Letter From Aviation History – November 2007

9/4/2007 • Amelia Earhart, AVH Issues

The Search Continues

Here we go again. The search is on once more for Amelia Earhart. The most famous “womanhunt” in recent history has been revived several times since the July 2, 1937, disappearance of Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, during a round-the-world attempt while flying a Lockheed Electra from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island in the north Pacific Ocean.

Since the initial search effort was called off and the aviators were declared lost at sea, several theories about their fate—from running out of gas and crashing into the ocean to landing on another island and being captured by the Japanese—have surfaced and a number of expeditions have been mounted to find evidence regarding their fate. Ric Gillespie, head of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), has spent more than $2 million over an 18-year period looking for Earhart evidence, coming up with inconclusive pieces of aircraft aluminum and part of a shoe at Gardner Island (presently named Nikumaroro), south of Howland Island, where he believes the Electra ended up. As of this writing, he was mounting another attempt, his eighth. Another searcher, David Jourdan of Nauticos, spent $4.5 million on two deep-sea sonar searches around Howland Island, also to no avail. His theory is that the Electra ran out of fuel approximately 50 miles from Howland and is sitting on the ocean floor 17,000 feet down.

An exhibit recently opened at the Ninety-Nines Museum of Women Pilots in Oklahoma City to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1937 disappearance and the 75th anniversary of Earhart’s solo flight over the Atlantic Ocean. The 99s, the International Organization of Women Pilots, was organized by—you guessed it—99 women pilots in 1929, and Earhart was not only one of the founders but was elected as the group’s first president. The museum exhibit features several Earhart artifacts, including a scarf she wore on some of her long-distance flights, her pilot’s license, navigation charts and other items.

Stay tuned; this obsession ain’t over yet.

…and on a more personal note. The founding editor of Aviation History is “taking a few days off” and handing the reins over to Carl von Wodtke, who has been the World History Group’s managing editor for 12 years. It is a transition rare in the annals of publishing in that it is a pleasant changeover for both publisher and editor. I have been with Aviation History through more than 100 issues, since the first one appeared in September 1990. It has been a rewarding experience working over the years with the many contributors, publishing staff and the readers whose correspondence has kept us all on our toes. And where do retired editors go? I couldn’t help ending with a takeoff another editor friend gave me on General Douglas MacArthur’s farewell speech, which I listened to live in grammar school: “Old editors never die, they just delete themselves.”