21 May 1937

Amelia Earhart prepares to leave Burbank, California, 21 May 1937.
Amelia Earhart prepares to leave Burbank, California, 21 May 1937.

21 May 1937: Day 2 of Amelia Earhart’s second attempt to fly around the world aboard her Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, fly from Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California, to Tucson, Arizona, where they stopped to refuel. Earhart’s husband, George Palmer Putnam, and aircraft mechanic Ruckins D. “Bo” McKneely were also aboard. ¹

When Earhart attempted to restart the left engine at Tucson, it caught fire. An unplanned overnight stay was required while the damage was repaired.

“Accompanying me on this hop across the continent was Fred Noonan. “Bo” McKneely my mechanic, and Mr. Putnam. A leisurely afternoon’s flight ended at Tucson, Arizona. The weather was sailing hot as Arizona can be in summertime. After landing and checking in, when I started my motors again to taxi to the filling pit the left one back-fired and burst into flames. For a few seconds it was nip-and-tuck whether the fire would get away from us. There weren’t adequate extinguishers ready on the ground but fortunately the Lux apparatus built in the engine killed the fire. The damage was trivial, mostly some pungently cooked rubber fittings a deal of dirty grime. The engine required a good cleaning and the ship a face-washing.” —Amelia Earhart

¹ Although the standard Lockheed Electra 10E was certified to carry up to 10 passengers, the Restricted certification of NR16020 limited it to, “Only bona fide members of the crew to be carried.” The presence of Putnam and McKneely violated this restriction.

Great Circle route from the location of the former Union Air Terminal (now, Hollywood-burbank Airport) to Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona: 396 nautical miles (455 statute miles/733 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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