2 June 1937: After an overnight stay at San Juan, Puerto Rico, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan continued on Leg 6 of their around-the-world flight, to Caripito, Venezuela, approximately 611 miles (984 kilometers) southeast. They arrived at 1:18 p.m., local time.
“I rolled out of bed at a quarter of four in the morning, hoping to make a dawn take-off from San Juan, but actually the Electra did not lift her wheels from the runway until nearly seven o’clock, with the sun well above the horizon. . . I flew at 8,000 feet most of the way, bucking head winds of probably thirty miles an hour. . . The coast of Venezuela in the hazy distance was my first glimpse of South America. As we drew near I saw densely wooded mountains and between them wide valleys of open plains and jungle. I had never seen a jungle before. . . close-knit tropic jungles are in a pilot’s eyes about the least desirable of all possible landing places. . . A muddy river wound through the mountain pass we followed, a reddish-brown snake crawling among tight-packed greenery. A few miles inland lay the red-roofed town of Caripito, with squat oil tanks on the outskirts. There was a splendid airfield, with paved runways and a well-equipped hangar. It is managed jointly by Pan American Airways and the Standard Oil Company.“
1 June 1937: After a takeoff accident at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, on 20 March 1937 ended Amelia Earhart’s first attempt to fly around the world, her damaged Lockheed Electra 10E was shipped to Lockheed at Burbank, California, for extensive repairs.
When the airplane was once again ready, she and her husband, George Palmer Putnam, navigator Fred Noonan and aircraft mechanic Ruckins D. “Bo” McKinney had flown the Electra from Burbank to Oakland to restart the around-the-world flight, this time heading eastward because of seasonal changes in worldwide weather patterns.
With overnight stops at Burbank, Tucson, and New Orleans, they arrived at Miami, Florida on 24 May. The cross-country flight was not publicly announced, and considered a “shake down” following the repairs.
With most of the problems that came up resolved, Earhart and Noonan were finally ready to go. The press was notified, the Electra refueled, and they departed Miami for Isla Grande Airport, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 903 nautical miles (1,039 miles/1,673 kilometers) across the Caribbean Sea, and their Flight Into History.
I closed and fastened the hatch . . . Then I started the motors. The engines had already been well warmed so now after appraising for a moment their full-throated smooth song, I signaled to have the wheel chocks removed and we taxied to the end of the runway in the far southeast corner of the field. Thirty seconds later, with comforting ease, we were in the air and on our way.
For her around-the-world flight, the airplane that Amelia Earhart chose was a Lockheed Electra 10E, manufactured by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California. The Electra Model 10 was an all-metal, twin-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear, designed as a small, medium-range airliner. In the standard configuration it carried a crew of 2 and up to 10 passengers. The Model 10 was produced in five variants with a total of 149 airplanes built between August 1934 and July 1941. Lockheed built fifteen Model 10Es. Earhart’s was serial number 1055.
$80,000 to buy the Electra was provided by the Purdue Research Foundation from donations made by several individuals. George Palmer Putnam, Amelia’s husband, made the arrangements to order the airplane and in March 1936 gave Lockheed the authorization to proceed, with delivery requested in June. The modifications included four auxiliary fuel tanks in the passenger compartment, a navigator’s station to the rear of that, elimination of passenger windows, installation of a Sperry autopilot and various radio and navigation equipment and additional batteries. The Electra was not ready until mid-July.
Amelia Earhart test flew the new airplane at Burbank on 21 July with Lockheed test pilot Elmer C. McLeod. She accepted the Electra on her 39th birthday, 24 July 1936. It received civil certification NR16020. (The letter “R” indicates that because of modifications from the standard configuration, the airplane was restricted to carrying only members of the flight crew, although Earhart and her advisor, Paul Mantz, frequently violated this restriction.)
The Electra 10E was 38 feet, 7 inches (11.760 meters) long with a wingspan of 55 feet (16.764 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 1 inch (3.074 meters). The standard Model 10 had an empty weight of 6,454 pounds (2,927.5 kilograms) and a gross weight of 10,500 pounds (4,762.7 kilograms). NR16020 had an empty weight of 7,265 pounds (3295.4 kilograms). Lockheed’s performance data was calculated using 16,500 pounds (7,484.3 kilograms) as the Maximum Takeoff Weight.
NR16020 had a total fuel capacity of 1,151 gallons (4,357 liters) in ten tanks in the wings and fuselage. 80 gallons (302.8 liters) of lubricating oil for the engines was carried in four tanks.
Earhart’s Electra 10E Special was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S3H1 nine-cylinder radial engines, with a compression ratio of 6:1. These engines used a single-stage centrifugal supercharger and were rated at 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) and 600 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m. for take off. The direct-drive engines turned 9 foot, 7/8-inch (3.010 meters) diameter, two-bladed, Hamilton Standard variable-pitch, constant-speed propellers. The Wasp S3H1 is 4 feet, 3.60 inches (1.311 meters) in diameter and 3 feet, 7.01 inches (1.093 meters) long. It weighed 865 pounds (392 kilograms).
A detailed engineering report was prepared by a young Lockheed engineer named Clarence L. (“Kelly”) Johnson to provide data for the best takeoff, climb and cruise performance with the very heavily loaded airplane. The maximum speed for the Model 10E Special at Sea Level and maximum takeoff weight was 177 miles per hour (284.9 kilometers per hour), a reduction of 25 miles per hour (40.2 kilometers per hour) over the standard airplane. The maximum range was calculated to be 4,500 miles (7,242.1 kilometers) using 1,200 gallons (4,542.5 liters) of fuel.
Johnson would later design many of Lockheed’s most famous aircraft, such as the SR-71A Blackbird Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance airplane. As a student at the University of Michigan, he worked on the wind tunnel testing of the Lockheed Electra Model 10 and made recommendations that were incorporated into the production airplane.
The Electra was heavily damaged when it crashed on takeoff at Luke Field (NAS Ford Island), Honolulu, Hawaii, on the morning of 20 March 1937. It was shipped back to Lockheed for extensive repairs. An investigating board of U.S. Army officers did not report a specific cause for the accident, but there was no evidence of a “blown tire” as had been reported in the newspapers. The repairs were completed by Lockheed and the aircraft certified as airworthy by a Bureau of Commerce inspector, 19 May 1937. The airplane had flown 181 hours, 17 minutes since it was built.
Earhart’s Electra was equipped with a Western Electric Model 13C radio transmitter and Model 20B receiver for radio communication. It used a Sperry GyroPilot gyroscopic automatic pilot.
23 May 1937: Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, her husband, George Palmer Putnam, and aircraft mechanic Ruckins D. “Bo” McKinney, arrive at Miami, Florida, aboard her Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020. This completed the fourth leg of her second attempt to fly around the world.
. . . on Sunday morning, May 23, headed on southeastward for Miami. From New Orleans we laid a straight course across the north-easterly “corner” of the Gulf of Mexico to Tampa, a matter of about 400 miles. It was Bo’s first considerable over-water flying and I am not sure he was very enthusiastic about it. That Sunday afternoon we reached Miami, and dug in for a week of final preparation, with the generous aid of Pan American personnel.
— Amelia Earhart
The Miami Tribune reported:
—Miami Tribune, Vol. IV, No. 191, Monday, 24 May, 1937, Page 1
AMELIA EARHART PAYS MIAMI SURPRISE VISIT IN ‘LABORATORY’
Amelia Earhart, world famous flyer, paid Miami a surprise visit yesterday, landing at the 36th st. airport at 2:43 p.m. in her “Flying Laboratory,” 4 hours and 31 minutes out of New Orleans on a shakedown cruise for the plane, which had just been rebuilt after its crash in Honolulu on a projected world flight.
Miss Earhart was accompanied by her publisher-husband, George Palmer Putnam. Capt. Fred Noonan, her navigator on the trip that ended in Honolulu on March 20 when a tire was blown in an attempt to takeoff at Luke field after a record breaking flight from the American mainland and by her mechanic, “Bo” Mc-Kneeley.
Other members of the welcoming committee were David Putnam, manager of the Fort Pierce airport, and his wife. David is Putnam’s son by a former marriage. The younger Putnam’s had been informed earlier of the pending arrival, but had not made their information public.
Miami’s first news of her arrival came a little more than an hour before her landing when a radio message was received at Pan American Airways. George Hussey, chairman of the mayor’s reception committee, and R. V. Waters, president of the Greater Miami Airport association, hurried to the field to greet the celebrated arrivals, and to invite Miss Earhart to appear in Bayfront park tonight at the city’s welcome for Capt. Dick Merrill and Jack Lambia. The invitation was accepted.
“We’re just out on a shakedown trip,” Miss Earhart said. “Miami wasn’t on our route as originally planned, but on reaching New Orleans we decided to continue the trip and visit David.
“We crossed the Gulf, and with the navigation of Captain Noonan, hit Tampa squarely on the nose and within one minute of the time he said he would be over the city, and when one considers wind drift, that’s pretty good navigation. We expect to stay here two or three days.”
All of the facilities of the 36th st. airport being taxed with Eastern Airlines planes, Miss Earhart stopped there but a few minutes, then hopped over to Municipal airport, where hanger space was arranged for her plane.
—Miami Tribune, Vol. IV, No. 191, Monday, 24 May, 1937, Page 3, Columns 2–4
22 May 1937: Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020 was repaired at Tucson, Arizona after its left engine, a Pratt & Whitney Wasp S3H1 nine-cylinder radial, caught fire while restarting after a fuel stop the previous day. Amelia Earhart and her Navigator, Fred Noonan, and two passengers, flew to New Orleans, Louisiana, on the 22nd.
Although she was actually on the third leg of her second around-the-world-flight attempt, no public announcement had yet been made. She—well, prevaricated—when speaking to local newspaper reporters.
The Arizona Daily Star reported:
Fire Delays Amelia Earhart Here While She Plans Flight
Will Start on World Trip Near the End of This Month She Says While Searching for Fire Extinguisher After Dousing Small Blaze In Plane
Temporarily grounded in Tucson due to a minor fire which did little damage to the motor of her $90,000 Flying Laboratory, Amelia Earhart announced here last night that with good weather, her second globe girdling trip would start sometime near the end of this month. The route will be the same except for minor changes called for by shifting weather conditions.
The The Blaze Miss Earhart said was just minor and was caused when an overheated motor “backfired.” It was quickly smothered by a mechanical chemical extinguisher which Miss Earhart released. She said this shot the chemical into all parts of the engine and put the fire out. The damage was negligible she said and she expects to take off today for some eastern city, probably El Paso.
Miss Earhart, with her husband, George Palmer Putnam, New York publisher, Captain Fred Noonan, and her mechanic, Bo McKneely, had just landed at the municipal airport after a flight from Burbank, California, when flames shot from the engine. The aviatrix, who had left the plane, saw the fire break out in the left motor as the plane was being taxied to the hangar. The plane was stopped and she extinguished the blaze with the automatic extinguisher connected with the motor.
The huge craft, twin-motored Lockhead [sic] Electra, was taken to the hangar, where attendants cleaned the soot and chemical from the engine.
Just Out of Shop
Miss Earhart and her party came to the Pioneer hotel last night after the plane was taken care of in the municipal hangar. She said the plane had just been out of the factory at Burbank for two days after having been completely overhauled following the crack-up in Honolulu. “It’s just like new now,” and has to be taken on a shake-down flight. I’d like to put 50 hours on it before the big flight.”
Thursday they flew from Burbank to Oakland and return and yesterday they came here. Putnam is returning to New York and Miss Earhart will fly him part way. “I’m just flying anywhere,” she said, “merely to check the plane and see that everything is working properly. We made all of our fuel tests before and of course don’t have to do that again. Our course this time will be much the same as the last one with the exception of a few changes due to shifting weather. That course was made for conditions as they were in March and now, 60 days later, the weather has altered in some places. The route will be primarily around the world following the equator.”
Something to Do
Miss Earhart said she would like very much to make this first around the world flight. “If I don’t some one else will,” she added. She said lone flyers have pioneered all the present commercial and it’s up to lone flyers to continue making new courses. “And besides this flight gives me something to do,” she concluded.
In the meantime Miss Earhart was without a serviceable fire extinguisher. Her trick mechanical one that so neatly put out the fire last night was exhausted and as it must be filled with a special “under pressure” system which the local airport did not possess, she could not have it recharged until she returns to Burbank. She also carries in her plane several of the small quart size hand operated extinguishers. These were also played on yesterday’s blaze by mechanics and were empty.
Putnam and Miss Earhart decided that they would have to have some serviceable fire fighting equipment before they left in the morning, just as a precautionary measure. They decided, at least, to get their small hand operated extinguishers recharged. Surely, they thought, they could get them filled in Tucson.
A half hour on the telephone calling everyone possible from he fire department to the airport revealed no recharge chemical for the extinguishers. They decided to abandon that idea and get an extinguisher, but the little ones they had cost $14. Now $14 is a good bit to pay for additional extinguishers even for a $90,000 plane, when you already have some and all you need is the chemical.
Finally the night man at the Motor Service company said he had one dandy big extinguisher of the “turn upside down and let ‘er go” variety which he thought would be just swell for Miss Earhart’s Plane. The phones buzzed again and Putnam said, “Buy it, then we’ll have something.” But this extinguisher, bright and shiny with a pretty red handle, was not filled. That was an easy problem and was soon solved by Chief Joe Robert’s men. He carefully measured each chemical and filled it properly. The copper extinguisher was promptly delivered to Miss Earhart. She started to write out a check to pay for teh apparatus and said, “What date is today?”
She was told “May 21.”
“Why that’s right,” she said, “five years ago today I landed in Ireland.”
Miss Earhart went on talking about her propsed trip. She might also have mentioned that on that trip five years ago she made world history, being the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic ocean, her flight was from Newfoundland to Ireland. In January 1935, she flew from Hawaii to California and in May of the same year she flew from Mexico City to New York in a non-stop jump. This past March she set a new record in her flight from California to Honolulu.
The fire extinguisher man pocketed the check and left. Then half of Tucson called up with extinguishers of all descriptions. Her mechanic secured recharges for the hand extinguishers and all was well. She was told to be sure and keep this newly purchased extinguisher in an upright position. Not expecting to do any loops, she said she would.
—The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona, Vol. 96, No. 142, Saturday Morning, 22 May 1937, at Page 1, Columns 6 and 7, and Page 5, Columns 2 and 3
“The next morning at Tucson a dense sandstorm blocked our way, but despite it we took off, leap-frogging at 8,000 feet over El Paso with a seemingly solid mass of sand billowing below us like a turbulent yellow sea. That night we reached New Orleans. . . .”