S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the category “Airplane travel”

The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

 

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2 July 1937

At 0843 hours, local time, Amelia Earhart transmitted this in-flight message, “We must be on you but cannot see you…but gas is running low.”

Radio operators aboard the USGS Itasca—her guard ship anchored off Howland Island—recorded in the Log Book, “Her voice was loud and clear.” Accordingly, her aircraft, the Lockheed Electra model 10E, must be within 100 nautical miles of the ship. All following efforts to establish either radiotelegraphic or voice communications with Earhart failed.

A few minutes later she transmitted, “We are running on line north and south on the line 157/337. Will repeat this message on 6210.” These were the last words heard from the famous aviatrix.

***

In the mid-1930s, Amelia Earhart was an American icon personified. Her aviation exploits dominated the media. We heard radio broadcasts of her setting new records and heard her speeches, we read the headlines and stories that flooded our newspapers of her exploits, and we saw her in newsreels and her new Lockheed Electra—Purdue University’s flying laboratory to garner aviation’s unknown secrets. In 1937, she started her second attempt to fly around the world as near to the equator as possible. She vanished before reaching Howland Island in the Central Pacific. Where she disappeared and why are the two key questions that are unanswerable with the intelligence we have today.

Pundits and charlatans have proposed numerous scenarios to explain her disappearance. Some are ridiculously bizarre. For example, she became Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s sex slave, or she was the woman broadcaster, “Tokyo Rose.”

Following are five scenarios that prevail in the extant literature—some with no, or minimal credence—none are conclusive.

  1. Amelia Earhart crashed landed in the Japanese controlled Mandate Marshall Islands. She survived; the Japanese captured and interned her. She was repatriated after the war and returned sub-rosa to the USA using the nom de guerre Irene Craigmile Bolam.
  2. Earhart was a Trojan horse. She crashed on purpose in the Marshall Islands so the U.S. Navy could find her and collect intelligence on Japanese fortifications during their search.
  3. Earhart was lost, crash landed inside the Japanese-mandated islands. They captured her and Noonan and imprisoned them on Saipan where they died.
  4. Earhart landed her Electra on the reef at Gardner Atoll in the Phoenix Group. She and Noonan and survived for a while, and the pair died as castaways.
  5. Amelia Earhart missed Howland Island. Out of fuel, the Electra crashed into the ocean and the flyers drowned.

***

The Commander of Naval Intelligence tasked one of his officers, Commander Gregory Thompson, to ferret the facts of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. His startling discovery is revealed in “Amelia,” printed in S. Martin Shelton’s book Aviators, Adventurers and Assassins.


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Aviators, Adventurers and Assassins will be available as a free eBook download July 2–5.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

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Malaysia Flight 370

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Around midnight on 8 March 2014, Malaysia Flight 370 departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 souls onboard. About three hours into the flight, it disappeared. Technical analysis of radio, radar, and satellite data indicated that the aircraft crashed into the Indian Ocean about 1,200 miles off Australia’s west coast.

In the almost three years of searching, investigators have not found any part of this aircraft. Nonetheless, three sheets of aircraft metal have washed up on the eastern shore of Africa. Expert aviation investigators have tentatively concluded that this flotsam is from Flight 370.

On 17 January last, the three nations, Malaysia, China, and Australia, involved in the search for this missing aircraft concluded further investigation of the sea floor of the Indian Ocean is fruitless. The search for Malaysia Flight 370 is officially over.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton.

 

Book Review: The Wright Brothers

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Rating – Five Stars

The Wright Brothers is an outstanding book. McCullough narrates an insightful, compelling, and empathetic account of Wilbur and Orville Wright—brothers and the inventors of the airplane (a manned craft that under its own power could take off, make turns, and return to its starting point without any assistance from the ground or air).

The Wrights’s invention of the airplane was not a fluke. Rather, the brothers were studious and careful inventors who assiduously followed the engineering principles of research, development, testing, and evaluation. Starting in 1899 in a room above their bicycle shop, the brothers built their first aircraft—a flying kite with a five-foot wingspan and their ingenious wing warping design that could turn the aircraft. Following were a series of large kites, unmanned and manned gliders

In 1902, they moved their flight test operations from Dayton to the outer banks of North Carolina at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk. After numerous glider test flights and meticulous engineering, the brothers crafted the Wright Flyer I—the first self-powered airplane.

Finally, at 1035 hours, Thursday, 17 December 1903, Orville flew the Wright Flyer I about 120 feet and was airborne for twelve seconds. Later that day, Wilbur flew the Flyer 175 feet. At day’s end, the record flight was 852 feet in 59 seconds—about 10 miles per hour.

Following was a veritable cascade of awards, accolades, and honors for the brothers. France and Germany were particularly interested in their airplane and invited the brothers to demonstrate manned flight in their countries. Wilbur sailed to France and during his eighteen-month stay flew his Wright Flyer III to the amazement of massive crowds and government officials.  The French awarded the Wrights a contract and Wilbur left the Flyer in Le Harve.

On September 1909, Orville was demonstrating a Wright Flyer to the United States Army at Fort Myer, Virginia.  Onboard was Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge—the Army’s aviation specialist. Cruising at 40 miles per hour and about 75 feet, Orville guided the Flyer in several “neat” turns. On the fourth turn, part of the propeller broke away. Uncontrolled, the Flyer crashed—killing Selfridge and seriously injuring Orville.

I highly recommend this remarkable biography of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

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