Thursday, July 23, 2009

Where is Amelia?

In October of this year, Fox will debut the movie "Amelia" a bio-pic about Amelia Earhart. Doubtless Hollywood has and will put the spin on where THEY think Amelia is. About 71 years after her infamous disapperance, conspiracy theories abound.

In all likelihood Amelia Earhart along with navigator, Fred Noonan crashed into the Pacific Ocean near the island nation of New Guinea. But the question remains unanswered because there was no wreckage and no bodies found.

The more puzzling question is why isn't there anything left of Earhart, Noonan or the Lockheed Electra they were flying? In 2002, the Md-based company, Nauticos conducted a nearly 650-mile search of the area and found nothing at the bottom of the ocean.

Tighar International Group, under the Earhart Project, investigated reports of wreckage on a tiny island near New Guinea, but it turned out to be the ship wreck of the S.S. Norwich City. They are still investigating tidbits of items discovered on other islands that may or may not be long to Earhart.

There are several problems with investigating plane crashes in the sea. In 1937, there was no "black box" or flight recorders, there was no GPS systems on planes. Pilots flew with navigators who reported longitude and latitudes, there were compasses maps and radios, but they could not definitively give location. Radar was just beginning to be used. Without exact coordinates rescuers combed hundreds of thousands of miles perhaps in the wrong direction and only looking at the surface of the sea. Combine that with fact that Earhart was unfamiliar with all the equipment on board the Electra.

When a plane hits the water at say, 200 miles per hour the plane will shatter, throwing bits of itself hundred of yards from the impact point. Likewise its contents will also explode.

Confounding the search was the airplane itself. The Lockheed Electra was plagued with problems--wings and engine mounts would vibrate and then come off. The fault? A high-speed aircraft stuck in a conventional design. The plane may have ripped apart and sent Earhart and Noonan to their watery graves. In addition, the aircraft was metal which would have sank shortly after a crash. Today's planes are fitted with flotation devices and much of their fuselages are made of lightweight durable materials which also float.

Amelia Earhart paved the way for women (and men) pilots in transcontinental flight, but unfortunately is better known for her disappearance than her achievements.

Sources: Stuart Lee "Lockheed Electra: Killer Airliner", National Geographic,

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