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    Re: Amelia Earhart's aerial navigation
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Oct 25, 17:46 -0700

    When I started this thread, I noted:
    "There's a movie opening this week, "Amelia", produced by and starring Hilary 
    Swank as Earhart. It's getting beat up pretty bad in the early reviews 
    (currently at a dismal 22% fresh on RottenTomatoes.com: 
    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/amelia_2009/), but I'm sure many of us will 
    see it eventually."
    
    The "Top Critics" score for this film is down to an awful 12%, ranking it as 
    one of the worst movies of 2009 so far. But what can I say -- I liked it!
    
    Last night at 23:00, I noticed there was a showing at 23:20 at a theater about 
    a fifteen-minute drive away (in downtown Chicago). It took me ten minutes to 
    get out the door, but no worries since the previews would probably run 
    fifteen minutes. Sure enough, I was in my seat with time to spare... I agree 
    with one reviewer that the movie is cliche at times, and you half-expect some 
    random character to jump up and shout "gosh, these twenties sure are 
    roaring!" and sure enough, Earhart's character later comes close to saying 
    "this Great Depression sure is depressing!". But really, I think most of the 
    reviewers just wanted more dirt, more post-modernism, more irony, more 
    gossip. And what little gossip there was back in 1928 now stands as normal 
    behavior. I feel that those reviewers were disappointed by the real Amelia 
    Earhart, who was a good old-fashioned heroic aviator, even more so than the 
    film. I won't give a real review of my own here since it's off-topic, but I 
    do advise you to read Roger Ebert's review (linked via the site above). He 
    wrote one of the very few positive reviews, and I think he got it right.
    
    As for the navigation, the thing that struck me as I was watching the movie 
    was that navigation in that early era of aviation was often about hitting the 
    right continent. In her first flight across the Atlantic, where she was the 
    "commander" (passenger), Earhart and her two-man crew arrive in Wales instead 
    of Ireland. Close enough. On her second trans-Atlantic flight, this time as 
    pilot and flying solo, she lands in Ireland instead of France. Close enough, 
    but cheering crowds in Paris would surely have made a better photo-op than 
    one farmer and a few dozen sheep. Really, on their round-the-world flight, 
    hitting Howland Island in mid-Pacific was a radically different problem, and 
    it's clear that Noonan's participation was essential no matter who was pilot. 
    Earhart needed not just any navigator, but an expert navigator. Too bad the 
    film treats Noonan as the usual cardboard cut-out. The phrase "celestial 
    navigation" does make it into the film though with no detail, and there seems 
    to be a good representation of gear in the aircraft. Noonan appears to be 
    using some sort of pelorus to get sun azimuths, but I don't recognize that 
    instrument, and for all I know it was a pure fabrication for the sake of the 
    film. There was no indication of altitude sights being taken. There's a case 
    visible that could be the fabled marine sextant that Noonan supposedly 
    carried when he was flying.
    
    A final thought for aviation fans: there are some beautiful aircraft scenes, 
    some of the best I've seen from a Hollywood film in years, and none of it is 
    CGI as far as I could tell (though the cutter Itasca off Howland is very bad 
    CGI). I only noticed one possible gaffe: it appears that there is a round 
    door intended to fit into a square hatch in the side of the Electra. I 
    predict it will not fit.
    
    -FER
    
    
    
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