Art Kennedy’s sensational Earhart claims persist: Was Amelia on mission to overfly Truk?

We begin 2019 with a closer look at one of the more controversial characters in the history of the Earhart saga.  Art Kennedy was an aircraft technician for the Pacific Airmotive Company in Burbank, Calif., during the 1930s, and first met Amelia in 1934 when he serviced her Lockheed Vega for a Bendix Trophy race.  Later, he directed the repairs of the Electra when it was shipped back to Burbank in boxes following the March 20, 1937 accident at Luke Field, Hawaii, during her takeoff on the second leg of her first world-flight attempt, which could have easily resulted in her death.

Much speculation surrounded the cause of the Electra’s so-called ground loop, and Amelia herself said thatpossibly the right landing gear’s right shock absorber, as it lengthened, may have given way. . . . For a moment I thought I would be able to gain control and straighten the course.”  Army aviation expertsexpressed unofficial opinions that a landing gear failed just before the right tire of her plane burst, but Harry Manning, who was in the co-pilot’s seat that day, said Amelia “lost it on takeoff. 

 “The plane began to sway during takeoff, and according to Manning, Earhart tried to correct with the throttles and simply over-corrected, Fred Goerner wrote in a 1992 letter to Ron Reuther.   He said it wasn’t a matter of a tire blowing at all.  It was pilot error with a load of 940 gallons of fuel.  He added it was a miracle there was no fire.

The seriously damaged Electra 10E after Amelia’s Luke Field, Hawaii “ground loop” on March 20, 1937.  Amelia and Fred can be seen standing next to the pilot’s side of plane.  The Electra was sent back to the Lockheed plant in Burbank for months of costly repairs, including bigger engines, according to Art Kennedy, who worked on the Electra during that time.

In his 1992 autobiography co-written by JoAnn Ridley, High Times — Keeping ‘Em Flying, Kennedy offered a far more sinister explanation for the crash.  After a close examination of the plane’s damaged right wing, right gear, brakes and propellers, Kennedy said he realized the ground loop was not normal, but “forced,” and that Earhart purposely wrecked the plane.  When confronted by Kennedy, she “told me not to mention it and to mind my own business,” he wrote.

Kennedy, who passed away in September 1998 at 85, said he reminded her that an inspector was due the next day to make an official accident report and would recognize the plane’s condition would never have been caused by an accident. Damn! I forgot about the gear,  Kennedy claimed she said.  Art, you and I are good friends. You didn’t see a thing.  We’ll just force the gear back over to make it look natural. Will you promise me never to say anything about what you know?”  Kennedy complied and swore he kept his word for 50 years.

Most recently we heard from Kennedy when his account was featured in Did Earhart crash on purpose in Hawaii takeoff?” on Nov. 2, 2018.  The following interview, titled “A Visit With Art Kennedy in Portugal,” by Bill Prymak, appeared in the February 1993  Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter.  Prymak described Kennedy, who then lived in Cellerrico De Beria, Portugal, as a “walking encyclopedia on every aspect of airplanes in the Golden Years of Aviation and at the age of 81 [in 1993] his mind is incredibly sharp. . . . It is with a feeling of deep veneration that we sit and break bread with a man who knew Amelia Earhart so intimately, a man who worked with her, laughed and joked with her, took her home at nights when she didn’t have the car, dined with her.  There is virtually no one alive today who knew her as well as Arthur Kennedy.

As an added feature in this interview, still relevant after 25 years, Kennedy lent his considerable expertise to the early TIGHAR claims that made so much international noise in its early days, and sadly, continues to do so, though only those without critical thinking ability pay any attention these days.  We begin:

AES:  Art, you spent quite a bit of time with Amelia, both professionally and personally.  What was she like?

KENNEDY:  Bill, this gal was a true lady . . . lots of class, but no snob, friendly with all the shop guys, very inquisitive about the work being done on her airplane.  Always looking over the shoulder, but never interfering with the mechanics.  She and I developed a special relationship as I was the only one, once she got to know my work, who she would allow to work on her engines.  Polly (Art’s high-school sweetheart and wife of 45 years, who died in 1978), Amelia and I would go out for supper many times when we were working late.  On one occasion she lamented how she was tiring of all the notoriety, sick of all the false fancy friends, fed up with George’s constant pressures, and simply yearned once more to be a simple American gal who could enjoy her privacy like the rest of us could.  Polly and Amelia got along great, went shopping together, had girl-to-girl private times, and really developed a close friendship.

Undated photo of Art Kennedy, back in his heyday.  According to Bill Prymak, who knew him well, Kennedy fabricated stories about what Amelia Earhart told him after she crashed the Electra on takeoff from Luke Field in March 1937.  These tales from Kennedy have been cited by some as strong evidence that Amelia was ordered to ground loop her plane, change directions of her world flight and even embark on a spy mission.

AES:  If they went shopping together, did they ever shop for shoes, and if so, do you recall if Amelia’s shoe size ever came up?

KENNEDY:  If you’re alluding to Mr. Gillespie and his size 9 theory, with all the hoopla I’ve recently read about this great discovery, let me put it to rest once and for all.  Polly wore a size 7 and COULD NOT fit into Amelia’s shoes . . . not by a longshot.  That TIGHAR theory is pure baloney.  (ED. NOTE: Art was more inelegant in his choice of words, and we simply had to clean it up.)  Where did they find this guy?

AES:  What about Paul Mantz?

KENNEDY:  Paul was one of the finest pilots I had ever met, but everybody used to call him the HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR BOY, and I did quite a bit of work for him before I moved over to PAC, and it was Paul who first introduced me to AE.  He gave her countless hours of dual (instruction) in the Electra and Paul was pretty satisfied that she could tackle the world flight.  He could never figure out the groundloop [sic] at Hawaii . . . that puzzled him to his dying day.  But Paul in his business dealings was a bulldozer, and quite a wheeler and dealer.

AES:  Did you ever meet her husband George?

KENNEDY:  No, but I saw him several times looking for AE in the shop, and, on one occasion, when she saw him beckoning with this finger, AE pleadingly caught my eye, and her facial expression seemed to say: Gad, why did he have to show up at this time, when I was really enjoying these guys around me and my airplane!  Polly and I never went out with the Putnams as a foursome.  George was too big to socialize with a ramp rat.  Amelia was different that way.

AES:  You indicate in your book that Amelia told you that she was told, immediately before takeoff at Hawaii bound for Howland Island, to somehow abort the flight.  This is potent stuff, Art, and not many are buying this.  Can you expand on this?

KENNEDY:  I never did ask her who ordered her to abort at Hawaii and it really was none of my business, and she probably would not have told me even if I did ask her, but indeed she did state that she was ordered to abort.  I can think of only two reasons for this; something was not ready downstream, or, somebody figured she needed bigger generators as the existing generator blew fuses or burned out on the way to Hawaii.

AES:  But Art, if somebody wanted to abort an airplane, I could think of a dozen safer ways to do it — run the wing into a telephone pole, hit a pickup truck, slide into a ditch, fake a brake failure and run into a brick wall . . .

KENNEDY:  Yea, I know, but she was probably planning on a very slow, deliberate ground loop at very slow speed, where she figured there’d be no risk with all that has on board.  But in a situation like that, if you start the takeoff roll and hesitate for just a fraction of a second, bam . . . you’re already past thesafe zoneand you find yourself doing things that are absolutely crazy!  One spark in the wrong place and they all would have been fried.

AES:  Was she really a good pilot?

Bill Prymak and Joe Gervais traveled to the Marshall Islands to visit with the iconic Earhart eyewitness Bilimon Amaron at Amaron’s Majuro home in 1991.  A year later, Prymak and Gervais journeyed to Art Kennedy’s home in Portugal to interview the controversial expert who personally worked on Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E.

KENNEDY:  Bill, I flew with a bunch of the old timers, even got a pilot’s license myself.  A lot of the final checkouts, such as rigging and engine performance, had to be done in flight . . . and yes, Earhart was a good solid, pilotI flew with her many times, even once watched her bring in the Electra down to the runway with a 25 mph crosswind straight as a die.  When the Bendix rep who was halfway down the runway during the ill-fated Hawaii takeoff told me that her tailwheel was already high when the groundloop began, I could not believe it!  Even a dumb student pilot does not groundloop on takeoff at 50 mph.   Something very fishy here.

AES:  You’re still convinced she was on a spy mission?

KENNEDY:  Absolutely!  I’m 81 years old and have no need for storytelling or ego trips at my age.  I have only one trip left, and that’s to meet my Maker.  I can’t tell you everything she told me about the mission because other people were involved who might still be alive, but I will tell you thisShe mentioned the mission taking her over Truk, the big engines received brand new from Pratt & Whitney in May 1937, were modified by me personally to accommodate the bigger generators, and even though her regular engines were being overhauled, these two new super engines were charged to NR 16020 — her airplane!  Many strange things and many strange people were involved in her last flight.

AES:  How do you address the claim by TIGHAR [The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which has never recovered a single historic aircraft, to my knowledge] that the piece of aluminum they found came from the belly  of NR 16020?

KENNEDY:  This simply cannot be!  When the damaged aircraft came back from Hawaii, Amelia Earhart and I personally and meticulously went over the entire fuselage.  We had to raise the fuselage high enough to get a low-boy tractor underneath for transport to the Lockheed factory on the other side of the field.  In lifting the fuselage, Amelia and I got a good look at the belly, and there was absolutely no damage, not even dirt, from the groundloop accident.  There was however, cable sling damage from hoisting the airplane onto the boat from Hawaii, and in unloading same stateside.  Cable sling damage was observed at Station 239, where two stringers were buckled in, and it was here that Lockheed removed and replaced stringers and full skin sections, NOT patches, as TIGHAR claims.

AES:  But Gillespie claims that Lockheed people like Ed Werner and Harvey Christen are wrong when they state that the rivet and stringer spacing could not vary from the original specification, as found on TIGHAR’s piece of aluminum.

KENNEDY:  I don’t remember Ed, but if Harvey Christen says after studying the TIGHAR piece that it could not have come from the Electra, well you can bet the farm, the wife, and your bottom dollar that it did NOT come from an Electra.  Let me tell you something about Harvey . . . there was a guy, who in the early days of Lockheed, started as a wrench rat and who, through his some forty years with the firm, rose to be Vice-President of Quality Control Engineering.  He was revered, respected, and loved by everybody, and nobody knew his job better than Harvey.  There is no greater authority on this argument than this man.  For Gillespie to say that Lockheed “could have changed” original design integrity is ludicrous, stupid and pretty damn arrogant of him.  He must have a lot of money riding on this piece of aluminum.

High Times — Keeping ‘Em Flying, Art Kennedy’s 1992 autobiography with Jo Ann Ridley, is “a lively account of growing up in early West Coast aviation, working on famous aircraft with famous flyers; of practical jokes and competitive dirty tricks; and of significant innovative contributions to aircraft safety. . . . Aviation has given this old ramp rat one hell of a great life!”

AES:  But TIGHAR claims that the piece has an ink-stained stencil reading 24S-T3, in red ink, and that because it was hand-stampedat the factory, it had to be pre-World War II.

KENNEDY:  All aircraft companies bought their aluminum from ALCOA starting in 1932.  24S-Condition 3 was used on all aircraft prior to World War II.  24S-T3 was produced right through the beginning of WWII and was used on tens of thousands of American aircraft, including the PBY, DC-4, P-38, P-51, P-47, and the 247D.  Lockheed and other airplane manufacturers were stacked to the rafters with 24S-T3 on the onset of WWII, and as far as identifying the date of manufacture of a piece of stamped aluminum, hell, I saw the stamps put on in blue, red, green, black . . . they used every color under the sun, and sometimes they stamped with the grain, sometimes against the grain, diagonally, every which way.  Nobody today, shown a piece of 24S-T3, can pinpoint the date of manufacture just by the color of the ALCLAD stamp or by the shape of the letters.

AES:  You have seen a sketch of the TIGHAR artifact.  Comments?

KENNEDY:  Absolutely no way would Lockheed permit a change of rivet spacing on the replacement of a skin panel . . . it would never pass inspection.  Nobody in their right mind . . . in any repair situation, would ever change the pattern of the rivet holes and make different holes thru stringers, circumferentials [sic], keels, and other attaching structures and put more holes in these structures and thusly compromise the structural integrity of the original design.  This TIGHAR piece of aluminum might have come from the nose gear door of a Catalina Flying Boat because they got easily damaged and were always in constant repair.  You might also check the bottom of the floats as they have a rivet pattern similar to what you showed me.  Lockheed did skin replacements, not patches.

AES:  TIGHAR claims that they have evidence that Amelia and Fred removed a fuel cell from the cabin and with an engine cover jury-rigged a water-catchment device on Gardner Island, using only a screwdriver.  Your comments?

KENNEDY:  Bill and Joe, you guys can’t be serious that somebody would try to bamboozle the American public into thinking that AE and Fred would even attempt such an impossible job on a deserted island.  First, you’d have to remove the radio blocking your way to the fuel tank to be removed.  Then you have to tear apart the floor boards of the entire rear of the airplane . . . then you need special wrenches to get at the nuts tying down the tank; then you need BIGGER 1.5-inch wrenches to release the B-nuts  tying the vent lines to the other tanks.  And when this is all said and done what have you got?  I’ll tell you what you’ve got!  Ever try drinking water out of an aluminum can that’s been full of aviation gas for two months?  It’ll kill ya, and Fred certainly knew better.  Didn’t I read someplace that somebody suggested that if they really were down on a deserted island they simply would have deployed their life raft for water-catching purposes? 

AES: Yeah, we suggested that in a previous AES Newsletter.

KENNEDY:  And another point . . . the engine covers were never taken on the final flight.  I remember walking into Firman Grey’s office at Lockheed several weeks after she went down and seeing engine covers in the corner stenciled NR 16020.   Firman said Amelia thought they were too bulky and heavy to be trucking around the world.

AES:  But AE’s book Last Flight states that they used engine and prop covers at Timor.

Art Kennedy, Alverca, Portugal, 1991.

KENNEDY:  That’s baloney.   Putnam wrote that book and filled in all that fancy prose.  Amelia was too busy and dog tired at every stop to write notes for George.  GP got a few scraps of information from phone calls to AE and from the press, but there was no press or telephone at Timor, so George filled in some empty space with his own creations.

AES:  Art, you’ve been a superb host, and a fabulous source of “firsthand” information on the greatest Lady of Aviation.  In closing, what do you feel really happened?

KENNEDY:  I am convinced she went down in the Marshall Islands, as so many researchers besides you two guys have theorized.  Something BIG has always bugged me: I kept immaculate fuel low records from the tests cells on her engines, and so help me, from her last message to Itasca at 20 hours and 14 minutes into the flight, she had AT LEAST five hours of fuel left.  Think about it: if you’re really lost, then when your fuel runs out, you’re about to die, and you know it.  Talking to somebody there on the radio is your only lifeline, and it costs you nothing to talk and yell for help, as the average pilot would have done in this situation.  The silence with an operational radio and five hours of fuel left really bugs me.  That was not the Amelia I knew.  She had somewhere else to go to.  It was planned.  (End of Kennedy interview.)

In High Times, Kennedy wrote that Earhart told him she was ordered to abort the Luke Field takeoff and did it the only way she knew how.”  According to Kennedy, she saida lot depended on my keeping quiet about what I’d seen because she was going on a special mission that had to look like a routine attempt to go around the world.  She said, ‘Can you imagine me being a spy?’ then she sort of tittered and added, ‘I never said that!’” Several researchers, including some who knew him well, have looked askance at Kennedy’s claims and pointed to his reputation as a well-known “bullshit artist,” as he himself admits in his book’s prologue.  Who knows for sure?

Bill Prymak, who knew Kennedy well, was among those who agreed with Fred Goerner in dismissing Kennedy’s claim about the Luke Field accident.  On the other hand, Prymak wrote that Joe Gervais (who accompanied Prymak to Portugal) and I were left with some lasting impressions of Art Kennedy, not the least being his total love and admiration for Amelia, his uncanny knowledge of the Lockheed Electra, and his unquestioned honesty and resolve not to embellish when we quizzed him on matters that happened 55 years ago that since became fuzzy.  We appreciated that kind of candor.”  So what are we to think?

Was this Amelia Earhart’s ill-fated flight route on July 2, 1937?  This map appeared in the September 1966 issue of True magazine, along with a lengthy preview of Fred Goerner’s soon-to-be-published The Search for Amelia Earhart.  Art Kennedy may have thought so, and to this day the true path of Earhart’s last flight eludes us, and remains the biggest mystery of the Earhart saga.

It’s hard to buy Kennedy’s claim about the ground loop, as it’s difficult to imagine that Amelia would purposely endanger Harry Manning and Fred Noonan, who were both aboard.  It’s more likely that she honestly blew the takeoff at Luke Field, but what of Kennedy’s assertion about Amelia’s “mission taking her over Truk,” and that the Electra received “big engines” in May 1937 that he personally “modified” for the flight’s extra miles?  We have no credible evidence that supports the idea that a new pair of “big engines” was put on NR 16020, but could it have happened?

The total distance from Lae to Truk to Howland Island is 3,250 statute miles, compared with 2,556 statute miles when flying direct from Lae, well within the Electra’s normal range of 4,000 miles, even without modified enginesCan we so easily dismiss these separate and altogether plausible — at least in this observer’s opinion — claims from Kennedy?  Most probably the fliers reached Mili in a different way, but a definitive answer continues to elude us.

Advertisements

36 responses

  1. If she was overflying Truk, where was her intended landing spot?

    Like

    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      Peter,

      If AE and FN were on a photo reconnaissance mission over Truk, the closest places to recover the aircraft and film would be Guam, 636 statute miles away; Wake Island, 1284 statute miles away; and the published, intended landing place, Howland Island, 2222 statute miles away. Distances from Truk were taken from the timeanddistance.com calculator. Although Guam and Wake were much closer, they would have made for a “problematic” explanation, whereas Howland fit the cover story.

      All best,

      William

      Like

    2. William H. Trail | Reply

      All:

      I misspoke. It was the timeanddate.com calculator I used. -William

      Like

  2. Everything in this blog confirms what I have maintained about the AE spy mission. I don’t think Kennedy is making up his story, in fact he is holding back as he doesn’t want to implicate possibly his superiors at Lockheed who were far more involved with working with the government to pull off this audacious scheme. She might have received much more than a couple of new engines but he doesn’t want to go that far. According to the much despised Randall Brink who claimed he was a friend of Kennedy she got a whole new plane. This is possible and Kennedy later in life with maturity knew that discretion was advised and he would only make enemies in his golden years by saying too much.

    So the original plane was sent off to New Britain where it crashed or her original possibly damaged (refurbished) engines were installed on another L10 which then went down. I know David Billings has done meticulous research on these planes, but if something happened like AE was given a whole new plane it would be “off the record” and there may be undocumented L10s contrary to what Billings thinks. So even if he did find his plane and it turned out to be her original plane it wouldn’t conclusively prove anything. It’s interesting that Gillespie is brought into this account, it’s more obvious to me more than ever that he is a paid government shill. It just would not do if it were revealed that the beloved Amelia was just a disposable tool for TPTB in those days.

    Like

    1. Well stated, Dave. Your comments have become more focused over the years. There has to be an answer to the David Billings question, and your suggestion makes the most sense that I’ve seen thus far. Proof for all your contentions, however, is another thing altogether.

      Thanks,
      Mike

      Like

  3. If AE was ordered to abort due to the two reasons Art mentioned (something was not ready downstream, or, somebody figured she needed bigger generators as the existing generator blew fuses or burned out on the way to Hawaii), why would she have even attempted to takeoff? Why not just postpone? He also didn’t mention a third reason that has been speculated…to permit a directional reversal of the flight for “spy” purposes. I think the best opinion comes from the person who witnessed the accident from the co-pilot’s seat, Harry Manning. If a flight over Truk was an intended mission, that idea could have come after the Hawaii accident.

    Like

  4. I’m leaning toward the opinion that she simply “screwed up” as Manning thought. If the Truk idea was already in the works, all she had to do was say that her generator (I thought there was only one) wasn’t working right and the repair work needed to be done in Burbank. After the crash the repair work was very expensive and who would trust an airplane that had been in a wreck? I think that the idea was then hatched, because after the repairs the whole shebang would not be profitable and Putnam may have turned to the govt for some help. The govt was already involved what with the field on Howland and the Itasca. Did Wiley Post have any such help? I doubt it.

    It was nice that Putnam countenanced her new suicide mission, wasn’t it? He must have been desperate for the money. Yes, definitely the reversal of direction was baffling, it made the flight considerably more risky. There had to be a reason and Lae was almost as close to Truk as Rabaul was. But Rabaul was much closer to Howland. Evidently, according to Kennedy, the long flight to Howland was within the safety range, so he says. Possibly the intention was for her to do a high altitude flight over the Marshalls and they thought that there was no danger of her being shot or forced down, but that was wrong, the Japs unexpectedly did have the planes there with the capability of doing that. Why would she intentionally ditch the plane in Mili? She didn’t radio that she had trouble. She was far from out of gas.

    There was simply no reason except that she was intercepted by the Japs. Once they developed the film and it was photos of Truk her goose was cooked. There may have been 2 or 3 days when she was treated as a heroine by the Japs or maybe not. Naturally if she was approaching Marshalls she had to keep quiet on her radio. She had to act throughout the whole flight that her radio wasn’t working right. Even at the time there were those who were skeptical enough to know that her flight wasn’t what it seemed. It didn’t matter then if she couldn’t really take off from Howland, the film would have been safely in the hands of the Navy. I think Kennedy knew the whole story.

    Like

    1. Several questions immediately suggest themselves in the scenario you propose, but here’s two right off the bat. First we have her position report to Harry Balfour, delivered approximately one-third of the way to Howland. From p. 28 Truth at Last:

      At 3:19 p.m., she reported, “HEIGHT 10000 FEET POSITION 150.7 east 7.3 south CUMULUS CLOUDS EVERYTHING OKAY.”47 At 5:18 p.m. (0718 GMT), her position was “4.33 SOUTH 159.7 EAST HEIGHT 8000 FEET OVER CUMULUS CLOUDS WIND 23 KNOTS.” This put the Electra just southwest of the Nukumanu Islands, on track about one-third of the way on the great circle course to Howland. The plane had covered about 846 miles at a ground speed of just 118 miles per hour. Itasca did not receive Earhart’s 0718 position report to Lae until more than twelve hours after the Electra was lost.

      Was she simply lying, and was well on the way to Truk?

      Second, we have her last official message to Itasca, which came in loud and clear. From p. 32-33 Truth at Last:

      At 0844 Howland time, 20 hours, 14 minutes after departing Lae, Earhart transmits her infamous last message: “WE ARE ON THE LINE 157-337, WILL REPEAT THIS MESSAGE, WILL REPEAT THIS MESSAGE ON 6210 KCS. WAIT LISTENING ON 6210 KCS.” After about a minute’s pause, she added, “WE ARE RUNNING ON LINE NORTH AND SOUTH.” The message was received on 3105 at signal strength 5. “She was so loud that I ran up to the bridge expecting to see her coming in for a landing,” Leo Bellarts told author Elgen Long in 1973.

      How could this have happened if she were still on her long way back from Truk? The signal would not have been so strong that Leo Bellarts thought she was overhead! Moreover, if she had been coming from Truk, would she then turn back in the opposite direction to land at Mili, where we know she was seen? These and other conundrums stand in the way of an easy solution, and always have.

      Mike

      Like

      1. This is sort of a wise guy answer but I have said this before in one of my incoherent posts. It was a recorded message from some one on Howland Island. Probably some of her other messages were also recordings. I’m sure the Navy was supplied with a wide variety of recordings in her voice. They had to keep the Japanese who were listening to her every word, guessing. Another thing I would add is if they were able to pinpoint their position at 3:19 PM then they certainly could have done the same at 844 AM. So they would have known exactly where they were. They absolutely could not have flown to Mili by mistake in my opinion. They would have known they were far to the north of Howland. The Japanese were not amused.

        Like

      2. Paul Rafford Jr. was a great proponent of the pre-recorded messages as well. I simply can’t buy it without more evidence. In my opinion, more than just a few would have been involved with the logistics and deployment of the pre-recorded messages, and eventually the plot would have leaked out. It has not.

        The navigational types can probably answer why she couldn’t give a precise position at 0844 Howland time, or perhaps not. I think one factor was that they could not get a fix on the Itasca’s signals, as she indicted in an earlier message. It’s a good question anyway that I’ve seen answered before by several in different ways. That part is above my pay grade.

        MC

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Here’s a rough computation that somebody could do, I might even take a try at it myself, but I have family visiting today & tomorrow then I am going backpacking for a couple days so I won’t do it soon. Now at 844, her last message indicated she was very close to Howland and presumably it seemed about the right time for her arrival given that her ground speed was fairly predictable and she was expected about that time as the Itasca was making smoke before then.

        Now figure that the distance to Mili was somewhat less than the distance to Howland, How much less time would it have taken for her to arrive at Mili compared to Howland? I’m guessing 2-3-4 hours less flying time. So if 0844 was a reasonably close expectation of her arrival at Howland then she got to Mili a lot sooner than that and she was already on the ground at Mili. That would mean it was a recording if it was heard loud and clear on the Itasca. I suppose it was never established exactly what time she was sighted ditching at Mili. I understand this exercise would prove nothing in particular but, but if she should have arrived at Mili at, say, 0600 Howland time, given her expected ground speed then obviously somebody was faking her voice. Why? Good question.

        Mike, you are right that the logistics of playing recordings would have been difficult. But to say it “would have” come out by now, well…….. Ric Gillespie taught me that when you say “A good pilot WOULD HAVE DONE blah blah” you are on slippery ground because we don’t know exactly what that good pilot actually did. I wish I knew more about the state of the art of navigation in those days, but any pilot or navigator should have been able to calculate their position even during the day or they all would have crashed and sank.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. William H. Trail

        At 0844 Hrs local time the sun would have been up and all stars used for navigation would have been obscured. FN should have gotten a full fix position using stars just before dawn. During daylight hours, taking fixes on the sun FN would use successive fixes to establish a Line of Position (LOP). Hope this helps.

        All best,

        William

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thanks William. A line of position in itself does not establish a position. From Truth at Last, p. 121:

        No one knows where the Electra was located along the 157-337 line of position Earhart reported in her last transmission. Most believe she was referring to a sun line, the angle of the sun just as it broke above the horizon, and the July 2, 1937 Nautical Almanac confirms that “just as the sun broke the horizon at 1756 GMT” in the area of Howland Island, the sun’s line of position was 157º-337º, according to Vincent V. Loomis. A line of position does not establish a location, however, and a precise “fix” is only possible if combined with a point of reference—a landmark or a radio bearing, for example. As Loomis put it, “Flying a line of position was like driving an interstate highway without knowing which exit to take for the destination.”

        Mike

        Like

    2. William H. Trail | Reply

      David,

      The state-of-the-art of air navigation in 1937 was basically a combination of Dead Reckoning (DR), Celestial Navigation, and taking radio bearings. Automatic Direction Finding (ADF) had only been around since the early 30’s and Philip Dalton’s Dead Reckoning Computer which was further refined and became the ubiquitous E-6B Flight Computer had only been around since 1932.

      All best,

      William

      Like

  5. Last night after I came home from my strenuous backpack trip I got on my smartphone and went to my Google “newsfeed” i.e. propaganda feed to see what misinformation I was going to be fed and then spend a bit of time pondering what TPTB were trying to convince me of and what was the motivation. I got a juicy surprise when it appeared with “NBC News” byline and no author about Amelia’s final fate. I believe it was the 80th anniversary of her death. But I skipped over that assuming it was 80th something else. So the article was the usual, prominently featuring the Niku hypothesis and an especially detailed convoluted account of the body found thereof with new details and new experts quoted who were convinced 99% it was her, and continued on to mention a “lunatic fringe” (they didn’t actually use those words, but that was the idea) who believed that she was captured by the Japanese and it said that concept was TOO OUTLANDISH (Those were the actual words) for anyone to believe. The most likely conclusion though was that she “Crashed and sank.” Now this morning the article is gone.

    OK, so as I began to write this, I thought I would look her up online to see what exactly the 80 years anniversary it was commemorating. By Golly, it was the 80th anniversary of her death. https://www.famousbirthdays.com/people/amelia-earhart.html it says so on “Famous birthdays” site. So after all these years speculating when she might have succumbed, there is the answer. With no explanation. I don’t know if this is permissible on this blog, but can I conclude by saying WTF? The department of disinformation and propaganda must be having a good laugh over this divulgement (I made that word up). They know the truth. We know the truth. They know that we know. This is an inside joke between them and us. Thanks, guys, I get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dave,

      NBC was referencing the Jan. 4, 2019 propaganda piece by Time magazine, the same time that led the way in denouncing Fred Goerner’s book, The Search for Amelia Earhart, in 1966, telling the American sheeple, “Move along, nothing thing to see here.” Time is no longer the leading establishment media voice out, but their mendacious editorial policies have not changed a bit in nearly 53 years. Here is the new Time story, for anyone with a strong stomach, commemorating the 80th anniversary of the declaration of Amelia’s death on Jan. 5, 1939.

      Mike

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I said I was going to check out distances, times of her flight and what I found surprised me. Flying to Howland by way of Truk adds 720 miles to the trip and at 140 mph her trip shoukd have taken almost 23 hours. Since there is only a 2 hour time difference then at 0844 on Howland that is just about right for her arrival including the detour to Truk. But Truk to Mili is 900 miles shorter and at 150 mph that’s 6 hours earlier, it would be 0144 Mili time.

        In other words, if that was actually her giving the last message and she then flew to Mili then we are adding 900 miles back total 4100 miles. Maybe she did that and that would account for her runn ing out of gas. But to approach Howland and then turn around to fly to Mili would seem beyond far fetched. Then again, to fly to Mili direct from Lae or even making the detour to Truk she would wind up on Mili in the middle of the night. I never read that the eyewitnesses saw her ditch the plane in darkness, did you? What I’m saying is that if she gave her last message when she was close enough to Howland to blast their eardrums on the radio then she could not have made Mili if she had overflown Truk on the way..

        If she didn’t do Truk then at 0844 she was almost 3 hours late. But she could have turned and made it back to Mili in daylight fairly easily. If she actually flew the 157/337 bearing and she was close to Howland she would have missed Mili by 700 miles due west. Now, does that make everything perfectly clear? To me none of it makes much sense, But check my figures. It does make a little more sense if her last message was a recording. The military wanted it to seem like she got lost so that they could search the general area. That might motivate such a recorded message. If she landed on Mili in the daylight, what took her so long to get there? What was she doing to kill 5 hours?

        Liked by 1 person

  6. By the way Lae to Truk is about 6 to 6.5 hours she would easily have been there in daylight.

    Like

  7. I was using 140 mph seems like she might have been slower based on her position reports so she would not have been “late” to Howland at 118 mph. She still would have arrived at Truk during daylight hours, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. William H. Trail | Reply

    David,

    The actual numbers may be hard to pin down as all we have is the published performance data for the Electra 10E Special that was meant for public consumption. The numbers AE and FN were using could be quite different. We cannot say with any certainty what was done regarding the engines during the repairs to NR16020 at Burbank, or what was actually done (or not done) with them in Bandoeng, Java, Dutch East Indies.

    All best,

    William

    Like

  9. William,

    I agree all we have to go on is her position reports and the performance data given for a 10E with her 550/600 hp. engines which according to Billings there were not that many of them, if my memory serves me right. However the discredited Randall Brink says Kennedy told him they gave her a “prototype?” Model L12 and nobody noticed the difference, they were quite similar, I think the L12 was a little smaller, But the performance was supposedly better than the L10 so why was she making 118 mph ground speed? Then you have the old story (Maybe by Brink’s calculations) that her flying times in Africa and SE Asia were much shorter than they should have been which he claimed proved his point. The L10 just couldn’t have gone that fast.

    I suspect that Brink was right, at least in this area, he may have been way off elsewhere like his Taroa wreck theory. So, if she was given an L12 then of course her original plane could have ended up in New Britain. This discovery, had he made it, would rock the world of not only us TTAL aficionados but Gillespie and the Ministry of Disinformation, too. How would the MOD spin that one?

    My speculation would be this: Art Kennedy knew all this and when he told Prymak the story, Prymak figured Kennedy was B,S.ing him, because I think Prymak sometimes had tunnel vision and totally believed his own theories were the truth. I’m sure that when the Navy was looking over Art’s shoulder while the switch was going on he was admonished that “Loose Lips sink Ships” and to watch what he said and that means long term, if Art knew what was good for him.

    I suppose with an L12 she could have flown near Howland and then turned and headed for Mili safely with the improved range of her new plane, but why? when a recording played from the radio at Howland would have sufficed? Although that would account for her arrival at Mili presumably sometime in the afternoon.

    Would this really fool the Japanese into believing she was lost? They were probably as confused as we are today. Maybe that’s why they towed her plane to Saipan because it was the latest model L12. They could have bought an L10 on the open market. They did have one, didn’t they? It wouldn’t do to have someone notice that her plane at Aslito field was an L12, I suppose. It’s like any of these “false flags” like 9/11 for example, some details always go wrong, but if you just repeat the barefaced lie enough, most people will believe it,

    All Best,

    Dave

    Like

    1. David,

      Thanks for your update on what really happened. I don’t see anything on Art Kennedy in Brink’s book, and it’s new to me that Kennedy told Brink that “they gave her a ‘prototype?’ Model L12 and nobody noticed the difference, they were quite similar.”

      “Nobody noticed the difference,” David? This sounds just like the kind of irresponsible fantasy that Brink is well know for, and is why he has been “discredited” by many. And why would Kennedy make this incredible, game-changing revelation to Brink and not Bill Prymak, Joe Gervais or anyone else?

      Please tell us your source for this amazing revelation by Brink.

      Mike

      Like

      1. I managed to find Brink’s book and read a chunk of it it was a couple years since I last read it. He does not mention Kennedy, but he mentions some other Lockheed employee. He says they built a plane with features of an L12 and an L10 it was a custom built hybrid. So it could have been the same size as her original plane. or close to it. They put the latest antenna on it for the DF so they did not need the 250 ft. trailing antenna. Her flight times for some of her other hops are remarkably fast, much faster than her L10 could go, apparently. So that could mean bigger engines, higher ceiling.

        So far so good, but when he comes to her final message he thinks it was loud because it was a skip or just a fluke. He doesn’t explain the long flight time if she could go so much faster and he evidently doesn’t notice that she could easily arrive at Mili in the middle of the night. So it gets very confusing to me, I was sleepy, and he thinks the “Akagi” was there with all it’s Zero planes, but she lands and sends radio messages for days, so if she was shot down, wouldn’t the Japs see where she landed? I’ll read some more tonight, but his story seems about as plausible as most other Mili landing explanations, in other words, kind of inexplicable no matter what theory you try out, there are discrepancies in them all.

        Like

      2. So David, it was not Art Kennedy who told Randall Brink that “they gave her a ‘prototype?’ Model L12 and nobody noticed the difference, they were quite similar,” but someone else — “some other Lockheed employee,” as you say. This is quite a step back from your original blockbuster statement, which is now simply an irresponsible, incorrect statement. But it still needs fleshing out, because the subject is important, but instead of waiting for you to “read some more tonight,” I will try to lighten your burden and clarify.

        For those keeping score, David is referring to pages 107-109 of Brink’s book, Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart, published in 1993. These pages contain some of the most incredible — and if true, hugely significant as well — claims ever made about the plane Earhart flew in her world flight attempt. These claims come from former Lockheed airframe technician Robert T. Elliott “an eleven-year veteran of Lockheed Aircraft Company, and a faculty member at Mount San Antonio College in California for thirty-two years.”

        Brink begins by quoting Elliott as saying of AE after the Luke Field accident: “By the time she returned [to the mainland], there was a new airplane ready for her. This one was a Model 12.” According to Elliot, the whole idea of the original Electra being repaired at Burbank was “a ruse.” Many secret modifications were made, according to Elliott, which made the Model 12 “capable of cruising at speeds up to 220 miles per hour, as compared with 140 [for the Electra 10]. Obviously the secret changes meant that Amelia could zip off on an announced course and then return to her route without the public, at least, being any the wiser. Her new altitude capacity, so crucial to any espionage flight, was also concealed.”

        I’ve never claimed aviation expertise, so here are the basic layman’s summaries for the two aircraft:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Model_12_Electra_Junior
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Model_10_Electra

        I see nothing that reflects such a wide divergence of cruising speeds, and though it’s not easy to tell the difference in the two planes with the photos available, experts such as Bill Prymak, Rollin Reineck and Paul Rafford Jr. could almost certainly have been able to discern one from the other, or so you would think, and no one has ever identified an Electra 12 in all the photos ever taken of Earhart’s last flight in her many stops along the way.

        Next, Elliott claims he was “directed to cut two 16-18 inch diameter holes to be used for the cameras [Fairchild aerial-survey cameras, as documentation found later would show] which were to be mounted in the lower aft fuselage bay and would be electrically operated. There was a lot of modification required for this equipment. This was all done in the old Lockheed plant in Burbank. California. That bit about repairing her crashed Model 10 was just a ruse.”

        ED NOTE: No such documentation is provided by Brink. He simply cites a 1983 interview with Carroll Harris, who was also interviewed by Fred Goerner, and whose report lists none of the many detailed claims made by Brink on p. 174 of Lost Star. See pages 265-266 Truth at Last.

        Again, this claim for the special cameras installed into the Electra prior to the second world flight attempt comes only from Elliott. Prymak was always adamant that the skin of the Electra was “too thin” to mount such a heavy camera as the Fairchild. If Earhart was on a mission to take recon photos over Truk, a simple hand-held Kodak would have been sufficient, as all estimates have put her over Truk in daylight hours.

        Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and in this case it’s hard to buy these two huge game changers from Robert T. Elliott via Brink. Elliott is almost certainly not with us anymore, but among the old researchers of the AES, all of whom are also gone, none gave these claims an ounce of merit.

        My next post is titled, “Did Amelia Earhart switch planes?” and will present many photos of the Electra during the world flight. It may be helpful in further evaluating the credibility of Elliott’s claims as advanced by Randall Brink.

        MC

        Liked by 1 person

      3. William H. Trail

        David,

        According to “Legerdemain” (Chapter 16, Page 88), by David K. Bowman, the IJN aircraft carrier “AKAGI” was in the Sasebo Naval Shipyard for a major refit from 1935 to 1938. Now, could there have been another Japanese carrier in the area at the time? Who knows? That will take some researching of naval archives to vet out.

        Also according to Bowman, this air intercept/shoot down story comes from Joe Gervais and Randall Brink, who got it from one Fujie Firmosa, who claimed to be a Japanese Naval Aviator flying from AKAGI and who further claimed that he made a firing pass at the Electra, which crash landed near Mili Atoll.

        By the way, the INJ was flying the Mitsubishi A5M Allied Codename: “Claude,” a fixed gear, open cockpit, low-wing, monoplane comparable to our Boeing P-26 “Peashooter” at the time. The much advanced Mitsubishi A6M Allied Codename: “Zero” would not enter into service until 1940.

        All best,

        William

        Liked by 1 person

      4. William,

        I have read a few times that Amelia’s L10 could fly so high that whatever the Japs had in the Marshalls couldn’t shoot her down. I pictured seaplanes not being able to fly that high. However, if an A5M was in the area it’s ceiling was 32,150 ft. so I would think it could easily fly as high as she could. Maybe her flight planners thought there couldn’t be any high altitude warplanes in the area but there was. Perhaps she was told that if she made out OK overflying Truk, then go ahead with The Marshalls, but that was up to her.

        All Best,

        Dave

        Liked by 1 person

    2. William H. Trail | Reply

      David,

      For the sake of argument here I’ll include the data for both the Electra 10-A/10-E Special , and the Electra 12-A Junior. The published performance data for the Electra 10-A/10-E Special indicates a Service Ceiling, that is to say, the highest altitude at which an aircraft can maintain a steady rate of climb of 100 fpm, of 19,400 ft. The Service Ceiling of the Electra 12A Junior was 22,900 ft. The Maximum Speeds were 202 mph/175 kts and 225 mph/196 kts respectively. The performance data for the Mitsubishi A5M Claude (introduced into IJN service in early 1937) indicates a Ceiling of 32,808 ft. A ‘ceiling’ or ‘absolute ceiling’ is the maximum height above sea level at which an aircraft can maintain level flight under standard atmospheric conditions. The A5M also had a Maximum Speed of 273 mph/238 kts. It packed two fuselage mounted 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns synchronized to fire through the prop. The A5M had a rate of climb of 2,790 fpm. In other words, it would climb like a homesick angel.

      A brief word about altitude and oxygen — without getting too technical or too far down into the bureaucratic weeds, suffice to say, if you’re flying an unpressurized aircraft at 12,500 to 14,000 ft MSL for 30 minutes or more you MUST use oxygen. Hypoxia will kill you. If you ever have the opportunity to go through training in an Altitude Chamber, do not pass it up. It will make you a true believer. To better understand high altitude flight back in the late 30s/early 40s era, check out Errol Flynn and Fred MacMurray in Warner Brothers 1941 film, “Dive Bomber.” It’s on DVD and TCM runs it every now and again. Frank “Spig” Weed, a former Naval Aviator, was one of the screen writers for this film. Lots of great footage of classic aircraft from the Golden Age of Aviation.

      Now, in theory, could an IJN A5M have caught either version of the Electra and shot it down? Based solely on the published performance data, I think the answer is clearly, yes, with ease. However, timing is everything. The Japanese would have had to have been in precisely the right place, at the right time, and preferably with the advantage of altitude. In 1937, three years before even the most primitive systematic airborne intercept operations such as were developed by the R.A.F. in the Battle of Britain, an intercept of whatever Electra AE and FN were flying would have been a matter of pure chance. Bottom line: I think a shoot down of the Electra would have been possible, but unlikely. I also don’t want to SPECULATE with so many unknown variables.

      The only thing I’m sure of, based on the evidence is that NR16020 came down on Barre Island, Mili Atoll in the Japanese Mandated Marshall Islands and that Amelia Earhart and Frederick Noonan died very badly as captives of the Imperial Japanese on Saipan. The how and why is open for reasonable and intelligent debate.

      All best,

      William

      Like

      1. William,

        I agree with you that all we are doing here is debating a lot of possibilities. I accept that the preponderance of evidence shows they landed near Barre Island and were taken prisoner by the Japanese. Why she would have landed there is totally unknown, maybe only Amelia has the answer to that. Perhaps the Japs were actually able to track her flight but would that give them time to stage warplanes at the Marshall Islands when she headed that way? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have done that in anticipation of her flight but that’s a little far fetched as even they probably didn’t think she would ever fly to the Marshalls.

        I just brought the subject up because I read somewhere that her new improved L10 or L10/L12 would fly too high for any Jap plane stationed there to have interfered with her. That seems to be hardly the case, as you have shown. Maybe a little seaplane such as those that searched for her could not have reached her altitude, but that’s neither here nor there. Having had some experience climbing high mountains because that’s one of my interests I can say that flying at 20,000 ft without supplemental oxygen is not a problem because mountain climbers do that altitude every day and she would be somewhat acclimatized what with flying at 10,000 ft a lot in her trip, So she could fly that high over the Marshalls or Truk but apparently that ability means nothing.

        All Best,

        Dave

        Liked by 1 person

  10. David;

    I believe the service ceiling of the Electra was around 20,000 ft and they were not pressurized, meaning flying above 10,000 ft for any extended period of time would require supplemental oxygen, which then adds additional weight.

    Like

  11. Gentlemen you’s present great analogies over the Electra’s flight path. As I read these comments, I was persuaded as well as perplexed. David’s calculations do add up, as William’s data welcomes clear insight and Mike’s *facts hold the line straight.

    What was Amelia really trying to do, avoid detection from the Japanese? Or was she confident enough, in her own judgment, to put down in the Mandated Islands and hope the U.S. Navy would rescue her? I think both.

    Doug

    Like

  12. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    Now, while I agree in principle with David in that climbers are able to acclimatize themselves to function at higher altitudes without supplemental oxygen, we must keep in mind that climbers tend to be in very good health and have attained a level of athleticism higher than that of the average person — certainly better than most pilots I know, including me! Additionally, climbers acclimate themselves gradually at base camps at increased altitudes over extended periods of time. Aviators don’t have that advantage. Climbing to a high altitude on a mountain is a slow process, flying to the same altitude in an aircraft takes much less time. Still, whether you are a climber or an aviator, the human body has limits on its ability to acclimate to high altitudes.

    Bottom line: The higher the altitude, and the lower the oxygen level in the body, the lower the time of efficient functionality and useful consciousness. No one is immune to Hypoxia. It kills. For a graphic illustration, check out what happens to the fictional, “Toni Carter” in the end of Warner Brothers 1943 film, “Flight for Freedom.”

    Below is an abridged version of a chart I found at http://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Oxygen_Systems. Needless to say, these numbers are based on an average person in reasonably good health and are not absolute. They will vary sightly for each individual. I would have provided the entire chart here, but I could not cut and paste it into this post.

    Time of Useful Consciousness

    15,000 ft………………………………………..30 min or more
    18,000ft…………………………………………20-30 min
    22,000ft…………………………………………5-10 min
    25,000ft…………………………………………3-5 min
    28,000ft…………………………………………2.5-3 min
    30,000ft…………………………………………1-3 min
    35,000ft…………………………………………30-60 sec
    40,000ft…………………………………………15-20 sec
    45,000ft…………………………………………9-15 sec
    50,000ft…………………………………………6-9 sec

    All best,

    William

    Like

    1. The standard scenario of even us sophisticated students of the Earhart mystery is that she flew from Lae to Howland, got lost, flew northwest to Mili, ran out of gas and ditched or crashed the plane. I believe she was on some kind of a spy mission, possibly flew over Truk and then purposely flew to Marshalls. I don’t think she had any intention of landing there purposely, that would have certainly led to her detainment by the Japs or worse. At that point she had plenty of gas left and would not have run out. The only way she would totally run out of gas would be if she overflew Truk, flew to Howland vicinity and then turned NW and headed for the Marshalls which makes no sense.

      I think the most likely story is she unexpectedly encountered fighter planes while on her Mili mission and got shot down or forced down. It may very well be that the Japs didn’t go to pick up her and Fred for a couple days, they might have wanted to see what her distress messages might be. That’s my conjecture, that’s all. It’s too bad we don’t know what time of day the eyewitnesses saw her land at Barre Island. That might have a bearing on what we think she was doing. Another very farfetched possibility is that she was caught up in a Bermuda Triangle/Flight 19 type of disorientation or time warp incident. I do believe those things happen rarely in some missing plane cases though her case doesn’t fit very well into that kind of scene from what I have read.

      Like

  13. David –

    The two, young, Marshall Islanders Lijon & Joro witnessed the Electra’s crash landing on the inner, coral reefs of Barre Island; sometime in the mid morning hours.

    Doug

    Like

    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      Doug,

      Lijon and Jororo were the ones who spoke of seeing the “yellow boat which grew.” TTAL, page 136.

      All best,

      William

      Like

  14. William –

    Correct these two, young, native boys watched Amelia & Fred remove themselves from the plane, inflate a raft and proceed to paddled up to the shore. Lijon & Joro stayed hidden behind brush & trees as not to be recognized by these unusual & unexpected pilots.

    David –

    Amelia was wearing a wrist watch and would have known the *TIME of the landing. I’m sure they were relieved to be on the ground but not in this scrape. Radio calls for help & location, would not be enough to get them out of this tight spot or should I say territory.
    Unfortunately the Japanese authorities on Saipan would not be understanding nor could they conceived of Amelia Earhart as simply being lost?

    Doug

    Like

    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      Doug,

      It would seem to me that the daily activities of the people of the islands, at least in 1937, were governed more by the rising and setting of the sun than by watches or clocks. And, although we don’t know the exact time AE brought the Electra to rest at Barre Island, we do know that it was certainly light enough for people on and around Barre Island and it’s environs to be up and about upon their daily business. It was certainly light enough for Jororo and Lijon to be out and about as well as they clearly observed the Electra, AE, and FN in the “yellow boat that grew,” FN’s burial of the small metal box under the Kanal tree, and the Japanese — all from the cover of the dense underbrush about 200 feet away. I’d say the morning was well underway.

      All best,

      William

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: