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    Re: Amelia Earhart's aerial navigation
    From: Gary LaPook
    Date: 2009 Nov 27, 02:52 -0800

    Jackie wrote:
    I think for these reasons that he would have attempted to locate Howland but 
    only if he had the chance that the radio could be of assistance if needed. 
    He would have weighed up the odds I believe, but on the day he lost.
    Even though they should have known that the radio direction finder (RDF) in 
    the plane was not working after their test flight a Lae they still had the 
    possibility of that the Itasca, stationed next to Howland, could take a 
    bearing on them using the RDF on Itasca and passing that information onto 
    them by radio. This may have been the reason they decided to press on. 
    However, this required _two_ way radio contact adding one more link that 
    could fail and so was riskier than relying on their own RDF. However, this 
    shows AE's ignorance of radio. The Itasca had cabled to AE on June 28th the 
    capabilities of its radio equipment. Itasca informed AE that the Itasca RDF 
    only covered the frequency range from 270 to 500 kHz and AE only transmitted 
    on 3105 and 6210 kHz far above the RDF frequency range. AE's radio was 
    capable of transmitting on 500 kHz but she had left the 250 foot long 
    trailing wire antenna for that frequency behind in Florida to save weight. 
    Even though the fixed antenna on the plane would not have been very efficient 
    on 500 kHz, if she had tried she might have been able to put out a weak 
    signal but she apparently never tried transmitting on that frequency. So due 
    to AE's lack of knowledge the first link failed. 
    There was also a problem with AE's receiver and she could not hear Itasca on 
    3105 kHz. There was only one two way contact. AE asked on 3105 kHz for Itasca 
    to transmit on 7500 kHz which she did receive as she reported on 3105. Since 
    she acknowledged this transmission it shows that the receiver was capable of 
    working so it is a mystery why she hadn't been able to receive the other 
    transmissions, it is quite possible that she simply did not operate her radio 
    controls properly. We know that the radio was operating properly earlier in 
    the flight because the radio operator at Lae, Harry Balfour, maintained two 
    way contact with the plane for about five hours after takeoff and the comms 
    only ended when AE switched frequency to attempt to contact Itasca. Since AE 
    couldn't hear the Itasca the second link had also failed. 
    There was an experimental high frequency RDF temporarily installed on Howland 
    that was capable or receiving AE's signals but it is not certain that AE even 
    knew of its existence since it appeared to be a last minute addition and 
    there was no mention of it in the cables to AE. However, even it failed in 
    that the batteries ran down due to usage at night so it was out of operation 
    as the plane approached Howland. Even if AE knew of it it would be reckless 
    to rely on an experimental installation. 
    This left only celestial which should have been sufficiently accurate to get them to Howland.
    Jackie Ferrari wrote:
    > Douglas,
    > Having studied Fred Noonan's navigation as he applied it in PAA for some 
    > years now, I fully agree with Gary's exposition and conclusion ie that Fred 
    > Noonan was competent enough to believe that he could find Howland using 
    > celestial navigation alone. I believe this because of his own comments 
    > written on the logs of the transpacific  clipper flights together with 
    > comments from crew members. These leave one in no doubt that he distrusted 
    > radio direction finding.
    >    So I ask myself the same question that you ask. 'As a professional with 
    > the world looking on, would Fred Noonan really have done this with the risks 
    > before him? '
    >    I believe he would, if he had the remotest chance that the RDF was going 
    > to be operative but not if there was NO chance. I believe he would have 
    > taken the risk for the following reasons,
    > 1. He had himself and instructed others to find Wake on celestial alone 
    > (although knowing they had radio must have been comforting)
    > 2. His manner of working was professional certainly, but still enough open 
    > to question for one of those crew members to say in an interview 'He was 
    > good and he knew it.  He got cocky and threw off all the radio equipment' 
    > And for Harry Manning to say ' he let things go too long before taking 
    > observations'. Van Dusen, PAA's PR man positively seemed to hate him saying 
    > 'He was a bum and couldnt navigate his way across my duckpond' (I take this 
    > with a pinch of salt but its interesting nonetheless).
    > 3. Both he and Amelia were in the risk game. He had risked his life many 
    > times and so had she.
    > 4. In so much as one's personal habits may inform one's professionalism, he 
    > was a gambling man.
    > Look what he had to gain if they had pulled it off.  He would have regained 
    > his credibility which he lost as a result of being fired from PAA. His 
    > flight would have been up there with those famous flights of Lindbergh's and 
    > Hollick Kenyon's, written up as examples of exceptional navigation in Weems.
    > We also have to remember he had done it before, albeit as a member of the 
    > well oiled PAA team.
    > I think for these reasons that he would have attempted to locate Howland but 
    > only if he had the chance that the radio could be of assistance if needed. 
    > He would have weighed up the odds I believe, but on the day he lost.
    > Jackie
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