Daily Archives: June 7, 2017

7 June 1937

Photo of a replica of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, flown by Linda Finch. (Tony Bacewicz / The Hartford Courant)
Photograph of a replica of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, flown by Linda Finch. (Tony Bacewicz / The Hartford Courant)

7 June 1937: Leg 10—the South Atlantic Crossing. At 3:15 a.m., Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan departed Natal, Brazil, aboard their Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, enroute across the South Atlantic Ocean to Dakar, Afrique occidentale française (now, Senegal).

“It was 3.15 in the morning when we left Parnamirim Airport at Natal, Brazil. The take-off was in darkness. The longer runway, which has lights, was unavailable because a perverse wind blew exactly across it. So I used the secondary runway, whose surface is of grass. In the dark it was difficult even to find it, so Fred and I tramped its length with flashlights to learn what we could and establish something in the way of guiding landmarks, however shadowy. Withal, we got into the air easily. Once off the ground, a truly pitch dark encompassed us. However, the blackness of the night outside made all the more cheering the subdued lights of my  cockpit, glowing on the instruments which showed the way through space as we headed east over the ocean. “The night is long that never finds the day,” and our night soon enough was day. I remembered, then, that this was my third dawn in flight over the Atlantic. . . .— Amelia Earhart

Fred Noonan wrote in a letter from Dakar, The flight from Natal, Brazil produced the worst weather we have experienced—heavy rain and dense cloud formations. . . .”   In her notes, Earhart wrote, “. . . Have never seen such rain. Props a blur in it. See nothing but rain now through wispy cloud. . . .”

— from Finding Amelia by Ric Gillespie, Naval Institute Press, 2006, Chapter 5 at page 41.

The poor weather made it impossible for Noonan to find their way across the ocean by celestial navigation, his field of expertise. Instead, he had to navigate by ded reckoning (short for deductive) and to estimate course corrections.

When they arrived over the African coastline at dusk, they knew that they were north of their intended course but haze caused very limited visibility. Navigational errors caused them to miss Dakar, so they turned north until they came to Saint-Louis, where they landed after a 1,961 mile (3,156 kilometer), 13 hour, 22 minute flight.

Fred Noonan’s nautical chart for a portion of the Natal-to-Dakar flight in the Purdue University archives. (Gary LaPook, NavList)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 June 1912

 Captain Charles deForest Chandler mans a prototype Lewis machine gun with Lieutenant Roy C. Kirtland at the controls of a Wright Model B, at College Park, MD. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain Charles deForest Chandler mans a prototype Lewis machine gun with Lieutenant Roy C. Kirtland at the controls of a Wright Model B, at College Park, MD. (U.S. Air Force)

7 June 1912: With Lieutenant Roy Carrington Kirtland flying a Wright Model B at College Park, Maryland, Captain Charles deForest Chandler was the first person to fire a machine gun mounted on an aircraft. The weapon was a prototype designed by Colonel Isaac N. Lewis.

The Lewis Gun was an air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed light machine gun, later produced in calibers .303 British, .30-06 Springfield and 7.92 Mauser by the Birmingham Small Arms Company, Ltd., and the Savage Arms Co. It could fire at a rate of 500–600 rounds per minute. The muzzle velocity was approximately 2,440 feet per second (744 meters per second) and the effective range was 880 yards (805 meters).

Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico, was named in honor Colonel Roy Carrington Kirtland, who had retired in 1938 after 40 years of service. Recalled to active duty in 1941, Colonel Kirtland died at Moffet Field, California, 2 May 1941. He was buried at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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