A Conversation for The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Frederick Noonan

Correction to 'The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Frederick Noonan' A1012500

Post 1

Skankyrich [?]


Correction to 'The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Frederick Noonan' A1012500

Post 2


Hello to All,
My name is Alex V. Mandel - from Odessa, Ukraine; i am Amelia Earhart historian and researcher; in 2004 i was an invited speaker of the Earhart Seminar of Researchers in Atchison, Kansas, during the AE Birthday Festival.

I have read the article with interest and attention, and want to make some comments.

It is written in the article:

«…“she began taking flying lessons in the summer of 1920” –

Sorry, but this statement is incorrect.

Earhart began taking flying lessons in January 2, 1921 – with Neta Snook, who actually said that Earhart was a natural and good pilot, and jumped into the air “like a duck in the water”.

Please see Neta’s book “I Taught Amelia to Fly” , and other archival material (her articles and interviews) for a further reference.

It is written in the article:

“Earhart ...[...]... was known as an excellent pilot, but, in fact, she was referred to as a poor pilot by other pilots who knew her” -

unfortunately, this statement cannot be considered as correct.

Many highly competent and credible aviation professionals, men and women – like Wiley Post, Amy Johnson, Jim Mollyson, Jackie Cochran, Louise Thaden, Paul Collins, Ruth Nichols, Kelly Johnson, General Leigh Wade, and others – who contacted Earhart professionally, or ever flew with her – had a highest respect to her professional skills as a pilot.

Contrary to quite popular beliefs that as if Earhart “crashed planes here and there”, actually her “record of crack ups” is not impressive at all, but rather surprisingly small, if to compare it with a similar records of the other contemporary “pioneers”.

Just for example, the great Colonel Lindbergh lost his planes in flight and jumped with a parachute at least 4 TIMES – something that never happened in Earhart’s 16-year flying career.

Naturally, it is not a base to blame Lindbergh in something, too. In those times the technical reliability and safety of the planes, airstrips, and all the “aviation infrastructure” was just way-way behind of what was reached just a few years later.

Actually, the main “sources” of criticism and allegations about Earhart’s skills are in fact just two people.
One of them is Elinor Smith – who was her main rival then in early 30s, a very ambitious young aviatrix – although undoubtfully a skillful pilot.
Her comments about Earhart are well known in the “aviation historians community”, but accepted with a some reasonable amount of skepticism – because of above mentioned “jealousy factor”, that is just too obvious.

Just as a “note on the margin” - probably it must be reminded here that it was Elinor who refused – at first – to buy the Lockheed Vega airplane, considering it as too difficult and dangerous aircraft… Later – when at least she decided to buy it (for the first solo female Atlantic crossing that she avidly dreamed about - but it was done by Earhart in her Vega…) - she crashed it at landing in Garden City, NJ… and it was Earhart who bought later the “remains” of the plane, repaired it, and set 3 world records in it.

Elinor is alive today – in her 90s… and, during the decades, in her countless interviews etc., she rarely missed a chance to criticize Earhart – who is not around already for 68 years, for to defend herself… so nothing strange that Elinor’s critical comments were widely publicized and uncritically accepted and reproduced, regardless to their factual incorrectness.

Another person who criticized Earhart was Paul Mantz – that “one of her contemporaries” who complained about her unwillingness “to take the advice of experts” – i.e. himself, as - because of many strong personal disagreements - he was factually “fired” from the Earhart's “team” just during the final stages of preparations for the World Flight and was obviously bitter since then agains Earhart, because of this.
He was really a good pilot and good professional... but, alas, his too much powerful ego really made Paul a “difficult” person for a teamwork sometimes.

Particularly, he never even tried to hide his somewhat ironic and “patronizing” attitude to woman pilots; for emancipated and independent Earhart it was obviously an irritating and unpleasant factor.

Paul’s quite chauvinistic views were perfectly expressed in his comment about Jackie Cochran - as he said that she will not finish properly any flight, and will never set any record – and he said this after she DID BOTH.

... In 1929, during the airshow in Buffalo, Earhart flew during one day several planes that she saw that day for the first time in her life… Here I am asking: whether it was possible with a non-skilled, not a natural pilot?…
For Earhart historian it is pretty easy to refer to many such a cases.
“She was a BORN PILOT, with a delicate touch to stick” – General Leigh Wade said, remembering his flying with her in one specially whimsical Consolidated plane that was designed with neutral stability and thus specially demanding for the pilot's qualification.

The article says:

“The Electra was her first twin-engine craft, and she spent little time learning to fly it”

sorry, but incorrect statement again.

In summer of 1937, Earhart flew this Electra already for a year – since summer of 1936, when it was delivered to her.
She spent a lot of time in it, flew it across the country several times, and flew it in company with other good professionals, like Jackie Cochran, and also Kelly Johnson (the designer of the plane!) – who said that she was good, skillful and “sensitive” pilot.

The article also says: “She was also an horrific navigator… […]… ; her calculations during the flight to Africa put her off course by over one hundred miles” –

- There is no real facts in Earhart’s career that would classify her as a “horrific navigator”. If, sometimes, she was forced to circle the area before landing for to find her exact place, it was absolutely routine and typical for the flying of that era. EVERYBODY did it.. there was no GPS then!

In all her long-distance flights before 1937, she, in fact, successfully reached her place of destination. Whether a “horrific navigator” would be able to fly alone across the Atlantic, across the Pacific, and across the USA – to here and there – many times?

About the 1937 flight to Africa – again, alas a factually incorrect statement.

At first, the route of this flight was not based on “Earhart’s calculations” – because of this flight was a part of World Flight, and she had a NAVIGATOR aboard (Fred Noonan) – who actually did the “calculations”.
But to blame Fred in it would be also unfair.

The actual problem was that they used mainly a dead reckoning as a method of navigation during that flight across the ocean. The visibility – especially near the African coast – was poor, so Fred was unable to check the course properly by stars. So, when they actually crossed the coast, they did not know for sure where they are exactly -as they were in the “area of uncertainly” about 50-80 miles in diameter.
Also, it was late already – the sun was almost on the horizon and would hide soon – so they discussed the situation, and turned not right - to where as they could suspect was their original place of destination (Dakar) – but left, to north, where there was several good French airstrips, and landed in Senegal.

So there was no any “100 mile error because of pilot’s ignorance” – it was a cooperative professional decision of the pilot and navigator, pretty reasonable at those circumstances.

For a more complete coverage on this aspect, please see: “Amelia Earhart – Mystery Solved” by Elgen and Marie Long., pages 142- 146. Elgen Long is a highly proficient pilot and navigator, a first pilot in the world who flew alone around the world – across two Poles, and is deservedly considered as a serious, respected and credible professional in the circles of pilots, navigators and aviation historians.

The article says: “In addition to this, Earhart was very bad at sending and receiving Morse code” -

- a statement of “half-truth” kind, that that can be very confusing if without a knowledge of the contemporary factual “context”.

In fact, in Earhart’s time, the proficient knowledge of Morse code was not a common feature of the pilots, at all.
Many pilots (particularly the military fighter pilots) flew the planes that had no any radio at all, and – thus - didn’t need and had no radio knowledge at all.
It didn’t prevent them however to be deservedly considered as a really good PILOTS – in a narrow, exact sense of the world.

The Morse code was used then mainly by some (not all) regular airmail and passenger lines pilots (and not even necessary by themselves! - as, frequently, they had a professional radio operator aboard for this task). Plus, a very few record pilots who “specialized” on the long-distance record flights and flew a big planes.

Additionally, in America – the country who was a leader in radio electronics already then – the voice transmissions and the equipment for it was developed quite early… and it is what Earhart choused to use for her flights, when she planned her famous long-distance flights in early 30s.

The choice was natural, as – naturally – the voice transmission was much more convenient to use then a Morse.
In 1935, Earhart had a new voice transmission equipment in her Vega during the Hawaii- Oakland solo flight, and used it successfully and quite professionally.

If about Morse, the available documents (licenses, etc.) proves that both Earhart and her navigator Noonan KNEW the Morse code.. but just were not much trained in it – because of above mentioned facts (they just choused another technique for their planned flight).

So, it is true that Earhart and Noonan were not much trained in Morse… but it is certainly wrong to make exactly them an object of special sarcasm or bitter criticism because of it... see above why... the situation was more specific and complex in that period then it can seem for us today without studying all the aspects of the problem!

I hope it is possible to make some corrections in the published text of the article, - just for to make it more accurate and historically correct, and avoid the possible confusion and misinformation of the readers.

Best Regards – Sincerely, Alex V. Mandel. Ph.D. (Member of the US Naval Institute and the Association of Naval Aviation)

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