Sunday, January 18, 2009

Excerpts from "Last Flight" (1932 AE)

Excerpts from "Last Flight"

Pg 2
About flying for the first time:
"I saw my first airplane.. at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. It was a thing of rusty wire and wood.. I confess I was more interested in (the) hat.. I had purchased for fifteen cents. The next airplane was.. at a Fair in Toronto... We watched a small plane turn and twist in the air.. I remember the mingled fear and pleasure which surged over me as I watched that small (red) airplane at the top of its earthward swoop.."

Pg 4
My first airplane was.. painted bright yellow, one of the first light airplane.. in this country. The motor was so rough that my feet went to sleep after more than a few minutes on the rudder.."


Pg 5
I crouched on the fuselage floor hoping we were really off. Thrice we failed.. after thirteen days of weary waiting... 20 hours and 40 minutes later we tied up to a buoy off Burryport, Wales. I recall desperately waving a towel; one friendly soul ashore pulled off his coat and waved back. But beyond that for an hour nothing happened."


Pg 7
1929 was the year of the women's derby from California to Cleveland.. I felt I needed a new plane .. so I traded in the faithful little Avion for my first Lockheed Vega. It was a third-hand clunker, but to me a heavenly chariot...

Pg 8
Lockheed #2 was about three years old. It had been completely reconditioned and a new and larger engine put in. By the spring of 1932 plane and pilot were ready."

Pg 9
Recollections; the flames lick through the exhaust collector ring and wondering, in a detached way, whether one would prefer drowning to incineration. Of the five hours of storm, during black midnight, when I kept ride side up by instruments alone, buffeted about as I never was before. Of much beside, not the lest the feeling of fine loneliness and realization that the machine I rode was doing its best and required from me the best I had.

And one further fact.. I carried a barograph, an instrument which records on a disc the course of the plane, its rate of ascent and descent, its levels of flight all coordinated with clocked time. My tell tale disc could tell a tale. At one point it recorded an almost vertical drop of three thousand feet. It started at an altitude of something over 3,000 feet, and ended - well, something above the water. That happened when the plane suddenly "iced up" and went into a spin. How long we spun I do not know. I do know that I tried my best to do exactly what one should do with a spinning plane, and regained flying control as the warmth of the lower altitude melted the ice. As we righted and held level again, through the blackness below I could see the white-caps too close for comfort. `


pg 27

My "flying laboratory" became equipped with.. a Sperry Gyro-Pilot, an automatic device which actually flies the ship unaided. There is a Bendix radio direction finder which pointes the way to any selected broadcasting station within its range. There is the finest two way voice and code Western Electric communication equipment... The plane is a two motor all metal monoplane, with retractable landing gear. It's normal cruising speed is 180 miles and hour and top speed in excess of 200. With the special gasoline tanks that have been installed in the fuselage, capable of carrying 1, 150 gallons, it has a cruising radius in excess of 4,000 miles. With a full load the ship weighs about 15,000 pounds. It' is powered with two Wasp "H" engines, developing 1100 horsepower.

pg 29
The plane had been fitted with special windows for (Harry Manning's) work. He had a good sized table to hold necessary charts. Chronometers were beside the table, shock mounted on rubber. Other "chart room equipment included altimeter, air speed and drift indicators, pelorus and compass. The navigator had access to any part of the plane, for a catwalk over the large gasoline tanks connected the cabin with the cockpit.''

pg 31
Fred Noonan, tops among aerial navigators, was a veteran of a dozen Pacific air crossings for Pan American, who signed on to co-operate with Harry Manning on the first two difficult over-water hops... It was St. Patrick's day.. Noonan wore a shamrock.

pg 32
Paul Mantz and I had carefully worked out he piloting technique of that start. It was a tem play take-off each with his job, I at the controls, Paul handling throttles and retractable landing gear. The 1100 horses of my two wasp engines leaped so gallantly to the task of lifting 14,000 pounds into the sky that our wheels left the ground aft the almost unbelievably short run of 1,897 feet - as subsequent measurement showed. Incidentally, special one hundred octane gasoline gave the motors extra power.
Once aloft, I throttled down..

pg 39
From Wheeler, where we landed, we had moved to Luke Field, where a fine 3,000 foot concrete runway offered better take-off facilities.. as the plane was moving down the runway I thought the take off was actually over. In ten seconds more we would have been off the ground, with our landing gear tucked up and on our way southwestward. There was not the slighted indication of anything abnormal.

Ten second later the airplane.. lay helpless on the concrete runway.. Her landing gear wiped off and one wing damaged. Possibly the landing gear's right shock absorber.. may have given way.

Watchers on the ground saw the wing drop. Suddenly the plane pulled to my right. I reduced the power on the opposite engine and succeeded in swinging from he right to the left. For a moment I thought I would be able to gain control and straightened the course.. but alas, the load was so heavy, once it started an arc there was nothing to do but let the plane group loop easily as possible.
.. the landing gear on the right was wrenched free and gasoline sprayed from the drain-well. There was no fire...

Pg 44
Permission; were multitudinous.. necessary to secure special authority to land a plane. Here and there were forbidden regions.. in other territories no firearms or motion picture cameras were permitted. Medical credential were necessary; pilot and navigator were swollen with a full personal cargo of vaccines and inoculations..


Pg 54
Ground attendants signaled "All Clear." In a last look through the window I spied nearby the Viking blond head of Mr. Putnams' son, David, and waved to him. Then I started the motors.

The engines had already been warmed.. I signaled to have the wheel chocks removed and we taxied to the end of the runway.. thirty seconds later.. we were in the air...

Pg 55
Fred Noonan was not enjoying the scenery as such, but spotting conformations of the islands beneath us, and looking for lighthouses with which to check our course and rate of speed. From PAA experience, all this was ground - and water - well known to him... with the assistance of the Sperry gyropilot, I began to feel that my long-range flying was becoming pretty sissy.. a thousand miles behind us, Fred told me he had indulged in one sandwich and some coffee. (AE doesn't drink coffee - usually cocoa on flights, her preferred drink; buttermilk with chunks of butter in it).

pg 61
The coast of Venezuela.. had densely wooded mountains and between them wide valleys of open plains and jungle... a muddy river wound through the mountain pass.. a reddish brown snake crawling among tight packed greenery..

pg 65
In addition to being an air navigator, he is a Master Mariner unlimited. And.. holds a first class pilot's license on the Mississippi River. In his.. 20 years of nautical knocking about, he rounded Cape Horn seven times, thrice on a wind jammer and four times on steamships. At the age of 15.. he served on a munitions carrier between new York and England, and later in the British Navy was on three ships which were torpedoed.

pg 68
My one suitcase.. five shirts, two pairs of slacks, a change of shoes, a light working coverall and a trick weightless raincoat, plus the minimum of toilet articles... and a sun helmet. We started with one hat, which others, as gifts were added at each port of call.`

pg 73
The blackness of the night.. made all the more cheery the subdued lights of my cockpit, glowing on the instruments which showed the way through space as we headed east over the ocean... (the next day) the heavens opened, tons of water .. so heavily I could almost feel it. The water splashed brown against the glass of my cockpit windows, a soiled emulsion mixed the oil spattering from the propellers... I can't see through. Nothing to see anyway..

Pg 74
We passed an Air France mail plane. Unfortunately I could not "talk" to it. The mail plane's radio equipment, I believe is telegraphic code, while mine, was exclusively voice telephone.

pg 90
This watery region... has cranes and storks... blue herons are plentiful... birds in great number we saw below us... we saw none of the advertised elephants or even crocodiles... we did glimpse a considerable number of hippopotami... I was able to see a little of... huts that look like bee hives, made from dried millet stalks... children are carried on the mother's back... the infant's hands not free to swat the flies.. about its eyes... many boys and girls have tribal marks cut in their cheeks... the girls wear a short skirt made of strips of leather hung from the belt,, which swings like a kilt when they walk... the boys are adorned with a single garment - a large sack like shirt with holes for the arms.. otherwise their birthday suits suffice.

In Khartoum.. heat waves danced up from the surface of the desert. The temperature was 110 degrees in the shade.. seen from the air one was struck by the symmetry with which the city is laid out..

pg 103
In the cockpit.. we carried a pretty generous supply of water in canteens, concentrated foods, a small land compass, and very heavy walking shoes...

pg 106
In Karachi.. I had a small adventure riding a camel. His master's costume was in keeping. Over very full trousers, he wore a shiny black alpaca coat, pleated to the waist at the back. from under this the tail of his shirt protruded. He had on a rather high turban and hid most of his facial expressions behind a bushy beard. .. It was a startling take off as we rose. A lurch forward that can unhorse (I mean uncamel) the unwary.. "Better wear your parachute," Fred shouted.

pg 109
Compared with the single seated cockpit of my old Vega, the Electra is commodious. The seat of the pilot is at the left, the co pilot's on the right. On both sides and in front, about shoulder high as I sit, are windows, with the main instrument board below, and above more instruments.
In all, fifty dials and gauges. One group has to do with engines, duplicated for each motor. Another nest of flight and navigation instruments, establishing the ships position in space and location geographically. The first are numbered turn and bank, rate of climb, air speed, artificial horizon and similar indicators. In the latter are compasses, directional gyros, the Bendix direction finder and various radio equipment. In the center of the instrument board is the Sperry Gyro Pilot, the automatic device which can relieve the human pilot.
There are 12 fuel talks, holding in all 1150 gallons, six in the wings and six in the fuselage, on long flights there's always bookkeeping to do.. to know how much fuel remains.
The receiver for the Western Electric radio is under the copilot's seat, the transmitter in the cabin. The main dynamo is under my seat. The radio's cuplike microphone is hung behind the window to the left. Then there is the mechanism of the retractable landing gear and flap control..
To the right behind me a cubbyhole where charts reside, a thermos bottle, sandwiches odd and ends. On a shelf at the bottom are pencils and a notebook. Just above is the hatch, opening upwards.
The dimension are four feet 8 inches high, four feet six inches wide, four feet six inches for and aft.

pg 131
Fred Noonan has been unable, because of radio difficulties, to set his chronometers. Any lack of knowledge of their fastness and slowness would defeat the accuracy of celestial navigation. Howland is such a small spot in the Pacific that every aid to locating it must be available.
Fred and I have.. repacked the plane eliminating everything unessential. We have even discarded as much personal property as we can decently get along without. . all Fred has is a small tin case which he picked up in Africa. I notice it still rattled, so it cannot be packed very full.

pg 132
The village was built more or less around a central open plaza. All huts were on stilts and underneath the dogs and pigs hold forth. We were told the natives train pigs as "watchdogs." Fred said he would hate to come hold late at night and admit being bitten by a pig!

Some of the huts had carvings around under the eaves, grotesque colored animals and crodo9ciles behind the most numerous. They reminded me of the work encountered in some parts of Africa.

In the village were several native women, one bending over a small black cooking vessel from which protruded two enormous cabbages. The natives have their own names for everything.. airplane are called "balus" or "birds." the Lockheed is known as the "biscuit box."

They told us much of the land (in New Guinea) is really only silt, held together by tangled undergrowth.

pg 133.
AE departed for Howland at ten o'clock.. the Electra .. was only 50 yards from the end of the runway when it rose into the air.


July 24, 1897. Amelia Mary Earhart born in Kansas City, MO to Amy Otis and Edwin Stanton Earhart.

June 1916. AE graduates from Hyde Park High School, Chicago, IL.

September 1916. AE enters Ogontz School, Rydal, PA

1917-1918. AE acts as a volunteer nurse in Toronto, Canada.

Summer 1919. AE enrolls as a pre-med student at Columbia University.

Summer 1920. AE goes to LA.

January 2, 1921, AE takes first flying lesson, from Neta Snook, at Rogers Airport, LA.

July 24, 1921. AE buys first airplane, a Kinner Airster.

Fall, 1926 AE works at Denison House, Boston

June 17, 1928 AE takes off in Fokker Friendship from Trepassey bay, Newfoundland. Twenty hours and forty minutes later, the aircraft lands at Burry Port Wales. Pilot: William Stultz.

august 18-29, 1929. AE finished third in the Women's Air Derby (subsequently termed "Powder Puff Derby") Race won by Louise Thaden.

Nov. 2, 1929. AE named first president of the Ninety-nines, an organization of women flyers.

Feb. 7, 1931. AE married to George Putnam in Noank, CT.

April 8, 1931. AE establishes a woman's autogiro altitude record of 18, 415 feet in a Pitcarin autogiro.

May 20, 1932. AE flies Atlantic in her Lockheed Vega, arriving at Culmore, Ireland on May 21 in fourteen hours and fifty-six minutes. She is the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo.

June 22, 1932. AE awarded the Army Air Corps Distinguished Flying Cross.

July 12-13, 1932. AE is the first woman to fly a solo transcontinental flight across the US. She flew from LA to Newark in an elapsed time of 19 hours, 14 minutes and 10 seconds.

January 11-12, 1935 AE flies from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, Ca, in her Lockheed Vega in 18 hours and 15 minutes, the first person to make this flight.

April 20, 1935. AE flies from Burbank to Mexico City in 13 hours and 32 minutes for a new record.

August 30, 1935. AE finished fifth in Bendix race in her Lockheed Vega.

September 4, 1936. AE enters Bendix race in her Lockheed Electra with Helen Richey as copilot. Engine trouble forces a fifth place finish.

March 17, 1937. AE begins world flight, which is abandoned after a crash on take off in Hawaii on March 20, 1937.

June 1, 1937. AE with Fred Noonan as navigator, begins world flight attempt in Lockheed Electra.

July 2, 1937. AE is lost en route to Howland Island from Lae, New Guinea.

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