Monday, March 24, 2014

Earhart's Last Flight

Amelia Earhart
The missing Malaysian Flight MH370 is today’s most talked about issue. More than three weeks ago, the flight was on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Midway to the destination, the flight suddenly disappeared on the radar and communication suddenly stopped. A major multi-national effort was done to find the plane.  Eventually, information tells that the plane turned and proceeded to two possible routes: one, towards mainland Asia; two, towards Southern Indian Ocean. Lately, Australian, Chinese, and French satellites picked up debris of what supposed to be parts of the plan a thousand miles away from Perth. Then, the Malaysian Prime Minister announced that the flight crashed in the southern Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, the mystery of the plane opened again interest on a half a century mystery of a case of a missing plane in the Pacific. A plane that was flown by one of the greatest name in female aviation, Amelia Earhart.

Amelia Earhart was a Kansas born pilot. Born in July 24, 1897, she was the first woman able to fly solo. In 1922, she broke the record of 14,000 feet for the altitude that women flyers could do. In 1928, she tried attempted to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, however, she was not allowed. Nevertheless, her audacity became popular and known to the public. In May 1932, she took the challenge to fly across the Atlantic again. It became successful. She flew from Harbor Grace in New Foundland and was to land in Paris. But, because of bad weather, she diverted and landed in Ireland. After her bold flying across the Atlantic. Five years after her Atlantic success, she continued to break aviation records. Her name became widely known to not just the American public, but the world. In 1997, she wanted to break a daunting record, the first to fly across the world.

During the first quarter of 1937, Earhart tried to pursue her dream. However, her first attempt end suddenly. From California, flying westward, the plane stopped in Hawaii. Her quest was halted by a mechanical failure of the plane. However, some said it was due to pilot error. Her plane, a Lockhead Electra was then shipped to California for repairs. After the repairs and modifications, the plane then flew to Miami. In June 1, 1937, her second attempt for an around the world flight began with the public showing their festive support during their take off.

For 29 days, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, flew across three continents. They made several stops in order to refuel. The pair first flew down to Venezuela and then proceeding across the Atlantic. She and her navigator then crossed the African Continent towards the Arabian Peninsula and flying to India.  She then proceed across Southeast Asia and in June 29, they arrived in Lae, Papua New Guinea for a pit stop before flying to Howland Island and completion of the whole journey by flying to California. 

Earhart would not even land in Howland Island. The ill-fated flight began in July 2. Earhart began their flight at 0:00 GMT (10 am local time). Weather conditions include small rain showers and cloudy conditions. During their take off, witnesses said that the antenna of Earhart’s Electra was broken. Their next destination Howland Island, however, was a small strip of island, only a mile and a half long and a half mile across. It was a small island to locate. Her navigator, Noonan, had three ways to navigate. First, by using celestial navigation; second, finding the island in coordination with the ship US Coast Guard Itasca, which was based near the island; and, lastly, based on maps, which regarded by many as inaccurate, and taking a north and south course. The first option was difficult because of the cloudy and rainy weather. The two other option remained viable to both of them.

By 7:00 GMT, Earhart reported to the New Guinea Airways that they were in the Nukumanu Island. By 10:00 GMT, Earhart seemed to have been near the Nauru Island and contacted the US Coast Guard Ship Ontario. In 19:30 GMT, Earhart began to communicate with the ship USS Itasca. Itasca began to coordinate with Earhart, but communication became troublesome. Both Earhart and Itasca began to try to find a good frequency to communicate. Itasca even spurred out black smoke for Earhart to locate. However, all attempts were in vain. By 20:13 GMT, Earhart made her last transmission. She states “We are running north and south.”

After her failure to land in Howland Island, the United States began a massive search for Earhart or remains of the Electra. 66 aircraft and 9 ships participated for the search. The total coast was $4 million, the most expensive search and rescue mission ever in US history. In July 18th, all attempts were in vain, and it ended. Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, began his own search and rescue after the USCG aborted their search. Putnam also failed to find his wife. On October 1937, he ended his search. On January 5, 1939, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were declared officially dead. Her disappearance became a great mystery for the world but yet to be solved.

Earhart’s mystery disappearance was similar to the cloud of questions to flight MH370. But luckily for the Malaysian Airlines, signs of its faith are now being discovered. For Earhart, it left nothing, no clue to their faith.

Van Pelt, L. Amelia Earhart: The Sky’s No Limit. New York: A Forge Book, 2005. 

“Amelia Earhart.” NNDB. Accessed March 24, 2014.

“Amelia Earhart: Biography & Facts About Disappearance.” Live Science. Accessed March 24, 2014. 

“Amelia Earhart.” United States History. Accessed March 24, 2014.

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