S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “aviation”

Review – Someone Is Hiding Something: What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

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Four Stars

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has disappeared—vanished completely. The Boeing 777 Extended Range aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur airport early in the morning of 8 March 2014 outbound for Beijing. Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah sent a routine radio message about thirty-eight minutes later to Malaysia air traffic control (ATC). The aircraft was then over the South China Sea. Shortly, all transmissions from Flight 370 ceased, and its image failed to appear on ATC radar screens.

This book is the most comprehensive and objective narrative that I’ve read regarding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It’s a clinically precise exploration of the evidence extant about Flight 370. The authors have integrated these facts into various scenarios that posit the fate of Flight 370.

Unfortunately, the organization of the narrative is a hodgepodge of unrelated facts/evidence and explanations of their consequences. Accordingly, I found this lack of coherence militates against a comprehensive understanding of what happened to Flight 370. For example, the discussions of catastrophic failure are spread throughout the book. If all the text regarding catastrophic failure were presented in one chapter, we might know that it was responsible for the fate of Flight 370.  It would explain the immediate failure of all communications from the flight and its disappearance from Malaysian and Vietnamese radars. On the other hand, we would know that a catastrophic failure could not be responsible because there was no debris field on land or water—an essential element of a catastrophic failure—and because reconnaissance satellites tracked Flight 370 for seven and one-half hours after the communication cessation and the plane’s absence from radars.

The lack of a debris field is key to this mystery. An airliner falling into the ocean is the same as it hitting a brick wall. It would explode into thousands of pieces. The Boeing model 777 aircraft has approximately three million parts—many of which float.  Additionally, luggage and body parts float. It is inconceivable that an aircraft would crash on terra firma or the sea and not leave a large debris field several miles wide.

Lack of coherence also applies to the discussions of missile shoot-down, skyjacking, remote control attack, sabotage, pilot suicide, weather, aliens, etc.

The authors pooh-pooh the investigation: it was sabotaged, some things are hidden. Pundits aver that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) knows what happened to Flight 370 and won’t tell. Ditto for the National Security Agency (NSA). “It’s not possible that NSA does not know where Flight 370 is.” NSA says nothing.

Flight 370 is missing, and its location is a mystery. Though not stated directly, the subtext of this narrative is that Flight 370 was diverted to an airstrip somewhere in Central Asia and is being prepared for some evil deed.

“The inescapable conclusion is that Flight 370 simply vanished in some way that we do not understand.” This is nonsense. Airplanes just don’t disappear. Satellites track everything. Airplanes want to be seen. They just do not disappear.

There is much more information—too much to repeat in this review. I heartily recommend this book.

FIN

N.B. To date, I’ve posted 20 comments on the mystery of Malaysia Flight 370 on my blog (sheltoncomm.com). The day that Flight 370 was reported missing, I formed a scenario about the cause of the mystery. For the first time, here is my supposition. One or more of the crew took control of the aircraft anddiverted it to a remote airstrip in Sinkiang (Wade-Giles spelling) Province in Western China for the dissidents among the Uighur to use for an attack on some city in China.

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Review – Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Why It Disappeared—and Why It’s Only a Matter of Time Before This Happens Again

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Five Stars

Soucie’s goal in this narrative was to explore the mystery of the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370. He writes in an easy professional style for a knowledgeable audience. With deft skills he details the facts known about the disappearance of Flight 370. He tackles this task with concise reasoning coupled with statistical analysis of the facts of this flight and their inferences. He does not offer conjectures. He relies on the facts in developing the narrative and he challenges the readers “…to make an informed judgement about the fate of Flight 370. The facts speak for themselves.”

Here is what we know (as of 2015, the year of this book’s copyright). Flight 370 departed Kuala Lumpur Airport at 0041, 8 March 2014, outbound to Beijing, China. On board were 227 passengers and twelve crew members. The captain was Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53 years old, who had 18,000 flight-time hours. The copilot was Abdel Hamid, 27 years old, with 2,700 flight-time hours.

The aircraft was a Boeing 777-ER (Extended Range). It had last been maintained on 23 February 2014. Its range was about 8,000 nautical miles, and its cruising speed was Mach 0.48 (640 mph). The Boeing 777 aircraft have had an excellent safety record.

After liftoff, Flight 370 progressed routinely. At 0119, Lumpur Radar transmitted, “Ma- laysian three seven zero, contact Ho Chi Minh one two zero decimal nine. Good night.”

Captain Shah responded, “Good night. Malaysian three seven zero.”

This was the last voice transmission from Flight 370. At 0121, Kuala Lumpur Area Traffic Control Center radar observed Flight 370. Five seconds later, the Model S-Enhanced transponder on Flight 370 ceased transmitting to air traffic control radar and disappeared from the screen. No May Days, no distress transmission, nothing. This model transponder transmits in- formation regarding aircraft identification, altitude, roll, track, ground speed, air speed, magnetic heading, and rate of climb/descent, concurrently. Flight 370’s radar glyph vanished from the ra- dar at Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, ACC. Immediately afterwards, the aircraft appeared to have changed course—it was now heading west.

Regarding “why” Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared, the author posits two assumptions:

  1. “Either the aircraft was commandeered by one of the pilots or an assailant, or
  2. there was a fire in the cockpit or in the equipment and electronic compartment.…”

No need to relay the details of Soucie’s investigation. It’s compelling, chronological, and cogent. I was particularly impressed with his posting in Chapter 26 a comprehensive timeline from the transponder failure on 8 March to 18 June 2014, when an Australian research vessel joined the search in the Indian Ocean.

Soucie’s recurring theme in his narrative is, “Aircraft want to be seen. They do not just disappear.” Civilian and military radar and satellites track aircraft.

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Book Review – Lindbergh

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Rating – Four Stars

Berg presents a comprehensive biography of Charles A. Lindbergh, the famous hero and the infamous blackguard. The pioneer aviator, world traveler, political activist, intrepid warrior, zealous environmentalist, and international celebrity. Accordingly, this tome is heavy in weight and content.

Berg’s writing style is refined and empathetic. In this meticulously detailed litany of Lindbergh’s accomplishments and foibles, we learn more about Charles Lindbergh than most of us need or want to know. Nonetheless, the author reveals the key points in this aviator’s life in engaging fashion.  I’ll not repeat all of them in this review. However, following are some that I found particularly interesting:

  • His solo flight from New York City to Paris in May 1927 in the Ryan M1 aircraft—dubbed “We”
  • His marriage to Anne Spencer Morrow in 1929
  • The kidnapping and murder of his firstborn son, twenty-month-old Charles Augustus, in March 1932, and the trial and execution of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the convicted kidnapper and murderer
  • His and Anne’s exploratory flights in their custom-built Lockheed 8 Sirius for Pan American World Airways in the 1930s
  • His de facto mission as the global ambassador for aviation development

Of singular import were his visits to the Third Reich in the late 1930s, and his proclaimed admiration for Germany’s advanced military aircraft. At a dinner party on October 18, 1938 at the American Embassy in Berlin, the Nazi Air Minister, Field Marshal Hermann Göring, presented Lindbergh with the Verdienstkreuz der Deutschen Adler or “Service Cross of the Order of the German Eagle.” This swank medal was a Maltese cross surrounded by eagles and miniature swastikas. High-ranking German officials awarded this medal to foreigners who were considered sympathetic to the Third Reich.

Aside: In 1938 the Spanish Civil War raged—the Communist government v. General Francisco Franco and his fascist army. The Third Reich sent its Condor Legion, top of the line aircraft and experienced aviators, to support General Franco.

The Nazi medal would be Lindbergh’s shameful scarlet cross for the remainder of his life.

On his return to the USA, Lindbergh became an avid leader of and vocal advocate for the America First policy: no involvement in foreign wars, and Great Britain must stand alone against the Wehrmacht; if Britain should fall, so be it. Some of his rhetoric was tinged with anti-Semitic innuendos.

Now Lindbergh, the former hero of the world, became a pariah. He surrendered his colonel rank in the Army reserves and alienated President Roosevelt, all manner of politicians, the public, and some of his friends. Nonetheless, he continued his nonintervention policy until 7 December 1941—“a date which will live in infamy,” as President Roosevelt said in his declaration of war against the Empire of Japan in response to their surprise attack on our Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor.

The forty-two-year-old civilian Lindbergh went to the South Pacific to work with our aviators on methods to extend the range of their aircraft. General Douglas MacArthur gave him carte blanche to fly any aircraft within his command. He flew several dozen combat missions in the Vought F4U “Corsair” with the Marines against Japanese targets on New Ireland and New Britain. Following that, he went to Hollandia and flew the Lockheed P38 “Lightning” with Army aviators against multiple targets in the Bismarck Sea environ. On one mission, he shot down a Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-5 “Sonia.” On a mission over Palau Island, it is “rumored” that he downed a Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen “Zero.”  He continued his combat flying from Biak, New Guinea, Kwajalein, and Roni Island.

In a private ceremony in the Pentagon on 7 April 1954, Air Force Secretary Harold Talbott swore Charles Lindbergh in as a Brigadier General (President Eisenhower and the Senate had approved this commissioning).

The rest of the story is for you to read. On 27 August 1974, the 72-year-old Charles Lindbergh died from complications of lymphoma. He is buried on Maui on a cliff overlooking the Pacific on the grounds of the isolated, small Kipahulu church. I’ve visited his grave and it is a humbling and an awe-inspiring experience. Highly recommended.

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Amelia Earhart Died on Saipan Scenario Fiction

The airways and television were abuzz about the “new” photograph that purports to show Earhart and Noonan on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands in Japanese custody. At 8:00 PM, Sunday, 9 July 2017, the History Channel broadcasted a two-hour show claiming that this photograph solves the mysterious disappearance of the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

As a longtime aficionado of the Earhart mystery, I can categorically assert that Earhart and Noonan are not in this picture.Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 5.41.01 PM.png

The following comments are courtesy of TIGHAR.

  • If the flyers were in Japanese custody, where are the Japanese soldiers? Where are the weapons?
    • No one is guarding anyone.
  • Earhart’s hair was much shorter than the hair of the person sitting on the dock who is purportedly Earhart.
  • On the around-the-world flight, Earhart wore a dark, long-sleeved shirt.
    • The woman on the dock is wearing a white shirt.
  • Noonan wore dark trousers and a dark shirt.
    • The man purported to be Noonan wears a wears a white outfit.
  • The man purported to be Noonan has a receding hairline on the right side of his face.
    • Noonan’s receding hairline was on his left side.

***

There is no concrete evidence that Amelia Earhart landed in the Marshal Islands, was captured by the Japanese, taken to Saipan, and died there. NONE. The apocryphal evidence is not enough to make a convincing, provable argument.

The Japanese capture theory is that Earhart crash-landed on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 767 nautical miles NNW of Howland Island—her destination. She and Noonan were picked up by natives. The Japanese found them, took them prisoner as spies found within their very tightly controlled “Bamboo Curtain,” a vast area in the central Pacific that included the Marianas, Marshalls, Carolines, and other islands (taken from the Germans in WWI). The Japanese took the flyers to Jaluit Island on a Japanese ship towing the Electra on a barge. A few days later, the flyers were on Saipan and imprisoned. Noonan was executed (he was a Navy Reserve lieutenant commander). Earhart died of some disease. It’s a great tale. Until some undisputable evidence is proffered, the Saipan scenario remains a fable.

There are no Japanese records. No USA records. No Marshall Island records. No documents. No photographs. No bones that would pass a DNA test. No verifiable parts of her Electra. No eyewitness testimony that’s credible (taken under oath and in the proper setting). Several islanders had averred that they saw Earhart and Noonan in the islands. The islanders tended to tell the questioners what they believed the questioners wanted to hear. Several American G.I.s told researchers about their experiences related to Earhart and Noonan on Saipan. However, not one produced concrete evidence. Accordingly, there is no irrefutable evidence that Earhart died on Saipan while in Japanese custody. None whatsoever. Not even a smidgen.

Actual facts about Amelia Earhart’s flight from Lae, New Guinea, en route to Howland Island:

  • On 2 July 1937, at 1000 hours, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, departed Lae, New Guinea, with 1,100 standard US gallons of fuel on board.
    • Destination was Howland Island—2,223 nautical miles to the east.
    • Anchored off Howland Island was her guard ship, the USCG Itasca.
    • On average, the twin-engine Electra consumed about 38 US gallons per hour, including takeoff, the climb to altitude, descent, etc.
  • I’ve computed (all factors considered) that her ground speed was about 117 knots from Lae to near Howland.
  • 0720 hours, 2 July, Amelia Earhart transmitted, “We must be on you, but we cannot see you but gas is running low….” (She had crossed the International Date Line.)
    • Her radio transmitter had only 50 watts of power.
    • On board the USCG Itasca the signal strength of the 0720 message was #5, the highest level: loud and clear.
  • Chief Petty Officer Radioman Leo Bellart, USN, senior radio operator on board the Itasca, estimated that the Electra was about 100 nm to 150 nm from Howland.
  • Her flight time from Lae to near Howland was about 19.6 hours.
  • Earhart’s fuel reserve would have been about 88 gallons if she had arrived at Howland Island. That is about 2.3 hours flight time, or 264 nautical miles.

It was physically impossible for Amelia Earhart to fly to Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands—767 nm distant.

The following is a simple Monte Carlo Simulation regarding the fuel needed for an Earhart flight from near Howland to Mili Atoll. All numbers are within 10% to 15% error.

  • Continuing with Earhart’s standard fuel consumption rate (38 gal/hr), it would take her 6.6 hours flight time to reach Mili Atoll. (767 nm ÷ 117 knots = 6.6 hours)
  • Such a flight requires 250 gallons of fuel. (6.6 hours x 38 gal per hour)
  • Fuel remaining in the Electra when near Howland would be 88 gal

Amelia Earhart did not have enough fuel to reach Mili Atoll.

Also, I wonder if she were physically and mentally able to complete a flight of an additional 6.6 hours to Mili Atoll—a total of 25.6 continuous hours in flight. When close to Howland, she had been flying for about 19 hours. On this around-the-world flight, Earhart had been flying off and on for forty-four exhausting days, covering 21,000 nautical miles by the time she had arrived at Lae, New Guinea.

I’m working on an extensive, opinion-neutral monograph that explores the five most publicized scenarios that purport to explain Earhart’s mysterious disappearance, and that evaluates dispassionately their credibility.

For background, I’ve attached the Bamboo Curtain scenario that’s in my monograph.

The Japanese Mandated Islands

Background. To understand the keen interest in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, it’s essential to set the world’s political stage, including the festering issues that would lead to World War II in the Pacific in December 1941.

World War I began 28 July 1914 in Europe, the Mideast, China, and the Pacific islands. Japan declared war on Germany and captured the German Treaty Ports in China: Tsingtao, Hankow, and Tientsin, for example. The Imperial Japanese Navy pursued the German East Asiatic Squadron into the German Pacific Island Colonies—the Marshall Islands, Carolines, Marianas, Solomon, New Britain, and many other island groups. The Japanese Admiralty chose not to pursue the German fleet further. Rather, the Japanese navy occupied these islands. These former German colonies are a sprawling chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls lying about two thousand miles astride the Central Pacific, from Saipan to Guadalcanal.

In 1920, the League of Nations mandated these former German Pacific Colonies to the Empire of Japan with the proviso that Japan would not annex or militarize them, would keep shipping lanes open for all maritime traffic, and would “administer these territories as a sacred trust to develop them for the benefit of the native peoples.”

In February 1933, Japan left the League of Nations and sealed this vast area of the Central and Southern Pacific within the “Bamboo Curtain,” protecting it from all intrusions. The Imperial Japanese Navy began construction of airfields, fortifications, ports, and other military projects in preparation for the upcoming war with the Occidentals.

The United States Navy knew to a near certainty that a Pacific war with the Empire of Japan was inevitable. Officials were seriously concerned by their lack of intelligence from inside the Bamboo Curtain.

FIN

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 6.06.00 PMPlease visit my website to see information about my book titled Aviators, Adventurers, and AssassinsThe lead novella is Amelia. It is the log of a naval intelligence officer researching the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan (navigator), and her Lockheed Electra model 10E aeroplane. His findings change the history of World War II.

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.

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