Ink Publishing of London produces over 25 airline magazines for air carriers around the world. A few weeks ago, I was asked by them to write a short article about aviation in 1927 for their new magazine targeting private jet owners. My assignment was to describe how aviation captured the World’s imagination that year. They picked the name “1927” as the name of the publication because it was “The Year The World Took Flight”,the name of the article. Of course my book, “1927 A Brilliant Year in Aviation” was designed to do that, but in 275 pages. Condensing the year into about two pages was more difficult than it sounds. Today, a copy of the magazine landed in my mailbox. It is an interesting, beautifully laid out magazine with pictures throughout. Even the ads are captivating. They are aiming at a high end audience. I am very happy to be a part of the inaugural issue.
In a new book, “Amelia Earhart, Beyond the Grave,” author W. C. Jameson repeats the old and somewhat persistent rumor that Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were on a mission to spy on Japanese activities during their last flight in 1937. The gist of the book is that after a crash or forced landing, she was captured by the Japanese.
And, he makes the extraordinary claim that she was released in 1945, returned to the U.S. where she lived in anonymity until her death in 1982.
Jameson says that an Army official acknowledged to a nephew that Earhart was a involved in an intelligent gathering flight. The nephew repeated the claim to the author.
The fact that Amelia’s disappearance almost eighty years ago continues to draw interest is amazing. The almost fanatic quest for an answer as to what actually happened to her by so many has formed the basis for several individuals and organizations to earn a good income. The Pacific is a very large body of water and capable of swallowing a small plane and two passengers without leaving a trace.
As reported here earlier, Ric Gillespie’s organization, TIGHAR, has been exploring both off shore and on the island of Nikumaroro in the Pacific for evidence of Amelia Earhart. And, another TIGHAR expedition went to the island earlier this year. While not finding any definitive evidence of her this time, the group is nonetheless hopeful. It was hampered in the latest search by rough seas.
Also, this summer a team of explorers sponsored by Parker Hannifin, a Cleveland based corporation, went to the Marshall Islands to test one of the persistent rumors about Amelia. The story is that islanders actually saw Earhart’s Lockheed Electra land on a reef just offshore, and that later Japanese military stationed on the island took her and her navigator away. Islanders were used to drag the plane away. The search found several pieces of metal, including aluminum that appear to be compatible with parts from the plane. Alcoa technicians are testing the parts to possibly identify them as authentic. Some of the remnants have traces of red paint which would be consistent with the decorative paint on Earhart’s craft.
The drama of the searches taking place at lonely remote islands certainly tickles our imagination.
A squabble has erupted over the search for Amelia Earhart’s final resting place. In an article in Smithsonian Magazine, the claims of TIGHAR that a piece of metal found on a remote island is from Amelia’s plane “with a high degree of certainty,” are called into question. In the article, Ric Gillespie is quoted as saying he is 99% certain. The Smithsonian article points out that while Gillespie found the metal in 1991, he only claimed conclusive evidence that it was from Amelia’s plane in the past few months. Gillespie calls the article “unfair criticism” that “besmirches and diminishes” TIGHAR’s work. Smithsonian concludes that Amelia probably ran out of fuel and fell into the 18,000 foot water near her destination, Howland Island. However, it seems the unquenchable public appetite for news of Amelia will continue and TIGHAR will not have to worry about the donations that it uses for further searches. (for some background on this topic, see my earlier blogs.)
As you may be aware, there has been speculation about what happened to Amelia Earhart who was lost over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to circumnavigate the world in 1937. She was an experienced flier and adept at getting favorable publicity. Her loss as well as that of her co-pilot, garnered world-wide sorrow.
If you were to visit the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum bookstore, you would find about 50 different titles dealing with Earhart’s life, disappearance, and the search for her remains.
In earlier blogs I have described the efforts of THIGAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) to locate Amelia’s plane at the remote atoll of Nikumaroro in the Pacific Ocean. Two years ago, based on finding an old photograph of the coastline, what appeared to be a landing gear protruding from the surface of the Ocean, prompted the United States State Department to finance a TIGHAR expedition to conduct a photographic survey of the ocean floor off the coast of Nikumaroro. At first, some of the photographs seemed to show the outline of a wing and other airplane parts, but alas, they turned out to be remnants of a ship wreck.
TIGHAR then turned its attention to a small (19′ x 23′) piece of aluminum found on the beach of the island. It was found in 1991, but eliminated as a piece of the plane because the spacing of the rivet holes was not consistent with the Lockheed’s specifications for Amelia’s Electra. But in 2014, a photo of her plane after repairs showed that an aluminum piece about the same size was added to cover a window on the side of the fuselage shortly before the start of the round the world flight. TIGHAR hired an expert from the Wichita Air Services who has declared the artifact “likely” came from Amelia’s plane. I take it that the word “likely” signifies the chances are some percentage more than 50%.
Based on this information, and the fact that an underwater photo taken last year looks promising, TIGHAR is now in the process of raising additional funds from private donors to explore the area around Nikumaroro further.
On the one hand this is good news. On the other, after almost 80 years, does it really matter if she was lost there or somewhere else? It was sad that she was lost, but lost she will remain.
Rick Gillespie of TIGHAR announced recently the discovery of new information that may aid in the discovery of Amelia Earhart’s plane. A recently examined photo of the plane used in Earhart’s round the world attempt shows repairs to a window to the rear of the fuselage. Apparently, a rectangle shaped aluminum patch was applied to the window. Previously, TIGHAR found a piece of aluminum on a remote Pacific island. But, the measurement between the rivet holes did not match those on a Lockheed Vega. However, the patch was not made at Lockheed, but at a private shop in Miami just before the flight was to start. Gillespie says the photo will be studied to determine the distance of the rivet holes from one another to see if it matches those on the piece recovered. If they match, you can be sure TIGHAR will, after securing contributions, undertake a new expedition to find Amelia’s plane once again.
It strikes me that there are similarities in the way the press has been covering the search for the Malaysian Airliner and the search for the lost aviators in the Dole Race in 1927, which included my aunt, Mildred Doran. When the Dole fliers disappeared on their way across the Pacific Ocean, there was immediate speculation as to where they were. Many thought they were on an island somewhere. Others thought they were floating in their aircraft on calm seas. After two days, reports came in to the anxious families that they were found safe on Maui. The report was completely fabricated. Back in 1927, the first two lost planes had no radio. The third had a radio and reported being in a tailspin shortly before it was lost. The U.S. Navy sent more than forty ships, including an aircraft carrier and a submarine out to search. After about 10 days, the search was abandoned. Some continued to hope they would be found even years later. In 2014, we have long range airplanes, radios, radar, satellites, black boxes, and transponders at the disposal of searchers. After a month there has been no sighting. The families of the passengers and crew were hopeful at first, but now there is a growing sense of dread. Despite all the modern electronics the plane is lost. Just like the case of the Dole racers, the Pacific Ocean is so vast that it can swallow a plane and not leave a trace..
I have been asked again to participate in the annual Blue Ridge Bookfest at Blue Ridge Community College on April 25 & 26. On the first day there are presentations for authors and would be authors and on the second day several authors talk about their books, including Paul Grossman’s book Beyond the Pale, about Sierra Nevada brewery. It’s all free except for the banquet on Friday evening. I will be there with copies of both my books, and hope to see you there to discuss the books, and related stories. For details visit the Bookfest web site: blueridge.edu/blueridgebookfest
I was just informed that Kindle will put 1927 on sale for a limited time from December 20 through 27. Regular price is $2.99 and the sale price will be $.99. It’s a great bargain and if you have been thinking of getting it on Kindle a real opportunity to save a few cents. At that price this G rated book would make a great stocking stuffer.