Tag Archives: Frederick Joseph Noonan

22 November 1935

Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130 flying boat, China Clipper (NC14716), leaving the Golden Gate enroute to Honolulu, 22 November 1935. Photographed by Clyde Herwood Sunderland, Jr. (1900–1989).

22 November 1935: The Pan American Airways flying boat, China Clipper, a Martin M-130, NC14716, departed Alameda, California (an island in San Francisco Bay) at 3:46 p.m., Friday, and arrived at Honolulu at 10:39 a.m., Saturday, completing the first leg of a five-day trans-Pacific flight to Manila in the Philippine Islands.

The aircraft commander was Captain Edwin Charles Musick, with First Officer Robert Oliver Daniel (“Rod”) Sullivan. The navigator was Frederick Joseph Noonan, who would later accompany Amelia Earhart on her around-the-world flight attempt. There were also a Second Officer and two Flight Engineers. The cargo consisted of 110,000 pieces of U.S. Mail.

Captain Edwin Musick and R.O.D. Sullivan, at the center of the image, next to the China Clipper before leaving San Francisco Bay with the first transpacific airmail, 22 November 1935. The three men at the right of the image are (left to right) Postmaster General James Farley; Assistant Postmaster General Harllee Branch; and Pan American Airways’ President Juan Trippe.

Pan Am personnel called the Clipper “Sweet Sixteen,” referring to its Civil Aeronautics Board registration number, NC14716. The airplane and Humphrey Bogart starred in a 1936 First National Pictures movie, “China Clipper.”

NC14716 was the first of three Martin M-130 four-engine flying boats built for Pan American Airways and was used to inaugurate the first commercial transpacific air service from San Francisco to Manila in November, 1935. Built at a cost of $417,000 by the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, Maryland, it was delivered to Pan Am on October 9, 1935. The airplane’s serial number was 558.

Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130m China Clipper, NC14716, over San Francisco, California. (Clyde Herwood Sunderland, Jr./Library of Congress 94509045)

The M-130 was operated by a flight crew of 6–9, depending on the length of the flight, plus cabin staff, and could carry 18 passengers on overnight flights, or a maximum 36 passengers.

Cutaway illustration of Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130 China Clipper. Detail from larger image. (National Air and Space Museum SI-89-1216-A)
Martin M-130 3-view drawing. (Flight)

The Martin M-130 was 90 feet, 10.5 inches (27.699 meters) long with a wingspan of 130 feet, 0 inches (39.624 meters). It was 24 feet, 7 inches (7.493 meters) high. The total wing area was 2,315 square feet (215 square meters), including the “sea wings”. Its maximum takeoff weight was 52,252 pounds (23,701 kilograms).

The flying boat was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S2A5-G two-row 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1.  They had a normal power rating 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 950 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. for takeoff. They drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The S2A5-G was 3 feet, 11.88 inches (1.216 meters) in diameter, 4 feet, 8.75 inches (1.441 meters) long, and weighed 1,235 pounds (560 kilograms).

Martin M-130 NC14716, right rear quarter view.

The airplane had a cruise speed of 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 180 miles per hour (290 kilometers per hour). The M-130’s service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its range was 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers).

Martin M-130, NC14716, China Clipper, moored at some distant exotic locale.
Martin M-130, NC14716, China Clipper, moored at some distant exotic locale. (Unattributed)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

Amelia Mary Earhart (24 July 1897– )

Amelia Mary Earhart, 1926 (Associated Press)

24 July 1897: Amelia Mary Earhart was born at Atchison, Kansas. She was the older of two daughters of Edwin Stanton Earhart, an attorney, and Amelia Otis Earhart.

Amelia attended Hyde Park School in Chicago, Illinois, graduating in 1916. In 1917, she trained as a nurse’s aide with the Red Cross. While helping victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic, she herself contracted the disease and was hospitalized for approximately two months. In 1919 Earhart entered Columbia University studying medicine, but left after about one year.

Red Cross Nurse’s Aide Amelia Mary Earhart, circa 1917–1918. (Amelia Earhart Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University)

Amelia first rode in an airplane at Long Beach, California with pilot Frank Monroe Hawks, 28 December 1920. The ten-minute flight began her life long pursuit of aviation. She trained under Mary Anita Snook at Kinner Field near Long Beach, California.

Earhart was the sixteenth woman to become a licensed pilot when she received her certificate from the National Aeronautic Association on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) on 16 May 1923.

Amelia Earhart’s first pilot’s license. (National Portrait Gallery)

Amelia Earhart became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air when she accompanied pilot Wilmer Lower Stultz and mechanic Louis Edward Gordon as a passenger aboard the Fokker F.VIIb/3m, NX4204, Friendship, 17–18 June 1928. The orange and gold, float-equipped, three-engine monoplane had departed from Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and arrived at Burry Port on the southwest coast of Wales, 20 hours, 40 minutes later. (Although Earhart was a pilot with approximately 500 hours of flight experience at this time, she did not serve as one of the pilots on this flight.)

Fokker F.VIIb/3m Friendship at Southampton. (Historic Wings)

On 1 May 1930, the Aeronautics Branch, Department of Commerce, issued Transport Pilot’s License No. 5716 to Amelia Mary Earhart. On 25 June 1930, the newly-licensed commercial pilot set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Record for Speed Over a a Closed Circuit of 100 Kilometers With a 500 Kilogram Payload, averaging 275.90 kilometers per hour (171.44 miles per hour) with her Lockheed Vega.¹ That same day, she set another World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers of 281.47 kilometers per hour (174.90 miles per hour).² About two weeks later, Earhart increased her Vega’s speed across a shorter, 3 kilometer course, with an average 291.55 kilometers per hour (181.16 miles per hour).³

Amelia Earhart was a charter member of The Ninety-Nines, Inc., an international organization of licensed women pilots. She served as their first president, 1931–1933.

On 7 February 1931, Miss Earhart married George Palmer Putnam in a civil ceremony at Noank, Connecticut. Judge Arthur P. Anderson presided. In a written prenuptial agreement, Miss Earhart expressed serious misgivings about marrying Mr. Putnam, and wrote, “. . . I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.

Amelia Earhart models a women’s flying suit of her own design. (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Earhart had her own line of women’s fashions, made from wrinkle-free fabrics. She modeled for her own advertisements. In November 1931, Earhart was the subject of a series of photographs by Edward Steichen for Vogue, an American fashion magazine.

Amelia Earhart photographed for Vogue Magazine by Edward Steichen, November 1931.

At Warrington, Pennsylvania, 8 April 1931, Amelia Earhart (now, Mrs. George P. Putnam) flew a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro to an altitude of 5,613 meters (18,415 feet). Although a sealed barograph was sent to the National Aeronautic Association for certification of a record, NAA does not presently have any documentation that the record was actually homologated.

On the night of 20–21 May 1932, Amelia Earhart flew her Vega 5B from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, solo and non-stop, across the Atlantic Ocean to Culmore, Northern Ireland. The distance flown was 2,026 miles (3,260.5 kilometers). Her elapsed time was 14 hours, 56 minutes. On 18 July 1932, Earhart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Herbert Hoover, for “extraordinary achievement in aviation.”

Amelia Earhart with her red and gold Lockheed Vega 5B, NR7952, at Culmore, North Ireland, after her solo transatlantic flight, 21 May 1932. (National Library of Ireland)

Earhart next flew her Vega non-stop from Los Angeles, California, to New York City, New York, 24–25 August 1932, setting an FAI record for distance without landing of 3,939.25 kilometers (2,447.74 miles).⁴ Her Lockheed Vega 5B, which she called her “little red bus,” is displayed in the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

At 4:40 p.m., local time, 11 January 1935, Amelia Earhart departed Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, for Oakland Municipal Airport at Oakland, California, in her Lockheed Vega 5C Special, NR965Y. She arrived 18 hours, 15 minutes later. Earhart was the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the Mainland.

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, at Wheeler Field, 11 January 1935.(Getty Images/Underwood Archives)

Amelia Earhart is best known for her attempt to fly around the world with navigator Frederick J. Noonan in her Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, in 1937. She disappeared while enroute from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Central Pacific, 2 July 1937. The massive search effort for her and her navigator failed, and what happened to her and Noonan remains a mystery.

Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Electra Model 10E Special, NR16020.

Although the exact date of her death is not known, Amelia Mary Earhart (Mrs. George Palmer Putnam) was declared dead in absentia by the Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, 5 January 1939. (Probate file 181709)

George Palmer Putnam leaves the Los Angeles Superior Court after missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart was declared dead in absentia, 5 January 1939. (Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive , UCLA Library.)

¹ FAI Record File Number 14993

² FAI Record File Number 14956

³ FAI Record File Number 12326

⁴ FAI Record File Number 12342

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

1 June 1937

Amelia Earhart, in the cockpit of her Electra, with George Palmer Putnam, at Miami, 1 June 1937. (Wichita Eagle/Associated Press)
Amelia Earhart in the cockpit of her Electra with George Palmer Putnam, at Miami, 1 June 1937. (Wichita Eagle/Associated Press)

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.

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Model 10E Electra, NR16020, just prior to departure, Miami, Florida, 1 June 1937. Note that teh Electra's rear window has been replaced by aluminum sheet. (Miami Herald)
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10E Electra, NR16020, just prior to departure, Miami, Florida, 1 June 1937. Note that the Electra’s rear window has been replaced by sheet aluminum. (Miami Herald)

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.

—Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, taking off at Miami, Florida, 1 June 1937. (Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections)
Great Circle route between Miami Airport, Florida, and Isla Grande Airport (now known as Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport), San Juan, Puerto Rico, 903 nautical miles. (Great Circle Mapper).

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

23 May 1937

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10E NR16020 is refueled at Miami, Florida, 1 June 1937
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, is refueled at Miami, Florida.

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

Great Circle courses from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Tampa, Florida, 413 nautical miles, then on to Miami, for a total of 591 nautical miles (680 statute miles/1,094 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

The Miami Tribune reported:

Miami Tribune, Vol. IV, No. 191, Monday, 24 May, 1937, Page 1


     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

© 2022, Bryan R. Swopes

22 May 1937

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020

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.

With Husband

     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.

Extinguishers Needed

     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.

Filler Provided

     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.”

Made History

     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. . . .”

— Amelia Earhart

Great Circle route between Tucson, Arizona, and New Orleans, Louisiana. 1,069 nautical miles (1,230 statute miles/1,980 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

© 2022, Bryan R. Swopes