Remembering Amelia Earhart’s Round-the-World Flight: The 80th Anniversary of Her “Shining Adventure” (Part 2 of 2)

Amelia Earhart kept notes from the different legs of her flight, and those notes are part of her papers in the Archives and Special Collections at Purdue. Some pages of her notes exhibit oil stains or other indications that she made them while in flight. The New York Herald Tribune had exclusive rights to her story, and Earhart remained in contact with the paper throughout her flight, sending telegrams from the various locations where she stopped to refuel.

MSP 9, The George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

 

 

To read the entire telegram, please click on image.

 

 

 

 

Purdue Exponent, March 16, 1937

Purdue Exponent, March 17, 1937, p.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Herald Tribune shared Earhart’s account of the flight with the Purdue Exponent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Mantz, Amelia Earhart, Harry Manning, and Fred Noonan being photographed in front of Earhart’s plane, Oakland Airport, California, March 17, 1937. MSP 9.

Paul Mantz, Amelia Earhart, Harry Manning, and Fred Noonan standing in front of the nose of Earhart’s plane, Oakland Airport [?], California,  March 17, 1937. MSP 9.

The takeoff of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra plane from the Oakland Airport in California, March 17, 1937. This was the last test-hop of the flight before heading out over the Pacific. MSP 9.

 


The long anticipated flight had begun, and the Purdue Exponent shared the excitement with the Purdue community.

Purdue Exponent, March 18, 1937.

 

 

 

 

 

All three clips are from one front page Purdue Exponent article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


With 900 gallons of gasoline on board, Earhart finally takes off from Luke Field for Howland Island. Earhart’s first attempt resulted in disaster and a damaged plane.

Purdue Alumnus, March 1937, Vol. XXIV, No. 6, p. 3

Paul Mantz, members of the United States Army Air Corp, and others observing the wrecked Lockheed Electra plane after Earhart crashed while attempting to take off from Luke Field, Hawaii to Howland Island, March 20, 1937. MSP 9.

People watch as mechanics work on repairing the wrecked Lockheed Electra plane after Earhart crashed while attempting to take off from Luke Field, Hawaii to Howland Island, March 20, 1937. MSP 9.

The following are accounts from Last Flight, which was compiled from Earhart’s logs and journal writings by George Palmer Putnam after her death. It was to be titled World Flight.

“There was not the slightest indication of anything abnormal. Ten seconds later the airplane which brought us so gallantly to Honolulu lay helpless on the concrete runway, a poor battered bird with broken wings.”

“As for the crew, only our spirits were bruised when this sudden disaster overtook us. By good fortune, Harry Manning, Fred Noonan and I emerged without a scratch. But the plane, her landing gear wiped off and one wing damaged, was a sad sight to see. At that, the comparatively slight damage was a fine testimonial to the sturdiness of Lockheed construction – such an accident might well result in a total wash-out.”

“Witnesses said the tire blew. However, studying the tracks carefully, I believe that may not have been the primary cause of the accident. Possibly the landing gear’s right shock absorber, as it lengthened, 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 the right to the left. For a moment I thought I would be able to gain control and straighten the course. But, alas, the load was so heavy, once it started an arc there was nothing to do but let the plane ground loop as easily as possible.”

“With the excessive weight, the landing gear on the right was wrenched free and gasoline sprayed from the drain-well. That there was no fire was surely the result of the generous good wishes which had come from all over the world. No one of the three of us on board was even shaken, a testimony to the safety of a modern metal plane such as mine.”

“In retrospect, I am thankful that the failure occurred where it did rather than in some isolated corner of the world far from help.”  “And I must say a good word for Fred Noonan and Harry Manning. They were both as game as could be. In fact, when the first when reached the plane and opened the cabin door, they found Fred Methodically folding up his charts. He said that when I flew again he was ready to go along” (Last Flight, 70-72).

From March – May, 1937 the Lockheed Electra was back in California being repaired.

Again, in Earhart’s words:

“Like broken bones which Nature knits slowly in her own special process, the injured parts of an airplane must be painstakingly restored.” There is no short cut to full usefulness in either case if perfect healing is desired. In addition to “healing,” a strengthening of certain members to withstand the excessive strain to which overloading subjects them was in order in my Electra. This meant some actual redesigning, another process which could not be hurried. As to the precious engines, they were already in the Pacific Airmotive shops at Burbank being thoroughly checked. After the plane and engines were together, some time would have to be allowed for testing.”

With the rebuilding of the plane in hand, our next task was to appraise the effect of delay upon our flying plans. We had picked mid-March as about the best time for the flight from standpoint of weather – so far as one could expect consistent “bests” on such a long route. Setting back the date three month would see seasons relentlessly progress. In some places progress would be with benefit to pilots, in others the reverse. Here rains began, there they abated, here winds were favorable, there monsoons and choking dust storms were due. So we set to studying again the weather maps of the world and consulting with meteorologists who knew the habits of fogs and rains with temperatures around the long equator.”

“The upshot of those consultations was that I decided to reverse the direction originally chosen for the flight. Earlier it had seemed that the advantage lay in passage to the west; at the later date the contrary appeared true. After all, for practical purposes and disregarding Mr. Einstein, the world measures the same distance from west to east, as east to west, on any given route”  (Last Flight, 75-76).

Stay tuned, as we relive Amelia Earhart’s Round-the-World Flight, in celebration of the 80th anniversary…

Sources:

Earhart, Amelia, and George Palmer Putnam. Last Flight. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1937. Print.

MSF 450, Amelia Earhart at Purdue Collection, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

MSP 9, The George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Vertical Files, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Purdue Student Publishing Foundation, and Purdue University. The Purdue Exponent (1889). Print.

Editor’s Note: Writer Mary A. Sego is an archival assistant and processing specialist within Archives and Special Collections.

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