest obstacles to public enlightenment in the history of Earhart research, perhaps second only to the U.S. government itself, which has been actively suppressing the truth since 1937.

This new outrage, which Australian researcher David Billings warned me was coming, began with Discovery News’ mistitled story of Oct. 28, “Amelia Earhart Plane Fragment Identified” by way of Rossella Lorenzi’s mendacious pen. “A fragment of Amelia Earhart’s lost aircraft has been identified to a high degree of certainty for the first time ever since her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937,” Lorenzi’s story began. “According to researchers at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has long been investigating the last, fateful flight taken by Earhart 77 years ago, the aluminum sheet is a patch of metal installed on the Electra during the aviator’s eight-day stay in Miami, which was the fourth stop on her attempt to circumnavigate the globe.”

This is he piece of aluminum Ric Gillespie and TIGHAR found on Nikumaroro during their 1991 trip to the island. Why did they wait till 2014 to say it came from Amelia Earhart's lost Electra?

This is the piece of aluminum Ric Gillespie and TIGHAR found on Nikumaroro during their 1991 trip to the island. Why did they wait till 2014 to say it came from Amelia Earhart’s lost Electra?

I need not repeat all the sordid details of the current iteration of this charade, or the disgusting phenomenon itself.  Gillespie’s money-grubbing Nikumaroro boondoggles are well known to readers of this blog as well as anyone else with even a passing interest in the Earhart case. They also know his brainchild, TIGHAR, is the most inaptly named organization in modern aviation investigative history, and it has never recovered and restored any aircraft, at least to this writer’s knowledge. For those few visitors who may be new and need more information to clarify all this, please see June 2: Gillespie and TIGHAR — Again and Rossella Lorenzi, TIGHAR’s best friend (Oct. 24, 2013).  

Last year Gillespie was reported to be seeking $3 million to finance the high-tech submersible search operations off Nikumaroro, of which an unknown percentage goes to Gillespie’s “non-profit” organization and finances the lifestyle to which he’s become accustomed. But Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald reports that Gillespie’s new goal is a more modest $387,000 “to take an underwater vessel to Nikumaroro to get a closer look at that anomaly.”

(As an aside and something I shouldn’t have to say, neither I nor anyone else I respect who’s involved with Earhart research has ever been motivated by the remotest dreams of financial gain. My love and devotion to the truth in the Earhart disappearance is well known to those who have read Truth at Last and frequent this site, which had been as popular as a toxic waste dump before we broke all-time page-visit records Oct. 30. Clearly, many more discerning readers than usual, sick of reading Gillespie’s nonsense, went looking for an alternative – which, of course, would be the Marshall Islands, Saipan and the TRUTH. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide what you think motivates Ric Gillespie in his Earhart work.)

Lorenzi, along with the Miami Herald’s Garvin (see his Oct. 28 “Piece of metal may offer clue to disappearance of Amelia Earhart’s plane” for an example of just how truly bad the media adulation of Gillespie can get) has risen to threaten all time-supremacy of the media hacks who shill for Gillespie. The AP’s Richard Pyle’s sendoff love letter to Gillespie in 2007 just before TIGHAR’s departure for NIKU VIII, “Search team hopes high tech will solve Amelia Earhart mystery” (see p. 383 Truth at Last) still ranks as the most oppressively biased of all the pro-TIGHAR propaganda in this writer’s memory.

But Lorenzi has been diligently practicing her agitprop, and she isn’t far behind Pyle. Playing the faithful stenographer, deeper in her story she loyally reported the latest and most egregious Gillespie whopper, as she quoted him saying, “This is the first time an artifact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart” in touting his fourth-hand piece of old aluminum found in 1991 as the closest thing to aviation’s Holy Grail ever found.

Not yet content, Lorenzi gleefully rubbed salt in the wound by adding, “In 10 archaeological expeditions to Nikumaroro, Gillespie and his team uncovered a number of artifacts which, combined with archival research, provide strong circumstantial evidence for a castaway presence.” The unwashed are expected to assume that Lorenzi’s so-called “castaway presence” is Amelia Earhart, but she declined to mention that none of the assorted crap dragged out of the Nikumaroro ground has ever been linked to Amelia or Fred Noonan. Lorenzi also conveniently forgot to mention the U.S, Coast Guard LORAN Station, with real Americans, that was operating on the island from 1944 to 1946, or the hundreds of different Gilbertese settlers who also lived there from the late 1930s to the early 1960s. Details, details, details.

The shiny patch covering the spot where the aft window used to be, which is said to have appeared after repairs were made in Miami in late May-early June 1937, is the same sheet of aluminum that Ric Gillespie now claims he found on Nikumaroro in 1991.

The shiny patch covering the spot where the aft window used to be, which is said to have appeared after repairs were made in Miami in late May-early June 1937, is the same sheet of aluminum that Ric Gillespie now claims he found on Nikumaroro in 1991.

Once Lorenzi’s story hit the wires, nearly everyone in the mainstream horde broke their necks jumping on the TIGHAR bandwagon, among them ABC, NBC and CBS News, CNN, the Associated Press and on down the line to the major websites and newspapers in cities big and small. Even Joseph Farah’s normally conservative World Net Daily joined the party, which became a full-court press of TIGHAR propaganda worthy of the finest Joseph Goebbels production.  I even heard it on news breaks between The Savage Nation on my local Jacksonville AM station. Everyone was gleefully announcing that a piece of the Earhart plane had been found, thanks to Ric Gillespie and TIGHAR, and we could all sleep better that night. For a while it was like the Second Coming, and I simply couldn’t take it.

But, as it turned out, these arrogant media types had stepped in it bigtime, proving yet again that investigative journalism has long been a dead art, replaced by political operatives who pretend to be journalists and have no hangups about ethics or honesty. Almost as quickly as Gillespie’s claim had been circulated throughout the media biosphere, one man stepped forward to pour ice water all over the TIGHAR parade.

Gary LaPook, an experienced celestial navigator, attorney, former airline pilot and member of the Stratus Project and Amelia Earhart Society, recalled this piece of aluminum from bygone days, and knew it possessed a characteristic that unequivocally rules it out as coming from the Earhart Electra. On Oct. 29, a day after Lorenzi’s proclamations were published, LaPook sent the below report to the AES online forum:

Aluminum used in manufacturing aircraft is known as “Alclad” and has specification “24 ST” and the aluminum sheets are marked. You can see on the surface of Ric’s piece of aluminum the “D” in the word “ALCLAD.” All the photos of Earhart’s plane and, other planes from 1937, show that the aluminum is marked “24 ST” and is was not marked “ALCLAD.”  We know that the marking was changed by World War 2 but Ric claims that it is uncertain when the changeover was made and that some 1937 aluminum might have had the “ALCLAD” marking instead of the “24 ST” marking. Obviously, if Ric were to admit that this marking only happened after 1937 then his new fund raising piece is a scam. When confronted with all the photos of Earhart’s plane under construction showing “24 ST” he explains it away by saying the “patch” was applied in Miami and that Miami had a different batch of aluminum with the new marking.

O.K. Since Ric is proffering this aluminum as evidence of Earhart’s plane being on Nikumaro then he has the burden of proof that it was made in 1937 and not in WW2. He always tries to turn this around and demands that others disprove that it was 1937 aluminum but it is his piece of evidence so he has the burden of authenticating it. If 1937 aluminum was marked “ALCLAD” then why hasn’t Ric been able to come up with even one photo of it from 1937 to substantiate his claim? 

LaPook sent a web link to a site that discussed aluminum markings from the 1930s:  https://aluminummarkings.wordpress.com, as well the TIGHAR artifact that showed the “AD” of “ALCLAD,” adding that Gillespie even named the photo “AD on skin.”

“Before you send any money to TIGHAR ask Mr. Gillespie to produce a piece of 1937 aluminum bearing the markings “ALCLAD,” LaPook  wrote on TIGHAR’s Facebook Page. “He claims that his “patch”  was installed on Earhart’s plane in 1937 but it clearly shows the “AD” in ALCLAD that wasn’t used until 1941. … Aluminum was not marked with the word “ALCLAD” until 1941 so the “AD” on Mr. Gillespie’s piece of aluminum disqualifies it as coming from Earhart’s plane. It is Mr. Gillespie’s burden to prove that this marking was used in 1937 and he has never been able to find any such proof or to produce an authentic piece of 1937 aluminum with this marking on it. Demand that he do so before you send him any of your money.” LaPook said these posts were gone from the TIGHAR Facebook page the next morning.

LaPook told Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald and Bruce Burns of the Kansas City Star about this, and it forced Garvin to write another story, “Investigators search for Amelia Earhart’s ghost in old Miami Herald” Oct. 30, and its title did nothing to indicate the grave nature that message’s effect might have on Gillespie’s fund-raising efforts.  In his story, Garvin saved the most important fact – the “money quote,” so to speak, for the end of the story:

The most important evidence, however, is the linkage of Gillespie’s scrap to Earhart’s plane through study of the photo. And it’s on that point that LaPook and other his other critics insist most adamantly he’s wrong.

They says [sic] telltale evidence on Gillespie’s scrap of wreckage prove it wasn’t manufactured until several years after Earhart crashed. The scrap bears a visible stamp of an A and a letter D — probably part of the label 24ST Alclad, the type of aluminum its [sic] made from.

But, LaPook says, Alcoa Inc., the company that manufactured the aluminum, didn’t start stamping it with the 24ST Alclad designation until 1941. Before that, it used the abbreviation ALC. “There are hundreds of photos of aluminum pieces stamped ALC,” LaPook said. “It’s just beyond doubt.”

Ron Bright of the AES, a former TIGHAR member who knows Gillespie and keeps much closer tabs on developments at TIGHAR than this writer, shared some perspective on the origin of the object of this controversy, the rectangular piece of aluminum found on Nikumaroro in 1991. This itself begs the question: Why did Gillespie wait 13 years to come out with his claims about the provenance of the aluminum sheet?

Gary LaPook, who laid out the facts to two major newspapers about the aluminum artifact that was the focus of TIGHAR's most recent false claim, perhaps sending Ric Gillespie back to the drawing board for yet another reason to return to Nilumaroro.

Gary LaPook, who laid out the facts to two major newspapers about the aluminum artifact that was the focus of TIGHAR’s most recent false claim, perhaps sending Ric Gillespie back to the drawing board for yet another reason to return to Nikumaroro.

At this time in 1991, Ric claimed that the piece fit exactly the underbelly of the Electra that suffered the damage at the March 1937 ground loop,” Bright wrote in a Nov. 1 email. “He said the airplane skin revealed that the type of aluminum, the thickness, and the size and style of the rivet ‘matched perfectly with an area on the underside of the Electra.’ The rivet pattern ‘was close,’ he wrote, and the repair at Burbank would account for the differences The manufacturer’s label on the artifact (D?) established that it was a grade of aluminum authorized only for repairs [see “News Alert” from TIGHAR, July 2007].

“So in July 2007 this was the origin and analysis of the piece,” Bright continued. “Then came along that pesky Miami ‘patch’ that now he thinks fits the aluminum piece. How it got on to Niku is another fascinating story.”

Further confusing the matter, “In TIGHAR Tracks of 2001,” Bright wrote, “he [Gillespie] indicated that the damage to the piece ‘is consistent with being torn from the aircraft by powerful surf action. The piece has no finished edges and was literally blown out of a larger section of aluminum sheet from the inside out with such force the heads popped off the rivets. The artifact was found on the islands southwestern shore in the debris washed up by a violent storm.’ You have to say that TIGHAR can spin the bottle many ways!”

Woody Rogers, another AES member, was slightly more succinct in summarizing his views on the evolution of this particular piece of aluminum as it advanced through various stages of significance in TIGHAR’s collection of alleged Earhart artifacts. “I have the photo series from 1991 showing the controversy about this piece of skin, including the retired Lockheed Engineer that said that piece didn’t come from anywhere on an Electra,” Rogers wrote in a Nov. 1 email. “A few months later Ric moved the patch location to the rear of the bottom fuselage that had been extensively patched. The engineer pointed out that the repair patches were drilled in the same location where the original holes in the stringers [a strip of wood or metal to which the skin of an aircraft is fastened] were drilled. Unfortunately, I’m on the road in Pennsylvania and will be traveling for a few months so I don’t access to any of my research, so this is from memory. So now we have three locations that this piece of aluminum supposedly can from. IMO, it’s just another bottle of snake oil for public consumption so Ric can garner more donations to pay himself his outsized salary. It’s beyond me why people financially support this guy.” 

There was another bit of good news for the home team during this latest episode of TIGHAR media mania. The Kansas City Star contacted me and asked for my thoughts, a stunning surprise and the first time any establishment newspaper has asked my opinion since Donna McGuire, of the same Kansas City Star interviewed me over 11 years ago not long after With Our Own Eyes was published. On Aug. 3, 2003 “Chasing Amelia,” McGuire’s six-page cover story for the Sunday Star Magazine discussed the ideas of the late Thomas E. Devine and David Billings, who believes Amelia turned around and landed in the jungle of New Britain, an island off the coast of Papua New, Guinea.

Brian Burns story, “Has the key to Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in the Pacific been found in Kansas? was a far more even treatment of Gillespie’s ideas than the pro-TIGHAR puffery the Miami Herald pushed on its helpless readers  Besides presenting Gary LaPook’s information in a way that laymen could quickly  understand, Burns talked to Lou Foudray, curator of the Earhart Birthplace Museum, who was quite kind to Gillespie, and myself, who, after watching this spectable for 26 years now, was in no mood for such political niceties.

I vented to Burns as long as he could stand it – about 10 minutes — and in his story he tried to be fair, considering that his assignment was to feature Gillespie. “Others, like Florida researcher Mike Campbell, denounced the latest news as one more example of the wide-eyed treatment Gillespie routinely has received from a media establishment eager to play up his Earhart disappearance scenarios at the expense of others,” Burns wrote. “Every time he goes over there, he grabs whatever he can find and then tries to link it up to Earhart,” said Campbell, author of ‘Amelia Earhart: The Truth At Last.’”

Later in his story, Burns returned to this writer, and gave the truth a rare public airing:

Gillespie’s fundraising efforts, meanwhile, bother Campbell, who believes that Earhart and Noonan never landed on Nikumaroro but died in Japanese captivity on Saipan after first landing in the Marshall Islands. President Franklin Roosevelt, upon learning of their imprisonment, declined to intervene, he said.

“Today the media establishment is still protecting Roosevelt,” he said. If stories spread of Roosevelt’s refusal to help Earhart, Campbell said, “his legacy would be ashes.”

Burns promised that the title of Truth at Last, as well as my FDR quote would be in his story when it reached his editor’s desk, and so it was.  He even called me the next day to make sure my quotes were accurate, a gesture of professional courtesy I had never experienced from a newspaper.  I was amazed that this unnamed editor, who I later learned was Donna McGuire, who had interviewed me for a story in 2003 following publication of With Our Own Eyes, let my indictment of FDR stand, and thanked Burns for his efforts. Although its coverage of the Earhart situation was greatly welcomed, this was an anomaly, a one-off phenomena that tells us only that the Kansas City Star does not share the establishment’s aversion to the truth in the Earhart disappearance, and will treat the story unencumbered by political considerations.  The sad, inescapable truth is that this  policy, once taken for granted, is so rarely found in today’s ultra-politicized “news rooms.”

Will any in the media print retractions or apologize for their massive, irresponsible blunder? Of course not. They’ve never admitted error in their coverage of the Earhart story; it’s rare enough when they print a retraction about anything else. Where Earhart is concerned, nothing is off limits and the truth remains a sacred cow and an orphan.  But word will get around about this, and perhaps they won’t be quite as fast pull the trigger when Gillespie issues his next grand proclamation. How many times must a TIGHAR cry wolf before he’s ignored? Who knows, but why should we think the limit has been reached now?

They’ll be back as soon as Gillespie comes up with another sellable (note I didn’t say “plausible”) reason to go back to his ocean-bound piggy bank, telling us all once again to pay attention, the answers to the “Earhart Mystery” are within reach, just over the horizon. If the TIGHAR boss can just get the funds he needs, he’ll soon find aviation’s Holy Grail. Despite the recent revelations that exposed Gillespie’s aluminum sheet as a pretender, don’t be surprised if he continues to push the same story despite all evidence to the contrary. The rest of the media, based on their past complicity in their shameless promotion of Gillespie’s agenda, may well simply ignore the facts and continue to push falsehoods down the throats of an ignorant, basically unconcerned public. Failing that, who knows what he might next come up? With Gillespie, it’s always something.


“Earhart Deception” presents intriguing possibilities

October 27, 2014

Today we continue our examination of Paul Rafford Jr.’s writings about what might have  have transpired during the last hours of Amelia Earhart’s alleged “approach” to Howland Island, as well as other intriguing and controversial ideas he advanced over the years following his retirement from the NASA’s Manned Space Program in 1988.

On Dec. 7, 1991 Paul Rafford was putting the finishing touches on his new piece, “The Amelia Earhart Radio Deception,” which appeared in the March 1992 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter.  “The theory presented herein represents a major digression from the commonly held belief that Earhart was in the vicinity of Howland Island when her voice was last heard on the air,” he wrote. “It proposes that the radio calls intercepted by the Itasca were actually recorded by Earhart before she left the United States, to be played back at the appropriate time later on by another airplane.”

Fifteen years later, Paul presented his evolved theory of an Earhart radio deception as an entire chapter, or “Section 7,” as he called it, in his 2006 book Amelia Earhart’s Radio. That’s our focus for this post — Section 7, edited only for style and consistency, with a few photos added for your reading enjoyment.

“The Earhart Radio Deception”

The Earhart deception was designed to convince the world that she and Noonan were unable to locate Howland either visually or by radio; Itasca Radioman Bill Galten was not convinced. In 1942, after he came to work for Pan Am, he expressed his professional opinion to me, “Paul, that woman never intended to land on Howland!”

She had failed to answer any of his more than fifty calls or even tell him what frequency she was listening to. But to make sure, he called her on all his frequencies. Her method of operating was to suddenly come on the air without a call-up, deliver a brief message and be off, all within a few seconds. In fact, she was so brief that the Howland direction finder never had a chance to get a bearing. Also, every one of her transmissions was such that it could have been recorded well beforehand by a sound-alike actress. Even the Navy’s official report states, “Communication was never really established.”

Itasca heard approximately nine radio transmissions on 3105 kHz. They were divided into two groups separated by an hour. Messages in the first group, transmitted around sunrise or earlier, were weak or almost inaudible. The second group were loud and clear as though the plane was nearby. Chief Radioman Bellarts later declared he felt that if he stepped out on deck he would hear the Electra’s engines. 

Paul Rafford Jr., now 95, the elder statesman of Earhart researchers.  As a Pan Am radio flight officer from 1940 to 1946, Rafford is uniquely qualified as an expert in Earhart-era radio capabilities.

Paul Rafford Jr., 95, the elder statesman of Earhart researchers. As a Pan Am radio flight officer from 1940 to 1946, Rafford flew with many people who knew Fred Noonan, Amelia’s navigator during her last flight, and he is uniquely qualified as an expert in Earhart-era radio operational capabilities.

The above suggests that the two groups were transmitted from different locations. The first group could have been sent from Canton Island where the Navy had set up a station the month before. The second group could have been sent from a nearby ship or Baker Island. The system worked well and the deception was not detected aboard Itasca or by later investigators. However, there is an important clue that indicates the transmissions were not “live.”

Listeners noted that there was a change in the voice pitch between the earlier transmissions and the final transmissions. Those near Howland were higher pitched. They presumed Earhart was getting desperate. But the recording and playback machines of the mid-1930’s did not have the stability of modern equipment. As a result, the Howland area recordings were inadvertently played back at a higher speed than those from Canton. This made the diction sound more hurried. But listeners passed it off as simply proving that Earhart was becoming increasingly nervous at not finding Howland.

In addition to her unorthodox operating procedures, Earhart’s sound-alike asked for 7500 kHz. to use with her direction finder. But this frequency cannot be used with airborne direction finders. When she failed to get bearings she should have switched to 500 kHz, where Itasca was already sending for her. After 45 minutes of silence, during which Itasca called her frequently, she finally came back on the air.

However, it was only to announce that she was on the line of position 157-337 and would switch to 6210 kHz. Itasca never heard her again and the search began. Here are two possible scenarios to explain why Earhart never reached Howland.

Scenario No. 1

Earhart and Noonan were following their announced flight plan from Lae to Howland when he became incapacitated. In her ignorance about radio and navigation, she was unable to get in contact with Itasca or take bearings on the ship. Finally, she simply ran out of gas and fell in the ocean.

The flaw with this scenario is that it doesn’t jibe with published accounts of Earhart’s radio expertise. For example, in Last Flight she describes flying along the routes of the Federal Airways System. She had no trouble communicating with the government radio stations and tuning in their navigation aids.

Scenario No. 2

We’ll never know when Earhart lost faith in Noonan’s navigation but the first indication was during their arrival over Africa after crossing the South Atlantic.  She failed to follow his instructions and ended up landing at St. Louis, 168 miles north of Dakar.

After leaving Lae, she could have navigated visually by using the islands below as check points. But her Nukumanu Islands sighting is the only position report to be found in the records. After over flying them at sunset, she signed off on 6210 kHz. with Harry Balfour at Lae, and Alan Vagg at nearby Bulolo. Then, she could have turned toward Nauru, 525 miles east-northeast. She had received a message the day before that it’s giant lights, used for mining guano at night, would be turned on for her. Later, listeners on the island heard her say on 3105 kHz. that she had their lights in sight.

Had she been following a direct Lae-to-Howland track, she would have been far too south to see them. There were only four airfields in that part of the Pacific that could have accommodated Earhart’s plane. They were 1) Lae 2) Howland 3) Rabaul on New Britain and 4) Roi Namur in the Marshalls. But Roi Namur was the only one Earhart could reach without Noonan’s help.

After passing Nauru, Earhart could have headed for Jaluit in the Japanese-occupied Marshalls. She could have picked up its high-powered broadcast station and homed in on it after sunrise. Noonan should have known about the station because Pan Am on Wake Island used it to calibrate their own direction finder. Then, after overheading the station she could use a bearing from it to find the only land-plane airport in the Marshalls, Roi Namur. But would she have been so eager to land there had she known the Japanese were about to go to war with China?

                  Ten points to the Earhart Radio Deception

  1. She was quick to reject Pan Am’s offer to track her across the Pacific with its direction finding network.
  2. She told Harry Balfour that neither she nor Noonan knew morse code.
  3. She signed off with Harry Balfour at sunset on July 2nd, even though he offered to stay in contact with her until she had established communication with Itasca.
  4. She never replied to any of Itasca’s numerous calls, done so on all of its frequencies.
  5. She never announced to the Itasca what frequency she was listening to.
  6. She never called up the Itasca before she transmitted a message.
  7. She never stayed on the air long enough for the Howland direction finder to try and get a bearing; never more than seven or eight seconds.
  8. She requested 7500 kHz from Itasca for bearings, even though her direction finder had been calibrated in the 500 to 600 kHz band.
  9. She never attempted contact with Itasca after she tuned in on 7500.
  10. She made no further attempt to contact Itasca, or ask the ship for another direction finding frequency.
Another look at the original flight plan that targeted Howland Island, the "line of position" of 157-337 Amelia reported in her final message, and the close proximity of Baker Island, just southeast of Howland, as well as the Phoenix Group, farther to the southeast. which includes Canton Island, as well as Nikumaroro, formely known as Gardner Island, of popular renown.

Another look at the original flight plan that targeted Howland Island, the “line of position” of 157-337 Amelia reported in her final message, and the close proximity of Baker Island, just southeast of Howland, as well as the Phoenix Group, farther to the southeast. which includes Canton Island, as well as Nikumaroro, formerly known as Gardner Island, of popular renown.

Although we have no absolute proof that the flyers were Earhart and Noonan, thru the years investigators have turned up undeniable evidence that two Caucasians did land in the Marshalls before World War II.

One theory is that Earhart was supposed to secretly land on Canton and wait to be picked up. In early June, the U.S. Navy had hosted a solar eclipse expedition on Canton and left behind a radio station and personnel. They could have taken care of the flyers until the Navy was ready to find them. Under the guise of looking for Earhart, our Navy would have an excuse to make a survey of the mid-Pacific islands in preparation for World War II. Believe it or not, their navigators were working with outdated charts based on early 19th century whaling ship reports. When the survey was finished, she and Noonan could be “found.”

But suppose she had panicked at the idea of flying nearly 3,000 miles while depending on Noonan’s navigation? She had already missed Dakar by ignoring his order to change course. Lacking faith in his navigation, there was only one landing field in the mid-Pacific that she could reach by herself using her radio direction finder – Roi Namur. But, it was in the Japanese held Marshalls. After passing abeam Nauru, she could reach it by tuning in the Jabor broadcasting station on Jaluit that operated from early morning until late at night. In fact, the Pan Am direction finder at Wake used it to calibrate their own direction finder. After overheading Jabor, she could follow a bearing from the station to reach Roi Namur.

The flyers had passed Nauru before midnight and Jabor was only 420 miles farther. With sunset still hours away, they would have to slow to their minimum air speed and circle until daylight. But fate intervened and they never landed at Roi Namur.

After delivering my Earhart speech at a Christmas gathering, a man came up to me and introduced himself. During the 1990’s he had been an Air Force civilian worker on Kwajalein. His work was at Roi Namur so he commuted daily by air. One noon he was walking about the island when he met a friendly old Marshallese who spoke good English. He had come back to visit his boyhood home. My friend asked him if he had ever seen any white people on Roi before World War II. To his surprise the old man said, “Yes!” and related his story. When he was a young boy he had seen two white people being loaded aboard an airplane and flown away.

One of the facts that tends to support Scenario No. 2 was the comment made by Secretary of the Interior Henry Morgenthau, Jr. to his colleagues that slipped out from under the veil of government secrecy: “She disobeyed all orders!” Morgentgau was recorded as saying in a telephone conversation. What orders could a private civilian have disobeyed that would upset a cabinet officer?

 Two men who knew plenty more than they ever revealed about the fate of Amelia Earhart: Secretary of the Interior Henry Mogenthau, Jr. (left) and President Franklin D. Roosevelt,  in 1934.  Neither man ever revealed his knowledge or was called to account for his role in the Earhart disappearance, her death on Saipan or the subsequent cover-up that continues to this day.

Two men who knew far more than they ever revealed about the fate of Amelia Earhart: Secretary of the Interior Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (left) and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1934. Neither was ever called to account for his role in the Earhart disappearance, her death on Saipan or the subsequent cover-up that continues to this day.

With regard to landing on Howland, Itasca Chief Radio Officer Leo Bellarts remarked to Fred Goerner that although Earhart might get down OK, he didn’t see how she could ever take off through the thousands of nesting gooney birds. Yau Fai Lum wrote me that even dynamite failed to scatter them. He had gone aboard Itasca to get “a home cooked meal” when he heard a terrific boom! Looking back at the island he saw a mass of gooney birds suddenly become airborne. “They fluttered around for ten or fifteen seconds before settling down again,” Yau wrote. Air Corps Lt. Daniel Cooper advised his headquarters of the bird problem several days before Earhart’s arrival. But it had already been noted several months before during the airfield’s construction. Why did the “powers-that-be” not seem to be concerned about it?

Nevertheless, two airplanes actually did land on Howland, both during World War II. The first, based at nearby Baker, had engine trouble and was forced to use the Howland runways. The second carried a repair crew. Both planes eventually returned to Baker.  

The Search

Here is the situation that emerges as we put the pieces together. First, Earhart was not on an espionage mission per se. There were government facilities, including ships, planes and professionals, who were much better equipped for spying than private individuals. However, we did need a good look at the Central Pacific before the outbreak of World War II. Like the Axis Powers in Europe, the Japanese were planning a war to conquer and dominate the Far East.

America was ill-prepared for a war in the Pacific. During the Earhart search our fleet was still operating with charts prepared by whaling captains a century before. We needed to get ready for war – and soon! Looking for America’s sweetheart would be an excellent excuse to bring those charts up to date, much quicker than depending upon individual ships and reconnaissance planes.

However, the Administration was faced with a problem. Not only were we just emerging from the Great Depression while still dealing with its problems, but to many isolationists Europe and its war clouds were a ten-day ocean trip away. Japan was even further. A popular song of the era expressed the feelings of many, “Oh the weather outside is frightful. But here inside it’s delightful. Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”

Also, George Washington’s comment in his farewell address was widely quoted: “Beware of foreign entanglements!” Privately, our government realized the need to be prepared to go to war in the Pacific. But although we couldn’t openly send a fleet to survey the area without raising extreme objections, we could send a fleet to look for Earhart. Even the isolationists would cry, “Go find our Amelia!” Meanwhile, under the pretense of looking for Earhart our Navy would update its charts and exercise the otherwise depression idled Pacific fleet.  (End of “The Earhart Radio Deception” chapter.)

In his 1991 article I cited at the beginning of this post, presented in a question-and-answer format with Bill Prymak, Paul goes into far more detail in describing the covert operation he envisioned, as well as the logistics he believes were employed to facilitate it. Again, he begins by  stating he believes Amelia never intended to land on Howland Island, citing Itasca Radioman Bill Galten’s well-known statement to him that Amelia”never intended to land on Howland.”

Pointing to the widely accepted idea that two-way communication between Amelia and Itasca was never established, Paul suggested that “all of the transmissions received by the ship could have been recorded weeks beforehand for playback by another plane. It could just as well have been a [Consolidated] PBY Catalina [flying boat] flying out of Canton Island.”

In my next post, we’ll delve futher into Paul’s Earhart radio deception theory, as well as take a look at his unique and equally intriguing suggestion that the Earhart Electra was switched for another plane prior to their June 2, 1937 Miami takeoff. Much more to come.


Rafford’s “Enigma” brings true mystery into focus: What was Amelia Earhart really doing in final hours?

October 15, 2014

Now that my presentation to the Ninety-Nines at their South Central Sectional Meeting in Wichita, Kansas is history, we return to our regular scheduled programming.  Today, as promised, we consider the multiple radio conundrums posed by the final flight of Amelia Earhart, more specifically, the writings of Paul Rafford Jr.

The elder statesman of Earhart research, Paul is alive and well at 95 in Melbourne, Fla., and he remains among the planet’s most knowledgeable on radios and their transmission capabilities during the time of the Amelia’s final flight. He worked with Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer in 1940, flying with Pan Am until 1946. He flew with crew members who had flown with Fred Noonan, and talked with technicians who had worked on Earhart’s Electra.  After a promotion with PAA, he continued to fly as a technical consultant before transferring to the U.S. Manned Spaceflight Program in 1963. During the early space shots he was Pan Am project engineer in communications services at Patrick Air Force Base, and joined the team that put man on the moon. He retired from NASA in 1988.

Earhart fans will recall Paul’s name from Vincent V. Loomis’ 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story (Random House), wherein he presented his then-current ideas about the Electra’s radio propagation capabilities and Amelia’s decisions during the final flight. In 2006, Paul’s own book, Amelia Earhart’s Radio, was published by the Paragon Agency, and though it didn’t have commercial success, it is a treasure trove of invaluable information you won’t find anywhere else.

“I know of no person more qualified than Mr. Paul Rafford to present to the American public the most probable cause of Earhart’s failure to find her destination island,” Bill Prymak wrote in 2006. “Mr. Rafford is world recognized for his astute radio propagation analysis and is THE man to contact re: radio problems. We are proud to have him as an AES member and radio consultant.”

Paul Rafford Jr., circa early 1940s, who worked at Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer from 1940 to 1946, is among the foremost experts on radio transmission capabilities during the late 1930s.

Paul Rafford Jr., circa early 1940s, who worked at Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer from 1940 to 1946, is among the foremost experts on radio transmission capabilities during the late 1930s.

Paul wrote many articles for Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters between 1989 and 2000, and not only about Amelia’s inexplicable radio behavior during the last flight. He also developed compelling theories about radio deceptions and plane switches, some of the most fascinating possibilities ever advanced to explain what could have happened during those final hours of July 2, 1937, before and after Amelia’s last officially recognized message was heard at 8:44 a.m. Howland Island Time.

Paul wrote two pieces with basically the same title, “The Amelia Earhart Radio Enigma” in 1997, and “The Earhart Radio Enigma,” in 2000, as if to repeat and emphasize the major problems and unanswered questions that still stumped him – and continue to baffle the experts. We’ll start today with Paul’s 1997 treatment of the Earhart radio enigma, and in coming weeks will explore a host of his analytic and theoretical essays about our favorite missing American aviatrix. Without futher ado, here is Paul’s essay, edited only for style and consistency, written April 10, 1997, which appeared in the AES Newsletters May 1997 edition.


1) Why did Amelia Earhart have her trailing antenna removed in Miami before starting her second attempt to circle the globe? During the early days of over-ocean flying, airplanes would reel out a long length of wire called a “trailing antenna” for radiotelegraph communication with ships on the international maritime calling and distress frequency, 500 kHz (kilohertz, same as kilocycles). This was in addition to their regular fixed antenna for communicating with land stations.

Legend has it that both Earhart and Noonan’s code speed was very slow, so she removed the equipment required for contacting ships. However, the assumption about Noonan’s radio operating abilities is not supported by former crew mates. On occasion while flying as navigator on Pan Am’s Clippers he would relieve the radio operator for rest periods. However, by eliminating 500 kHz, Earhart also eliminated the possibility that the Itasca’s direction finder could lead her to Howland. She didn’t need to know code in order to transmit on 500 for bearings. Both she and the Itasca had 3105 kHz, and they could have coordinated any bearing procedures by voice.

New evidence indicates the probability that after Earhart arrived at Miami from Burbank during her second attempt to circle the globe, she secretly switched planes. The second plane came from the factory without a trailing antenna. But, in order to explain to curious observers why she arrived with the trailing antenna, but left without one, she had it removed right after she arrived. This would help obscure the fact that she had switched planes. The second plane also came without a direction finding loop. Earhart could dispense with a trailing antenna but not a loop. So, just the day before departure Pan Am installed a new one for her. (Editor’s note: In future posts we will look more closely at Paul’s claim of a plane switch in Miami.)

2) Why did Earhart refuse Pan Am’s offer to track her plane across the Pacific if she would install a Pan Am direction-finding frequency? During Earhart’s eight-day layover at Miami she met with Charlie Winter, Pan Am’s local radio engineer. During their conversation he pointed out that if she would install a Pan Am frequency in place of the vacant 500 kHz channel, our direction finders could track her whereabouts over the Pacific, the same as we did with our Clippers.

Amelia in the cockpit of the Electra 10E, circa 1937.

Amelia in the cockpit of the Electra 10E, circa 1937.  Her inexplicable radio behavior in the final hours of her last flight continues to baffle researchers, and no definitive conclusions have yet been reached about her true intentions.

As Charlie told me later, she immediately rebuffed his suggestion with the comment, “I don’t need that! I’ve got a navigator to tell me where I am.” Charlie was flabbergasted. But the question is, why was Earhart so quick to reject his offer? Didn’t she want her whereabouts to be known?

3) Why, after seven hours of contact with Lae, did Earhart dismiss Harry Balfour’s offer to continue communicating with her until she could contact the Itasca, waiting at Howland Island? Seven hours into the flight Earhart advised Harry Balfour that she was leaving 6210 kHz and would try and contact the Itasca on 3105 kHz. Her signals were still coming in well, so Balfour implored her not to break off contact with him until she had established contact with the ship. This was normal operating procedure back then. But, she switched off anyway, and he never again heard her, nor did she ever again have two-way contact with any station.

4) Why did Earhart never engage Itasca in two-way radio contact? Bill Galten’s logs show that Earhart never directly answered any of his more than 50 calls or ever gave any indication that she was heating the ship except on one occasion. She would suddenly come on the air without a preliminary call-up, deliver a brief message and go off, all in the space of seven or eight seconds.

5) Why did Earhart never stay on the air for more than a few seconds at a time? We can only guess, but it would appear, as in the Pan Am direction-finding offer, that she didn’t want her position known. The bare minimum time for obtaining a bearing with a vintage 1930’s direction finder was about 15 seconds, but it usually took longer.

Radioman 2nd Class Frank Cipriani, manning the Howland direction finder, complained bitterly that Earhart never stayed on the air long enough for him to get a bearing. She also confused the Itasca crew by never advising what frequency she would be listening to or if they should answer with code or voice.

6) Why did Bill Galten believe that Earhart never intended to land on Howland Island? Bill left the Coast Guard and came with Pan Am shortly after the Earhart disappearance. We flew together during World War II. On one occasion while discussing the Earhart mystery he exclaimed to me, “That woman never intended to land on Howland!” When I asked why, he had two explanations. First, her radio operating procedures were nothing like that of a lost pilot desperately trying to make a landfall.

Second, Bill claimed that the condition of the Howland runway was unfit for a safe landing. It was covered with thousands of goony birds that, despite the best efforts of the Itasca’s crew to shoo them away, would not vacate the area.

Many thousands of "Gooney birds" like these pictured  on Midway Island posed a real threat to plane landings or takeoffs on Howland,  another factor that led many to believe that Amelia Earhart never intended to land there.

Many thousands of gooney birds like these pictured on Midway Island posed a real threat to plane landings or takeoffs on Howland, another factor that led many to believe that Amelia Earhart never intended to land there.

7) Why did Earhart ask for 7500 kHz from the Itasca when 7500 could not be used with airborne direction finders? While Earhart was supposedly approaching Howland, she requested, “Go ahead on 7500 kilocycles.” She had asked for it earlier so she could use it for radio bearings. Although the Itasca’s crew knew that she would not be able to get a bearing, they had no choice but to transmit long Morse code dashes for her. Five minutes later she replied, “We received your signal but unable to get minimum (a bearing).”

Fred Noonan, Pan Am’s ex-chief navigator, would very well know she couldn’t get one on that frequency. Instead of asking for 7500, Earhart should have listened for 500 kHz. The ship was transmitting for her on this frequency almost constantly. Her direction finder had been calibrated to this frequency range before she left Miami. Later, Harry Balfour checked it at Lae with a nearby station operating on 500.

When Earhart declared, “We read your signal but unable get minimum,” it was the only time she admitted hearing the ship. She would also conclude that the ship was hearing her signals because they had turned on 7500 kHz at her request. At this point she should have been ecstatic! Lost and out of communication, she at long last had radio contact. Even though the crew could use only telegraph on 7500, they could at least have sent very slowly and advised her to listen on 3105 for communication and 500 for direction finding. But did Earhart cling to this one chance for survival? No! She went off the air for 40 minutes and when she returned it was only to declare that she was flying up and down a line of position and would switch to 6210 kHz. The Itasca never heard her again.

8) What actually happened during Earhart’s last flight? This is a complex question and we can only propose a scenario based on what facts we know, plus some educated conjectures. War clouds were fast gathering in the mid-1930s. In Europe the Axis powers were getting ready to invade their neighbors and Japan was about to invade China. America was just recovering from the Great Depression and money for defense was scarce. Also, the isolationists were very powerful and opposed any “foreign entanglements.”

To astute observers of international politics, it was obvious that we were rapidly approaching a world war for which we were woefully unprepared. For example, the location of many Pacific islands on maritime charts had not been checked since the early 19th century whaling ships had stumbled across them. Their positions could be no more accurate than the ship’s chronometers that may not have been checked against time standards for weeks or more.

And so it was that the powers-that-be in government came up with a plan. Amelia Earhart was getting ready to circle the globe on a flight that would carry her over the mid-Pacific islands in question. Why not have her disappear during it? The American public would demand that the government find their heroine at any cost. A vast search would ensue. Ostensibly, it would be for humanitarian purposes, but meanwhile our fleet would be quietly updating its century old charts while reconnoitering the area. With war clouds looming, our charts had to be accurate. As an example of the problem, during the search one particular island in the Phoenix group was found 60 miles away from its plotted position.

The centerpiece of the plan would be the action around Howland Island after Earhart supposedly went down. But, after signing off with Harry Balfour, instead of Howland, Earhart would head for the British controlled Gilbert Islands, and land on a predetermined beach. After the Navy finished its survey, the flyers could be rescued. But tragically, rescue never came. Did Earhart overfly the Gilberts and land in the Marshalls?  I leave the answer to other investigators.

The wording of all of Earhart’s transmissions was such that they could have been recorded weeks beforehand for later broadcast by a clandestine radio station somewhere in the vicinity of Howland. Coast Guard logs show that just before Earhart’s flight, the Itasca dropped off men and supplies at Howland and then proceeded to Baker Island, which along with Howland, was part of the inter-island weather gathering network operating on 7500 kHz.

At Baker, the ship dropped off four new colonists and their gear. They would secretly set up a radio station to transmit the Earhart recordings on 3105 kHz.  (Editor’s note: Baker Island is an uninhabited atoll located just north of the equator in the central Pacific about 1,920 miles southwest of Honolulu, and lies almost halfway between Hawaii and Australia.  Its nearest neighbor is Howland Island, 42 miles to the north-northwest; both have been territories of the United States since 1857. Baker Island was the site of a U.S.  LORAN [Long Range Navigation] radio station in operation from September 1944 to July 1946. The station unit number was 91 and the radio call sign was NRN-1.)

Baker Island, 42 miles from Hwhere Paul Rafford believes

Baker Island, 42 miles south-southeast of Howland, where Paul Rafford Jr. suggests four unnamed Coast Guardsmen sent pre-recorded radio messages to Itasca as part of the Earhart radio deception on July 2, 1937.

After word was received that Earhart had left Lae, the plan would go into action. When Earhart was supposedly approaching Howland, the Baker operator would commence sending the recordings at hourly intervals until sunrise. After that they would be sent more frequently, consistent with Earhart’s supposed flight activities when in the vicinity of Howland. The transmitter power was adjustable so the operator could simulate her calls at various distances out from Howland.

The transmissions were kept very brief so Cipriani could never get a bearing. Had he been able to do so, he would have noticed that the signals were coming from the south southeast, instead of west. Although he was unable to get a bearing at the time, days later he heard a strong, nearby station send a long dash on 3105 kHz. This time he got a bearing. It fell on a line of position running north-northwest by south-southeast through Howland. Baker is south-southeast.

For several nights after Earhart’s disappearance, numerous, unidentified signals were heard on her frequencies. Some were obvious hoaxes. However, there is no evidence to indicate that she ever again came on the air “live” after discontinuing contact with Balfour.

9) Why was an official Earhart accident investigation report never issued? Today, any aircraft crash or disappearance would get a far better accident report than Earhart’s did. The only official report we have from the government was that issued by the Navy. But, it is simply a description of the search, and not an accident report.

In a letter to Fred Goerner dated April, 1962, Leo Bellarts, former chief radio operator on the Itasca, commented about the lack of an investigation. “Honestly, I thought there was going to be an investigation of the flight and that is the reason that I have kept certain logs and papers concerning the flight.”

By contrast, the Hawaii Clipper that disappeared between Guam and Manila just a year later under very similar circumstances, was the subject of an intensive investigation. Perhaps the powers-that-be at the time didn’t want the public to know just what happened to Earhart. (End of Paul Rafford’s “Earhart Radio Enigma.”)

Among the most vexing questions about the Earhart flight,  of course, the one whose correct answer  might help unravel the whole impossibly complicated ball of wax, is WHY didn’t Amelia want anyone to get a fix on her position? We can assume that the Japanese were quite interested in her flight, for obvious reasons, and would have been listening to her transmissions from several of their radio stations in the central Pacific area, including Jaluit, where a powerful transmitter was operational. It seems quite clear by now that Amelia was up to something besides trying to locate Howland Island.

I’ve often said that the Earhart “mystery” can never be solved in the air, that the real answers are kept where our government buries its deepest secrets. But we’ve learned plenty since Fred Goerner started banging on doors, and now, for the most part, it’s mainly the many nagging details that continue to evade us. Readers should understand that this editor is not fully endorsing the entire range of Paul Rafford’s ideas, but  presenting them for your consideration.

In coming posts we’ll delve further in Paul theory that Amelia Earhart was engaged in a deliberate, well-planned radio deception during her last flight, as well as several other aspects of the flight that might shed light on the real mystery of the Earhart disappearance – not what happened to her on Saipan, but what was she doing during the final hours of the flight, and most importantly, why did she land at Mili Atoll?


Ninety-Nines welcome “The Truth at Last” to Wichita

October 4, 2014

On Saturday, Sept. 27 at 2:30 p.m., in a spacious, well-appointed first-floor meeting room at the Wichita, Kansas Marriott Hotel, hundreds of hours of preparation and sweat were finally put to good use.  A mostly unsuspecting audience consisting of 50 members of The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots from eight states, a number of their husbands and others totaling about 70 souls were soon to  learn about the Truth in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, my obsession for the past 26 years and the subject of my second book on the subject,  Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.

Many months previously, Kay Alley, the vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines and the primary mover and shaker for the three-day, South Central Section Fall Meeting of the Ninety-Nines, invited me to be their main speaker, all expenses paid, and I gladly accepted. I was extremely grateful for the rare opportunity to tell others the unvarnished truth about the Earhart disappearance. The South Central Section is made up of chapters from Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. They meet twice a year, in the spring and fall, and the Fall 2014 theme, ironically, was “Remembering Our Past.” In the case of the Earhart disappearance, this theme was especially poignant. For more information on the Ninety-Nines and their colorful history, see my March 8, 2014 post, “A point of light emerges.”

Linda Horn of the Ninety-Nines Colorado Chapter fine tunes the "Truth at Last" slide show shortly before the 2:30 presentation on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 27.

Linda Horn of the Ninety-Nines Colorado Chapter fine tunes the “Truth at Last” slide show shortly before the 2:30 presentation on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 27 at the Wichita Marriott.

The Colorado Chapter’s Linda Horn had the unenviable task of advancing each of the 142 slides in my power point program, sometimes through sheer guesswork, and considering my sometimes confusing, rambling commentary, Linda performed admirably. I briefly considered naming my talk something like, “It’s Time to Change the Conversation,” but realized that the best opportunity to change the public perception of the Earhart disappearance had passed by long ago. 

Thanks to 77 years of government and establishment propaganda, the iron-clad idea that the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is an irresolvable mystery is a part of our cultural furniture, nailed down and impossible to move. If Fred Goerner couldn’t break through the stone wall of the federal security apparatus in the mid-1960s, with his 400,000 book sales, six-weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and thousands of irate Americans demanding in vain that their congressmen act to bring the “Justice of Truth” to Amelia and Fred Noonan, who am I with my unknown book to make such a presumption?

It was my first ever power-point presentation, and 63 pages of notes stood ready to support the slides. Soon, however, I realized these notes were of little practical use, that reading from them only slowed down the program and distracted the audience, which does not appreciate being read to, and I just didn’t have enough practice doing these presentations to fake it.

I also wasted 30 precious minutes and 30 slides telling the audience things about Amelia’s life they could easily find for themselves in any of the 2,000 Earhart biographies and other Earhart-related books they can find on Amazon.com.  Next time I’ll cut that to about 10 minutes and get on with the reason I’m standing in front of them– to tell them about the long suppressed facts in the Earhart case — if there is a next time.

A  Hopalong Cassidy Watch, box and saddle exactly like the set pictured above was among the many curiosities evaluated and appraised by Stephen Gleissner, Ph.D., at the Ninety-Nines version of the popular Antiques Road Show TV program Friday night at the Wichita Marriott.

A mint-condition  Hopalong Cassidy Watch, box and saddle from the early 1950s, exactly like the set pictured above, was among the many curiosities evaluated and appraised by Stephen Gleissner, Ph.D., at the Ninety-Nines version of the popular Antiques Road Show TV program Friday night, Sept. 26,  at the Wichita Marriott.

Slightly nervous to begin, I forgot a few things I wanted to say in the opening, stumbled a few times, blanked out on a name once, but kept at it and quickly began losing track of time as I traced the modern-day search for Amelia back to Paul Briand’s 1960 book Daughter of the Sky, then to the San Mateo Times stories about Josephine Blanco Akiyama by Linwood Day (see “Linwood Day: Forgotten hero of the Earhart saga,” July 10, 2014), to Fred Goerner’s Saipan trips and so on down the line of the major Saipan and Marshalls threads, of course only brushing the surface, doing my best to paint the big picture. Instead of stopping at the agreed-upon 90-minute mark, I went two hours and no one said, “Stop! Time’s up!”

I couldn’t restrain my passion at times, as I hit on some of the key witnesses and dramatic accounts that place Amelia and Fred on Saipan, and put the lie to the constant establishment mantra that the Earhart case is a great “Aviation Mystery.”  I made sure to point out that convicted murderers are regularly sent to their executions on the smallest fraction of the eyewitness testimonies that tell the sad story of Amelia’s wretched end on Saipan. Yet we’re told by Wikipedia and virtually all of the media that the truth is nothing but a “paranoid conspiracy theory” or an “unsubstantiated urban myth” unfit for polite discussion.

I think the audience got the message, but a small number clearly didn’t like the unpleasant truth, which is always predictable, given the toxic reaction this information often elicits from the uninformed.  Many were surprised and virtually none had any knowledge of the work of Fred Goerner, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs, Thomas E. Devine and others through the years that so clearly established the truth.   I was glad for the opportunity to begin to educate them about the fate of their co-founder, we sold a few books, and most important to me, Kay Alley was pleased and told me I did a “beautiful job.” Several others said nice things, and Kay made it clear that I had vindicated her faith in me. Thus I will count the event as a victory for the Truth, which is rare indeed in these days of massive indifference and rejection, not only from the media but virtually the entire public.

Of course the Truth at Last presentation was the highlight of my weekend, but Kay Alley and her committee planned the three days for everyone’s enjoyment, and all were kept busy with a variety of activities. A first-floor Hospitality Room offered shopping and browsing, a book fair, aviation timeline, snacks, beverages and visiting area. On Thursday evening, members and their husbands were treated to dinner at Mid-American All Indian Center under the flag of nations, a tour of the museum, a film about how the Wichita Indians were employed at Boeing for the building of aircraft for World War II, a walk around the Keeper of the Plains statue and lighting of the Arkansas River fire-pots at sunset.

The Air Capital Chorus quartet of (left to right) Bruce Bergsten (tenor), Mary Halsig (lead), Jeff Moler (bass), and Tom Schleier (baritone) join to offer the assembled Ninety-Nines a fabulous rendition of the famous 1937 standard "Turn Your Radio On" at the "Banquet in Blue" finale Sept. 27 at the Wichita Marriott.

The Air Capital Chorus quartet of (left to right) Bruce Bergsten (tenor), Mary Halsig (lead), Jeff Moler (bass), and Tom Schleier (baritone) offer the assembled Ninety-Nines a fabulous acapella rendition of the famous 1937 standard “Turn Your Radio On” at the “Banquet in Blue” finale Sept. 27 at the Wichita Marriott.

An outstanding buffet breakfast in the first-floor Marriott restaurant was available each morning, and activities on Friday began with a citywide bus tour of historical buildings, aircraft plants, the Amelia Earhart Elementary School, lunch at Lloyd Stearman Field in nearby Benton, Kan., and a tour of the new condo-hangars being built at the airport.

Following dinner on Friday night, which featured a particularly excellent vegetarian entry, the group settled in to enjoy a Wichita-style “Antiques Roadshow,” complete with TV camera and projection screen to show all the fascinating details of the many pieces on display.  Wichita native Stephen Gleissner, Ph.D., former chief curator of the Wichita Art Museum (2001-2013) and member of the International Society of Appraisers, looked over a wide variety of artifacts and memorabilia, from a signed edition of Amelia Earhart’s 1932 book, “The Fun of It,” to a mint-condition Hopalong Cassidy wristwatch on a saddle it its original box from the early-1950s. Dr. Gleissner, who specializes in appraising decorative arts and accessories, glass, paintings and prints, treated the Ninety-Nines to an impressive, educational  performance laced with plenty of laughs, and captivated the dinner audience for well over an hour.

Saturday began with a business meeting followed by a fashion show luncheon that I only caught at its finish. After my talk, a 99 helium-filled balloon launch was held in memory of the original founding members for the 85th anniversary, followed at 7 p.m. with the weekend’s climax, the “Banquet In Blue” wherein all attendees were asked to dressed in something blue, the corporate color of the Ninety-Nines.

After the food was served, we were treated to the musical stylings of The Air Capital Chorus Quartet of Bruce Bergsten, Mary Halsig, Jeff Moler, and Tom Schleier. Among their offerings was a fabulous acapella rendition of the famous 1937 standard “Turn Your Radio On.” “They worked up an arrangement of ‘Song of the Ninety-Nines’ that has never been heard by members of our organization in the last few decades,” Kay wrote in an email. “I found a copy of the song at our International Headquarters in Oklahoma City, Okla., and gave it to the quartet to sing for us, written in 1941.”

The exquisitely crafted Amelia Doll, a creation of Ninety-Nines memberJene Rapp, owner of The Doll Jenie, in Belle Plaine, Kansas, that Kay Alley gave me at the conclusion of the "Banquet In Blue."

The exquisitely crafted Amelia Doll, a creation of Ninety-Nines member Jene Rapp, owner of The Doll Jenie, in Belle Plaine, Kansas, that Kay Alley gave me at the conclusion of the “Banquet In Blue.”

Following the music, Bonnie Johnson, replete in American-flagged aviator’s garb, delivered a fascinating 25-minute impression of Louise McPhetridge Thaden, perhaps the second-most famous American female pilot of the Golden Age of Aviation, next to Amelia herself. Johnson-as-Thaden recalled the early pioneering days with Amelia, Pancho Barnes, Opal Kunz and Blanche Noyes. Thaden defeated her colleagues in the first Women’s Air Derby, also known as the Powder Puff Derby in 1929, a transcontinental race from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio, which was the site of the National Air Races that year. It took place from August 13–20, 1929. Twenty women were entered in the race, and Marvel Crosson was killed.

Johnson-Thaden went on to tell her rapt audience about how she won the Bendix Trophy Race in the first year women were allowed access to compete against men. She set a new world record of 14 hours, 55 minutes from New York City to Los Angeles, California. In her astonishing victory she flew a Beech C17R Staggerwing biplane and defeated twin-engine planes specifically designed for racing. Laura Ingalls, another aviator, came in second by 45 minutes flying a Lockheed Orion. First prize was $4,500 and she also won the $2,500 prize for a woman finishing the race.

Among those Kay thanked for their contributions to the weekend’s events were the Northeast Kansas Chapter, Ann Shaneyfelt, chairman, for the 99 helium-filled Balloons Launch; Judy Benjamin Godfrey, of the Northeast Kansas Chapter, for her invocation before dinner; and Janet Yoder, Kansas Chapter chairman for her leadership in planning the Fashion Show with Ann’s Fashions. Others Kay praised were Ann Sooby, of the Kansas Chapter, for preparing the welcome packets; The Kansas Chapter’s Phyllis Blanton for her work in historical aviation, Wichita and the Amelia Earhart timeline; Cathy McClain, Kansas Chapter, for her dinner toasts to Indian Heritage, Amelia Earhart and the Ninety-Nines; and the planning committee of Blanton, Sooby, Johnson, Shaneyfelt, Janet Yoder, Mandi Hill, Cindi Newport, and Linda Leatherman.

Kay Alley truly went the extra mile to produce this event, and her hard work and attention to detail paid off in a well-orchestrated and enjoyable three days for all concerned.  Still recovering from a severely broken ankle, Kay handed out many gifts and mementos to conclude the final night, and she completely surprised me when  handed me a beautiful Amelia Earhart doll, finely handmade and crafted by Jene Rapp, owner of the Doll Jenie in Belle Plains, Kansas, which will always be treasured by this heretofore non-doll collector. 

Kay Alley, vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, thanks the "Banquet in Blue" guests for a great three-day sectional meeting at the windup dinner Sept. 27.

Kay Alley, vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, thanks the “Banquet in Blue” guests for a great three-day sectional meeting at the windup dinner Sept. 27.

My weekend at Wichita closed on just about the sweetest note I could imagine.  Kay kindly offered to drive me to The Church of the Blessed Sacrament for 11 a.m. Mass on the way to Mid-Continent Airport, and I arranged a noon pickup for the airport with Uber.com taxi driver Teresa D. Renecker.  On the way, Teresa asked what had brought me to Wichita, and after a brief recap of the Ninety-Nines, Amelia Earhart and a simpatico conversation about the plight of our nation generally, she said the ride would be “complimentary, for what you’ve done for women’s aviation.” I was deeply moved by Teresa Renecker’s generosity, and she even refused to take a tip! What more could a visitor to the fine city of Wichita ask than this, as well as the many other kindnesses I’d received in the past three days?

It think it’s appropriate to close just as I closed with the Ninety-Nines when winding up my presentation at the Marriott, words that I wrote long ago as I prepared for a rare radio interview. I hope you, dear reader, will take them to heart.

The disappearance of Amelia Earhart is NOT an insipid piece of American historical trivia, an unimportant subject for idle academic discussion and speculation that, in the end, defies solution. This is a major event in our history that has been so distorted and misrepresented by our government and establishment media that the American people think it’s an irresolvable mystery. Without some incredible, unforeseen change, the status quo in the Earhart case will never change. Please help dispel the darkness and support this cause in whatever ways you can. Thank you for your consideration.



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