“Calvin Pitts Rips Dimity’s analysis” conclusion

Today we begin where we left off — with the confusing concept (to most non-aviation types anyway, including your editor) of the “azimuth” and its application to the last flight of Amelia Earhart.  Let’s take another look at the azimuth, as explained by our resident aviation expert, Calvin Pitts.

Calvin Pitts:  It is easy to see why the non-navigator would find this Wikipedia drawing confusing. TRY THIS: Replace the N with E (for East).  Go to the back of the picture 90 degrees on the horizontal plane beneath the word “Zenith,” and place the N.orth on the same plane as E.ast.

The Electra is flying East toward the rising sun.  The direction from the Observer toward the E.ast, is 90 degrees from the N.orth on the horizontal plane.

On July 2, 1937, the crest of the sun broke above the eastern horizon at 6:15 Howland time.  The Observer would be looking 23 degrees to his left when he first spots the sun at 67 degrees (90 – 23 = 67). That difference of 67 degrees from North (000 or 360) is called the azimuthon the horizon.

That azimuth, 67 degrees on the horizontal plane, is used to calculate a “sun line” overhead for navigational purposes.  In this case, that imaginary “line” is perpendicular, or 90 degrees to the horizontal azimuth (90 + 67 = 157 or 157 + 180 = 337) (157/337 degrees) to an altitude overhead, and is called a “Line of Position (LOP).”  That position defines the line on which the plane is flying, but it provides no “point” on that line.  What it does is to define “directional” information, i.e. the plane is either flying NW or SE.

As the sun rises, it is moving toward the North on the horizontal plane.  After 1+02 hours on that morning, it’sazimuth was now 66 degrees to the horizontal plane. There At that point, since there is no longer an azimuth of 67 degrees, correspondingly, there was no longer a 157/337 line of position.  Since the azimuth changes, so does the LOP.  It is now only an imaginary line.   If the pilot chooses to fly a heading of 337 or 157 degrees, that’s fine.  But to call it a line of position is a misnomer.

Hence, Earhart’s call at 8:43 a.m., 1.5 hrs after the 67 azimuth disappeared, referencing a line of 157/337confuses the ears which hear it.  Did she mean aline of position, which no longer existed, or did she mean aheading on an imaginary line running NW and SE?  No one can answer that question.

Unfortunately, the position she gave had no meaning for those on the cutter or elsewhere, because it failed to give the all-important reference point for computing her bearing.  What the figures meant, and why they were incomplete, can only be guessed.”

(And there are some reasonable guesses available.)

An important point that should be noted is that the plane (sic) direction finder evidently was not working as well as it should for she could not cut in on the agreed frequencies.

Agreed frequencies was precisely the problem.  There was no agreement, nor understanding of what those frequencies were meant to be.  Earhart believed that she had made it clear through Richard Black and husband George Putnam, but somehow, somebody dropped the ball.  Frequency incompatibility was the major problem on this leg of the flight.

Another fact that is perhaps of significance is that when Miss Earhart reported half-hour fuel — the Itasca estimated that she should have about four hours’ fuel supply.

Itasca had it right in that she had four to five hours of “contingency fuel” remaining.

It is probable that she barely had gas enough to reach Howland, although she thought she was there at 11:20 a.m. (wrong time) when she circled (wrong assumption) trying to pick up land.

This was the official flight plan, 2,556 statute miles from Lae, New Guinea to Howland Island. The 337-157 line of position, or sun line, passed through the Phoenix Islands, near Gardner Island, now known as Nikumaroro, and the popular theory, though completely false, is in part attributable to this phenomena.  (Taken from Earhart’s Flight Into Yesterday: The Facts Without the Fiction.)

Calvin: After studying, not just reading this book, Earhart’s Flight Into Yesterday: The Facts Without the Fiction, I am of the opinion it should be renamed with a subtitle: “The Facts are exceeded only by the Fiction.”  It is literally filled with non-facts, a statement which can be substantiated by evidence.  Other than its fiction, its facts are interesting and well-written.  But by the time you wade through its fiction, you begin to wonder about its facts.

Conclusive proof then exists that the Earhart plane landed safely, or at least that its occupants and its radio apparatus were unharmed, somewhere on land in the South Pacific.  If on an island, where and why were they not found?

There is proof that the Electra contacted the coral-covered ground without death to the crew.  There is reasonable cause to believe that they made one or more radio calls while the battery still lasted.  But more importantly, there is conclusive proofthat we have known the why and the where for longer than the public has been led to believe.

There are two schools of thought about the disappearance of the Earhart plane.  Each cannot be right.

Indeed, they are not.  No greater misrepresentation could be made. There may be only two “elementary-schools” of thought, but there are “university-schools” where thought is generated by factual evidence which is substantial for anyone who has been awakened to the biased agenda of the Establishment, which, more often than not, is the Government’s answer to undesirable truth.

One is that the plane was lost at sea.  The other is represented by this memorandum.

As to the first, is it not perfectly natural that even those closest and among the most dear to the missing flyers, with the evidence of the Navy search of the sea close to Howland Island, would prefer to think that the flight had come to an end — to avoid the lifelong torture of a question in their minds? (Creating facts to avoid a painful reality? Is that the way history is recorded?) The facts (sic) as related have been to intrude such a question. No comfort, then, could come from, and the mind would seek to shut them out, in favor of the peace that comes from resignation (also known as self-deception).

A close-up look at the Howland Island camp, taken Jan. 23, 1937, that Amelia Earhart never enjoyed. (National Archives.)

In an effort to reconstruct what might have happened, let us review the possibilities. We know that the Earhart plane was lost. (To whom? A non-fact.) The navigation had gone wrong. It is likely, even, that it was hundreds of miles (Not likely. A non-fact.) from the sea area near Howland which the Navy searched, and from the Gilbert group.

With little gas left (Proof? A non-fact.) and after circling (a non-fact) the area beneath them. what would experienced fliers do? No doubt they had passed many islands on the course behind them. Any pilot, under the circumstances, probably would have gone back to one of them and landed, relying on their radio and on searching parties for rescue.

Not if she had a minor mission-agenda which precluded that.  This “buried” fact is the subject of a possible later posting, “My Earhart Scenario.”


Compiled from notes and copied in August 1939. Recopied from original February 2, 1948. (End of E.H. Dimity’s “Grounds for Earhart Search.”)

Editor’s close to Part II:  The study of the alleged Earhart post-loss messages is one fraught with endless speculation and individual interpretation, even by the real radio experts who have written and pronounced publicly on the topic.  I have no expertise in this area, and so have no problem presenting otherswork as clearly and objectively as I can.  The statements and opinions are those of E.H. Dimity, presented for your consideration, education and entertainment, and are not necessarily shared by the editor.

Calvin Pitts:  The “post-loss messages” are an unnecessary cloud over an already-difficult story, which is challenging and exciting on its own merit without a venture into hoax-land It is possible that one or two of those messages were valid, but to give them credibility-without-proof is to weaken the greater truth which can, and should be allowed to stand on its own legs.  Distraction is precisely the thing that feeds the Government’s Establishment gorilla.  Other than this, it was a privilege to read what someone had to say in 1939.

P.S. There is a CAVEAT here: This critique addresses the misstatements relating to the official Itasca crew logs of AE’s Lea-Howland flight.  The log used here is presented as “official.”  However, suppose a scenario like this: A crewman made a personal copy in the interest of preserving history.  Reading it, he notices an omission which should have been included.  Knowing that the weather wasOvercast  for an extended period, he adds this missing word for the sake of clarity.  His motive is good, but he has just corrupted the official record.  He should have noted this on his copy, but he did not.  His well-intended corrupt copy now gets copied and passed on.

Paul Briand Jr., circa 1959, whose 1960 book, Daughter of the Sky, presented the eyewitness account of Josephine Blanco Akiyama and initiated the modern-day search for Amelia Earhart.

We can’t say such a thing did not happen.  But to our knowledge, there is no evidence that it did.  Thus, our comments are based upon this copy of the log that was used.  Additionally, there were other intercepts of Earhart’s transmissions that were heard by stations like Nauru which were not heard by the Itasca.  Any additional sources such as this must be added to the story, properly identified.  There were weather reports, correspondence, personal conversations, and after-the-fact interviews of various players.  While they cannot be part of the Itasca records, they are additional and sometimes useful material.  (End of “Calvin Pitts weighs in.)

“There had to have been a copy [of the logs available] before this because Dimity makes too many references to its times,” Calvin wrote in an email.  “What did he use in 1939?”

“Was he writing from Hawaii using that time zone?” Calvin continued.  “Some of his information is 3.5 hours off, some four hours, some 1.5 hours out of sync with other known events, and at least one time was accurate.  The 3.5 hour discrepancy could be answered, perhaps by looking at the time differences between Howland and Hawaii.  And then, at 7:42 a.m., he strangely gets the time accurate.  The inconsistencies in the errors are bizarre.  Even Paul Briand in 1960 made many references to the logs, with times and recorded events. 

These question aside, Dimity’s ‘all-over-the-map’ times need to be red-flagged.  Where was he living in 1939 when he wrote this?  And what were his sources?  What was his professional career? Another interesting page in the Earhart Saga.”

Editor’s final close: First, I want express my deep thanks and appreciation to Calvin Pitts for his passion and selfless efforts, and for another significant contribution to the Earhart record.  We are truly blessed to have him as a friend.

At the end of the day, it does appear that Dimity did not have the official logs of the Itasca to reference in his treatise, nor did Paul Briand Jr. in 1960.  But when were they released?  I can’t find any record of the Itasca flight logs public release except references to Leo Bellarts sons, Leo Jr. and Dave, turning over the three pages of his father’s original Earhart flight log in 1975.  In a Sept. 1, 2008 article titled, “KHAQQ CALLING ITASCA . . . “ in Wings over Kansas, we find:

Chief Bellarts kept the first three pages of the Earhart Flight Log plus other messages and pertinent information under lock and key.  Upon arriving at his homeport (San Diego, Calif.) Chief Bellarts removed these documents thinking that there would be some type of investigation by higher authority and he would be called to testify.  But this never happened.  Thus, these papers, including the three pages of the original Earhart Flight Log, remained in his possession until his death in 1974.  His two sons, Leo Jr. and David Bellarts donated these papers and other items concerning Amelia Earhart in 1975 to the National Archives in Washington D.C.

To read the entire story,  please click here.

Since Dimity never mentioned his sources for his numerous citations of the log entrees, and it seems he could not have had the official logs, he probably relied on many news reports and other sources from the original search in July 1937, which naturally would have been inaccurate and all over the map,as Calvin says.  If anyone out there can shed some light on this little mystery — i.e. when were the official logs released, if not 1975? — please let us know.


4 responses

  1. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    Captain Pitts’ masterful analysis separates the facts from the non-facts, and brings much needed clarity to what is a complicated, and sometimes hard-to-follow aspect of the Earhart saga. Well done, Calvin. I eagerly look forward to reading Calvin’s “My Earhart Scenario.”

    On a very closely related note, it has always bothered me that Chief Bellarts took personal possession of the original first three pages of the USCGC Itasca’s Earhart radio log, plus other messages and pertinent information. As well intentioned as Chief Bellarts was, those documents, etc. were nonetheless the property of the U.S. government and should have been properly stored and safeguarded as such. Clearly, the Itasca’s C.O., Commander Warner K. Thompson, was remiss in his duties in that he did not direct that all Earhart radio logs, papers, memoranda, notes, etc. be collected and secured with a chain-of-custody established pending an inquiry.

    All best,


    Liked by 1 person

    1. William,

      I agree completely, but we’re missing something: When were the logs actually made available to the public? To me it is inconceivable that the logs were not released publicly until 1975, when Leo Bellarts’ sons donated the originals to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The logs, such as they were, had to have been released before 1975, would you not think? I wrote to Dave Bellarts about this and he didn’t reply — don’t know why, he always has replied before.

      We know that Cmdr. Thompson filed two major documents immediately after he returned from the search, these were:

      1) Commander Warner K. Thompson, U.S. Treasury Department Report: Radio Transcripts—Earhart Flight, July 19, 1937, National Archives, RG 26, 106.
      2) Commander Warner K. Thompson, Cruise Report 4 June to 24 July, 1937—embracing Earhart flight and Equatorial Island cruise, July 24, 1937, Naval Historical Center, RG 26, p. 5.

      So it’s hard to accuse Thompson of being entirely negligent or remiss in his duties. Again, I don’t know when these two reports were publicly released, but I suspect it was after 25 years had passed, though this is only a guess. I hope we can clear these questions up soon, but I’m not holding my breath!


      Liked by 1 person

      1. William H. Trail


        Yes, it certainly seems strange that Dave Bellarts did not reply regarding release of the logs when he had consistent pattern of replying to all of your other correspondence.

        All best,


        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike & Calvin –

    Thanks, this makes more sense than anything I have ever read. Calvin explains it perfectly clear and concise. Off on the time and no agreed frequencies. BIG MISTAKES when crossing the largest body of water in the world. I also go back to Amelia’s earlier flight across the Atlantic Ocean and her unknowingly veering more north, landing in Ireland, instead of England.
    Great Article Mike and *BRILLIANT WORK – Calvin.


    Liked by 1 person

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