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I don't have a ready reference, but my recollection is:

1. she wasn't a master of the airplane, having crashed it on takeoff before due to overloading

2. she had a history of overruling her navigator and being wrong

3. she tried to find a tiny island at the limit of the airplane's range in a time when navigation wasn't that accurate

4. did not have proper training on the radio and direction finder equipment

5. flew into a headwind and kept going

6. proper technique at the time was to fly towards the centerline between Howland and another island, doubling the likelihood of one being in visual range. She did not do this.

This was at a time when such an attempt would be very, very unforgiving of mistakes. I don't think there's much of a mystery. (WW2 saw a lot of airplanes disappear over the Pacific with no trace.)

Lindbergh would have had a very hard time missing Europe. His biggest problems were fatigue, icing, and headwinds. I think Lingbergh took a much more calculated risk. His predecessors disappeared without a trace.

P.S. I talked with my father about this long ago, who was a B-17 lead navigator in the war over Europe. The crews flew their B-17s over the Atlantic to England. He navigated using a sextant and a chronometer, and they were 6 miles off when hitting the Irish coast. He said many B-17s were lost without a trace in the Atlantic crossings.

Citations needed for pretty much all of that. Especially the bit about Earhart having a history of overruling Noonan, since by most accounts they had a very open working relationship built on trusting and relying on each other's respective capabilities.

Also, you followed up with a post about trained Navy pilots going missing on relatively simple flights between two giant landmasses where all you have to do is literally fly east or west. Earhart and Noonan were able to handle the navigation for much more difficult flights than crossing the Atlantic. So yes, there's still very much of a mystery as to what happened to them.

> Citations needed

A fair question. Here's some detail:

> Especially the bit about Earhart having a history of overruling Noonan

My reference for that was a documentary on Earhart on TV, sorry don't recall the title. When they crossed the Atlantic and hit Africa, Noonan said turning right to find out where they were, Earhart overruled and turned left, and was wrong. Fortunately, they had enough fuel to correct the mistake. The documentary said their relationship was not as collegial as you characterized it.

The headwind thing came from it, too.

B-17s were Army Air Force, not Navy. The WW2 planes going missing over the Pacific were often B-29s flying great distances over water to attack Japan. They didn't have trouble finding Japan, but finding Iwo Jima on the return wasn't easy.

The bit about how to navigate to a tiny island came from my father. Him being a trained navigator, I think that's fair. Besides, don't you think it makes sense?

The radio issues you can find in the wikipedia article about Earhart. The crash with the overloaded airplane you can find a brief mention of there, too.

> So yes, there's still very much of a mystery as to what happened to them.

Not to me, not to a trained navigator, either. For comparison, when JFK jr disappeared, the first thing my dad said was spacial disorientation, a perennial killer of inexperienced pilots flying into poor visibility conditions. After weeks of investigations and conspiracy theories, the investigators reluctantly made that conclusion, as well. Nobody wanted to believe a mistake that simple could have taken down JFK jr.

Dug out my Jeppesen Private Pilot book which has that anecdote... (pg 9-38)

... As Amelia sighted the African coast in the distance, Fred, who was seated at the navigator's station behind the auxiliary fuel tanks, passed Amelia a note containing the latest course correction based upon his calculations:

    3:36 Change to 36 degrees
    Estimate 79 miles to
    Dakar from 3:36 p.m.
While Fred was an experienced navigator, Amelia chose to disregard his instructions. For some reason, she believed that they could not have drifted as far off course as Fred's navigation indicated. In fact, Amelia scribbled under Fred's note: What put us north?

... Amelia followed her intuition and turned north upon reaching the coast instead of south as Fred had instructed. After flying for another 50 miles, the two found themselves at Saint-Louis, Senegal, many miles north of their intended destination. If Amelia had turned south when she reached the coast, they would have arrived at Dakar within a half hour of 3:36 p.m. The occurrence, which Amelia later admitted was her error, fortunately only resulted in a short delay ...

Thank you :-)

I saw that "documentary" as well, as I recall most of it was speculation unsupported by any third party sources.

Also, the Wikipedia article doesn't say what you claim it says. It in fact states that the overloaded plabe was a test flight attempted to determine how much weight the plane could hold, and that neither Earhart or Noonan were able to use Morse code but could otherwise operate their radios.

Not knowing Morse code was a much more serious failing than you imply. Morse code can travel much further with far more fidelity than voice. Most radio communications at the time were Morse.

None of the issues mentioned below should have happened if Earhart had properly learned how to use the equipment, prepared for the flight with with best practices, and coordinated with the ship & ground radio operators beforehand.


"Neither Earhart nor Noonan were capable of using Morse code."

"At least twice during the world flight, Earhart failed to determine radio bearings at 7500 kHz."

"Through a series of misunderstandings or errors (the details of which are still controversial), the final approach to Howland Island using radio navigation was not successful."

"The Electra had been equipped to transmit a 500 kHz signal that Itasca could use for radio direction finding, but some of that equipment had been removed."

"The antenna was bulky and heavy, so the trailing wire antenna was removed to save weight."

"Earhart's only training on the system was a brief introduction by Joe Gurr at the Lockheed factory, and the topic had not come up. A card displaying the band settings of the antenna was mounted so it was not visible."

"the aviators had cut off their long-wire antenna, due to the annoyance of having to crank it back into the aircraft after each use."

"It was at this point that the radio operators on the Itasca realized that their RDF system could not tune in the aircraft's 3105 kHz frequency"

"If transmissions were received from the Electra, most if not all were weak and hopelessly garbled. Earhart's voice transmissions to Howland were on 3105 kHz, a frequency restricted in the United States by the FCC to aviation use.[Note 35] This frequency was thought to be not fit for broadcasts over great distances. When Earhart was at cruising altitude and midway between Lae and Howland (over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from each) neither station heard her scheduled transmission at 0815 GCT.[166] Moreover, the 50-watt transmitter used by Earhart was attached to a less-than-optimum-length V-type antenna."

Much of it should be documentable, like the headwinds, the overloaded plane crash, and turning the wrong way at Africa which should be in the flight log.

It's well known that an overloaded airplane can handle very different, and for a pilot inexperienced with it it can be very, very dangerous. Heck, I was watching "Alaska Crash Investigations" just the other day, where the cause of a crash shortly after takeoff was determined to be due to the airplane being overloaded by 500 lbs. Crashing overloaded bombers at the end of the runway was a popular way to die in WW2, as they were always deliberately overloading them.

Linbergh famously overloaded the Spirit of St Louis and figured his biggest risk of death came from getting the machine off the ground.

>overloaded the Spirit of St Louis

Can we use the word 'overloaded' here? Lucky Lindy's plane was custom-built, basically a flying gas tank.

It is not like he took an off-the-shelf plane and loaded it beyond its design specifications.

That's a good point.

Lindbergh wrote:

"No plane ever took off so heavily loaded; and my propeller is set for cruising, not for take-off. Of course our test flights at San Diego indicate that it will take off—theoretically at least. But since we didn't dare try a full load from Camp Kearney's stony ground, the wings now have to lift a thousand pounds more than they ever carried before—five thousand pounds to be lifted by nothing more tangible than air."

He also indicated that the airplane was not stressed to land with such a heavy load.

-- The Spirit of St. Louis

I checked the Github repo and she didn't even contribute the majority of the code.

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