2 July 1937: At approximately 10:00 a.m., local time, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan departed Lae, Territory of New Guinea, aboard their Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, enroute to Howland Island, 2,243 nautical miles (2,581 statute miles/4,154 kilometers) east-northeast across the South Pacific Ocean. The airplane was loaded with 1,100 gallons (4,164 liters) of gasoline, sufficient for 24 to 27 hours of flight.
1 July 1937: Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan are delayed another day at Lae, Territory of New Guniea.
“July 1st. ‘Denmark’s a prison,’ and Lae, attractive and unusual as it is, appears to two flyers just as confining, as the Electra is poised for our longest hop, the 2,556 miles to Howland Island in mid-Pacific. The monoplane is weighted with gasoline and oil to capacity. However, a wind blowing the wrong way and threatening clouds conspired to keep her on the ground today. In addition, Fred Noonan has been unable, because of radio difficulties, to set his chronometers. Any lack of knowledge of their fastness and slowness would defeat the accuracy of celestial navigation. Howland is such a small spot in the Pacific that every aid to locating it must be available. Fred and I have worked very hard in the last two days repacking the plane and eliminating everything unessential. We have even discarded as much personal property as we can decently get along without and henceforth propose to travel lighter than ever before. All Fred has is a small tin case which he picked up in Africa. I noted it still rattles, so it cannot be packed very full. Despite our restlessness and disappointment in not getting off this morning, we still retained enough enthusiasm to do some tame exploring of the near-by country.” —Amelia Earhart
30 June 1956: At approximately 10:32 a.m., two airliners, United Airlines’ Douglas DC-7 serial number 44288, Mainliner Vancouver, Civil Aeronautics Administration registration N6324C, and Trans World Airlines’ Lockheed L-1049-54-80 Super Constellation serial number 4016, Star of the Seine, N6902C, were over the Grand Canyon at 21,000 feet (6,400 meters).
Both airliners had departed Los Angeles International Airport shortly after 9:00 a.m. TWA Flight 2 was headed for Kansas City Downtown Airport with 64 passengers and 6 crew members. United Flight 718 was enroute to Chicago Midway Airport with 53 passengers and 5 crew members.
The airplanes were over the United States desert southwest, which, at that time, was outside of radar-controlled airspace. They were flying around towering cumulus clouds to comply with regulations that they “remain clear of clouds.”
The airplanes collided at about a 25° angle. The accident report describes the impact:
“First contact involved the center fin leading edge of the Constellation and the left aileron tip of the DC-7. The lower surface of the DC-7 left wing struck the upper aft fuselage of the L-1049 with disintegrating force. The collision ripped open the fuselage of the Constellation from just forward of its tail to near the main cabin door. The empennage of the L-1049 separated almost immediately. The plane pitched down and fell to the ground. Most of the left outer wing of the DC-7 had separated and aileron control was restricted. . . .”
The Constellation struck the ground near Temple Butte at an estimated 475 miles per hour (765 kilometers per hour). The DC-7’s left wing was so badly damaged that it went into an uncontrolled left spin and crashed at Chuar Butte. All 128 persons on the two airliners were killed.
This, as well as other accidents, resulted in significant changes in the United States air traffic control system.
30 June 1937. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan are delayed at Lae, Territory of New Guinea.
“Everyone has been as helpful and co-operative as possible—food, hot baths, mechanical service, radio and weather reports, advice from veteran pilots here—all combine to make us wish we could stay. However, tomorrow we should be rolling down the runway, bound for points east. Whether everything to be done can be done within this time remains to be seen. If not, we cannot be home by the Fourth of July as we had hoped, even though we are one day up on the calendar of California. It is Wednesday here, but Tuesday there. On this next hop we cross the 180th Meridian, the international dateline when clocks turn back twenty-four hours.” —Amelia Earhart
29 June 1937: Leg 28. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan fly the Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, to Lae, Territory of New Guinea.
“Lae, New Guinea, June 30th. After a flight of seven hours and forty-three minutes from Port Darwin, Australia, against head winds as usual, my Electra now rests on the shores of the Pacific. Beyond the Gulf of Huon the waters stretch into the distance. Somewhere beyond the horizon lies California. Twenty-two thousand miles have been covered so far. There are 7,000 to go.
“From Darwin we held a little north of east, cutting across the Wellington Hills on the northern coast of Arnhem Land, which is the topmost region of Australia’s Northern Territory. The distance to Lae was about 1,200 miles. Perhaps two-thirds of it was over water, the Arafura Sea, Torres Strait and the Gulf of Papua.
“Midway to New Guinea the sea is spotted with freakish islands, stony fingers pointing towards the sky sometimes for hundreds of feet. We had been told the clouds often hang low over this region and it was better to climb above its hazardous minarets than to run the risks of dodging them should we lay our course close to the surface. Then, too, a high mountain range stretches the length of New Guinea from northwest to southeast. Port Moresby was on the nearer side, but it was necessary to clamber over the divide to reach Lae situated on the low land of the eastern shore. As the journey progressed we gradually increased our altitude to more than 11,000 feet to surmount the lower clouds encountered. Even at that, above us towered cumulus turrets, mushrooming miraculously and cast into endless designs by the lights and shadows of the lowering sun. It was a fairy-story sky country, peopled with grotesque cloud creatures who eyed us with ancient wisdom as we threaded our way through its shining white valleys. But the mountains of cloud were only dank gray mist when we barged into them, that was healthier than playing hide-and-seek with unknown mountains of terra firma below. Finally, when dead reckoning indicated we had traveled far enough, we let down gingerly. The thinning clouds obligingly withdrew and we found ourselves where we should be, on the western flanks of the range with the coastline soon blow us. Working along it, we found Lae and sat down. We were thankful we had been able to make our way successfully over those remote regions of sea and jungle – strangers in a strange land.” —Amelia Earhart