Earhart’s Disappearance Leads to New Britain

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Earhart’s Disappearance Leads to New Britain:

Second World War Australian Patrol Finds Tangible Evidence

Of all the various theories and searches regarding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan, and their Lockheed Electra, only one endeavor has the tangible documentary evidence and eyewitness accounts to buttress the conclusion to their final resting place – the jungle floor in Papua New Guinea. In 1945, an Australian infantry unit discovered an unpainted all-metal twin-engine aircraft wreck in the jungle of East New Britain Island, in what was then called New Guinea.

The Australian infantry patrol was unsure of their actual position in the jungle and were on site for only a few minutes. Before they left the site they retrieved a metal tag hanging by wire on an engine mount. The Australians reported their find and turned in the tag upon return to base. The tag has yet to be recovered from the maze of Australian and American archives, but the letters and numbers etched upon it were transcribed to a wartime map. The map, used by the same Australian unit, was rediscovered in the early 1990’s and revealed a notation “C/N 1055” and two other distinctive identifiers of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra Model 10E.

On 2 July 1937, while en route to Howland Island from Lae, New Guinea, pilot Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared shortly before they were to arrive at Howland Island – up to 2,600 miles and 20 hours after take-off. They were flying a modified Electra aircraft built specifically for the around-the-world journey. Had they arrived at Howland Island, their next stop would have been Hawaii, and finally California. A flight around the world would have been the first by a woman pilot. They undoubtedly encountered headwinds on the flight. The widely accepted last radio voice message from her was “…we are running on line north and south…” manually recorded 20 hours and 14 minutes after take-off by a United States Coast Guard ship at Howland.

This project theory holds that Earhart and Noonan, after flying some 19 hours should have “arrived” close to Howland, but after an hour of fruitless searching for the island, Amelia invoked the Contingency Plan she had made and turned back for the Gilbert Islands. While there were no known usable runways between Lae and Howland except for Rabaul, there was at least the opportunity to ditch the aircraft near to or crash-land on the numerous inhabited islands in the Gilberts along the way if needed, and there was more than sufficient range to reach Ocean or Nauru Islands. Earhart carefully husbanded the engines to extract the maximum range from the remaining fuel. The aircraft had an advertised range of some 4,000 miles in calm air; there should have been plenty of fuel to retreat to the Gilberts at a minimum. Among the myriad of alleged radio calls from Earhart after her last confirmed message were four radio calls heard by the radio operator on Nauru Island…one call was heard just under two hours from her “final” transmission, and some 10 hours later, three more final calls on the pre-selected frequency were heard by the Nauru radioman. The Nauru radio operator was one of only a few radio operators who had reliably monitored Earhart on her outbound leg to Howland – he knew the sound of her voice over the radio. In any event, her aircraft has been projected to have run out of fuel some 50 miles south of Rabaul, New Britain Island, and then crash into the jungle.

Part-00-Map_new

David Billings, a now retired aircraft engineering professional, has been analyzing the flight and searching for Earhart’s Electra for more than 20 years in the jungle of East New Britain. Dense jungle, harsh terrain, poor maps, imprecise archival information, personal resource limitations, and possible natural or manmade burial of the wreckage, have thwarted success. He has led many expeditions into the search area, and has refined his analysis to the likely wreck site using terrain mobility studies, geospatial analysis of aerial and satellite images, custom-built maps, and re-analysed archival maps and documents. As an example, the Australian-held wartime map is authentic, and the handwriting reflects unmistakable discreet data points and little known references of military operations in 1945 East New Britain.

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The longtime map holder, the Second World War Infantry Unit clerk, Len Willoughby, retrieved the map from a map case on a pile of discarded equipment in 1945, and kept the map until he mailed it to former-Corporal Don Angwin in 1993 (and who revealed it to Mr. Billings in 1994). Neither of these former infantrymen had the motive nor “insider” expertise to create or introduce details concerning the Electra’s obscure component identification or situational nuances. The string of numbers and letters, “600H/P. S3H/1 C/N1055,” remains the most significant historical notation found to date in the search for Earhart’s aircraft. This alpha-numeric sequence almost certainly mirrors the details on the metal tag recovered from the engine mount by one of the Australian soldiers on 17 April 1945. This three-group sequence translates to 600 Horsepower, Pratt & Whitney R-1340-S3H1, airframe Construction Number 1055. This airframe construction number IS Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed 10E Electra aircraft, and the engine type exactly matches as well. The eyewitness visual descriptions from three of the Australian veterans at the scene also strongly support this supposition. The date on the map, 24 May 1945, refers to the return answer to the Australians from the American Army, who did not believe it was “one of theirs.”

Powerpoint_AE_PNG_NB_01 14 August 2015

David Billings is planning his final foray into East New Britain in 2018, the 81st anniversary of Earhart’s disappearance.

New satellite maps, a LiDAR survey with GPS-aided systematic search patterns, and more time on site will help in the search.

The search costs thus far have been borne primarily by David with some help from America, from team members and private donations, all of which has been expended on previous expeditions. Some funding will go a long way to assist in providing the answer…

David says:

“After much thought and new analysis of what we do know, a change of tactics is called for and a new search area has been selected. The area now selected was seen to have an area of “loose bare earth” in 1996 but not considered to be of importance as at that time, we were looking for an aircraft wreck on the surface.

The search area is quite remote and every expedition to this area costs a great deal.

Now retired, I need some financial assistance to be able to continue this very interesting project. We have good evidence but need adequate funding. All donations will be thankfully received and acknowledged.”

David Billings, January 2016.


Part 1 – The Beginning | Part 2 – PNG History/Topography | Part 3 – Wreckage is Found
Part 4 – Tangible EvidencePart 5 – Analysis | Part 6 – Lae to Howland Island
Part 7 – Howland area to New Britain – To the Gilberts…
Part 8 – Howland area to New Britain – Flying Westwards for Rabaul
Part 9 – Not Seen, But Not Forgotten
Part 10 – 2017 Expedition Overview
References
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Acknowledgements

I would like to express my greatest thanks to the men of the 11th Australian Infantry Battalion – specifically Don Angwin, Ken Backhouse, Keith Nurse, Roy Walsh and Len Willoughby.

Google Earth:  The Google Earth application has been of enormous assistance with this project in East New Britain by the project being able to look down on the search area for one, and within the project the ability to ascertain distances and locations for points of the Earhart story has been exceedingly helpful.

The Australian War Memorial contains valuable information concerning the efforts of the particular patrol  that found wreckage but also the information contained in the records offers a surrounding view of the events in New Britain at that time of crisis during World War Two.  The AWM records provided invaluable assistance.

The International Group for Historical Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), the organisation based in the U.S. that has carried out research over the years into the disappearance of the Electra and her two crew members.  TIGHAR documentation, and the ascertaining of pertinent facts from within the research contained on the TIGHAR site, is acknowledged.

David


Copyright 2004 to 2018 David Billings – All Rights Reserved

104 thoughts on “Earhart’s Disappearance Leads to New Britain

  1. @ “H” for December 18th….

    Cold, Chilled or Icy Fuel……

    Well, If you can get it and can run it into the engine without problems then the theory is that a “cold gallon of gas” has more energy than a “hot gallon of gas”, because by volume it weighs more (is more dense) and therefore contains more energy than a hot gallon…… So if you are loaded with 1100 USG of “chilled” fuel and leave it standing in the sun you might end up with 1103 USG of less chilled fuel by the time you take off….big deal…

    Personally, I feel it would cause more problems which would outweigh the slight advantage gained.

    You have to chill it and you have to keep the aircraft chilled before take-off. Then you have to climb quickly to where it is cold, to keep it cold…… which means wasting fuel and shortening your track distance with a steep climb as against a slow climb at less power while proportionally increasing your track distance.

    Remember that the R1340-S3H1 Wasp was a supercharged engine with a permanently running direct drive blower but nevertheless it was a carburetor engine, ie; it was not an injected engine. Carburettors are prone to icing up in the cone leading to the venturi, so pushing icy cold fuel through a carburettor is not a good idea. Somewhere in one of the books Earhart mentions carb. heat and she would need it at cruising altitude. Using weakened mixture for economy will also make a Pilot very aware that carb. heat management is essential. Last Flight mentions (on Page 33): “Ice in Carb, engine in and out, leaned too much…”. Over any ocean, that… would get a PIlot’s attention very rapidly….. That quote is also indicative that Earhart was possibly using “Lean of Peak”, where the mixture is leaned off slightly more than normal. Earhart had met Charles Lindbergh and Lindbergh was said to be a user of Lean of Peak.

    The temperature of the air/fuel mixture going into the cylinder on the intake stroke is also crucial to the power developed. A “cool” dense charge of air/fuel mixture will produce more power than a “hot’ less dense charge of mixture for instance but with a blower running at a ratio of 10 to 1, doing its best to compress the mixture, compressing the mixture will heat it up anyway (Boyle’s Law). The weight of the mixture charge also factors into this and that is why water injection is sometime used in a piston engine at take-off because a few drops of water injected with the mixture increase the weight of the mixture charge. Cool fuel and cool air will add to the power generated, for sure, Those of us that have lived in places where cold fogs exist will perhaps have noticed how their car seems a little perkier on cold frosty mornings…. when you have got it started that is !

    There is a very good book I read years ago about the use of cold fuel and that is “Red Ball in the Sky” by Charles F. Blair (Jr). Blair was famous for flying an early Model P-51 Mustang over the Arctic on record runs. The Mustang had been modified to have “wet wings” so the whole of the wing was a fuel tank and his most famous flight over that continent was from Bardufoss in Norway to Alaska (Fairbanks ?) over the pole. Blair’s system was to cram as much fuel as he could into the Mustang so as to ensure he had plenty because navigating over the pole is not an easy thing to do. Of note was that the wing had a leak, so he was quite brave….! Blair was also famous as the man that married the lovely Maureen O’Hara (a 60’s and 70’s film actress for the young ‘uns). Blair’s Mustang hangs from the rafters in the Smithsonian….

    Regards,

    David

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  2. Are you familiar with retired USAF Pilot/Navigator Major Joe Lodrige’s explanation on where Amelia Earhart went missing…? Lecture published on You Tube in May 2017. He surmises that there was insufficient fuel to reach the Gilberts and that AE and FN had crashed east of Howland and Baker, at 10N 175.55W

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    1. @ GlueBall December 19th…

      Yes GlueBall, I have watched Major Lodrige’s theory on the loss at sea, which makes it join the “Crashed and Sankers” series of theories. Has Major Lodrige seen mine ?

      Is Major Lodrige aware of the “Contingency Plan” I wonder, for it would be a brave duo that would venture out towards HOW without considering the need for an alternate. An alternate plan does exist in the transcription in the University of Wyoming as has been mentioned, many times.

      Earhart and Noonan and the Theories:

      I think you would agree that “each and every” theory has to be considered in the search for the Electra and AE & FN. If only the few theories without evidence are considered, then we will get absolutely “Nowhere.”

      Of these theories, around US$10 M + has been spent on scouring the sea-bed as attempts for the C & S theories. These theories are “also” put out by qualified Navigators and those searches of the sea-bed have been made without any success. This money has been spent nevertheless (by Nauticos and Ted Waitt), despite there being no evidence of a loss at sea. The Northern Ireland Group who also have a theory made by a Navigator, are yet to attempt the feat when they can raise the money….they also have no evidence.

      Meanwhile, we wait for anther possible attempt by the group who have “the other website” which seems to be in an exceedingly quiet mood at present. This “other website” group have already spent US$10M of OPM, based on “no evidence” and this group has a theory based on an ever-expanding set of assumptions which bulge outwards like some huge inflated rubber balloon. I see that they are now asking for funds to be able to hear Glen Miller again….. kind of a Moonlight Serenade !

      Then we have The Marshalls and Saipan theories which have a plethora of eye-witnesses which accuse the Japanese of locking up Earhart and Noonan and basically throwing away the key until their souls depart this Earth…. The Japanese were meticulous at keeping records of their deeds. The Unit 731 Harbin records are perfect examples of this record keeping and yet no written evidence of AE & FN being held have emerged and the Marines and Army who were at ASLITO Field on Saipan when the Electra was found in a hangar there, have not come forward to say “Hello”….. yet.

      Meanwhile, here in Australia we have a modest attempt at finding the Electra, which actually does have some evidence in documentary form written on a WWII Map. This documentary evidence has been backed up by the sighting recollections of three Australian Army Veterans. luckily while they were still alive, their accounts being on film.

      This modest project in Australian is abiding by the “each and every theory has to be investigated” rule it has imposed on itself and to aid and assist in that effort, so far I have received around 85 thousand of our dollars in assistance towards expeditions (even my Mother-in-law gave 500 of those !)…. Each of the visits now costs around 25-30 K so you can see that for all the trips we have made over the last 23 years some other money had to come from somewhere and the answer to that is “My pocket”. All in all I think there is a bit of an imbalance there “money wise”, when we do have evidence, compared to the aforementioned U.S. based attempts at finding the Electra, without evidence.

      As I put in one of my last replies, the words of Alan Caldwell are straightforward and true…he basically said, “No one knows where it went and no one knows how far it went”.

      So, again, yes, I have seen the video, all the way through …..and it joins the C & S Club.

      Regards,

      David

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  3. Its a pity Major Lodrige hasn’t seen Mr Billings extensive website . DB has such detailed workings and facts concerning fuel , winds, contacts , and all the key areas that would have been of interest and significance to the Major in arriving at his conclusion.

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  4. Hi David, Your theory, like others, maybe possible but not very probable. See my explanation on google you tube.
    We replaced some of the fuel in a rich mixture with water to allow a more desirable fuel/air ratio for high power
    settings; water provided cooling.( My only experience with water in fuel). Wet air is lighter than cold air and higher
    the temperature , the lighter the air. Probably had both working against their performance.
    My coordinates for her disappearance is 10 minutes N/ 175 degrees 55 minutes W.
    Good luck on you r next venture. Sincerely, Joe

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  5. “… and Good Luck to all who sail in her…”….

    That epithet has been said at many a ship’s launching and in a way it applies to all those that get entangled in the Earhart Mystery and end up spending years of their lives In trying to untangle the mystery and to reach and to provide a sound conclusion for those in mental anguish.

    So it is, that I have spent the last 23 years on trying to figure out what happened so as to provide a plausible explanation. So it is that I have done that because this project actually does hold the only piece of tangible evidence that exists in the world as to where the Electra may lie. I say may lie, but personally, on the evidence we have I believe that the Electra was seen by the Australian Diggers in April1945. I do believe it to be the Electra.

    I have tried to explain, very carefully, in an analysis of the evidence; all the little intricacies that I can think of to reason why it is, that I believe the wreck is the Electra.

    I have tried to explain that there are two sides to the East New Britain Search Project.

    The first side, is the tangible evidence of a wreck in the jungle, an all-metal unpainted wreck with no military insignia, no outer identification that was seen and which had Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines.. The writing on a map gives us information for identification, it relates to the Army Patrol which found “a” wreck and it relates to a “Reference” and that reference is to Earhart’s Electra. That is the first side to the Project.

    The second side to the project is a HYPOTHESIS of the “how’ in “how in hell did it get back to East New Britain.” I really do not care so much about the second side of the project, in fact I care not what people think about this side of the Project. I provided it only to give an idea of what happened as a hypothesis. To add to that hypothesis, of late, I will say that currently because of the erratic navigation aspects late in the flight, I do begin to think Noonan became incapacitated.

    My concern remains the same as it always has been, which is to find and identify the wreck the Diggers saw and prove it either way, prove it is Earhart’s and allow the recovery of the remains by an appropriate authority, for decent burials. If it is not Earhart’s, it will be eliminated from the search and whosoever’s aircraft it is, there will possibly be remains to be notified to the appropriate authorities.

    All the toing and froing, all the pushing of one project against the next …..that has really no place in my thinking, I am concerned with finding that wreck is all. That is it, all else is superfluous.

    Regards,

    David

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  6. David:
    Kudos to your diligent extraordinary performance compilations in demonstrating how AE’s Electra-10E could have stayed airborne 32 hours (averaging 34 gph). It would have required total concentration of aviating with emphasis on precise engine management. It’s a fascinating read.
    Yes, “Good Luck to all who sail in her.” And in such nautical terms one may conclude that Earhart’s sail was too large for her hull.

    Rémy

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  7. Fair comment David. But you’ll have to put up with all the speculation! Having said that your case is by far the most convincing, and backed up with a lot of detail. Another sort of speculation question for you,If Noonan was incapacitated and you were the pilot on the Electra, where would you head for for medical aid- I suppose it would depend whether it was a minor incapacity or something more serious like a heart attack..

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    1. @ “H” Dec 23rd….
      I can put up with the speculation and if I don’t like it I can always ignore it….

      It is speculation on my part that Noonan may have been incapacitated, but the two radio messages: “about 200 miles out, approximately” followed by “about 100 miles out” one half hour later do not give me confidence that they could have come from Noonan, a 200 mph G./S into a headwind would say that the manifold pressure had been increased and they were gulping fuel, which is not likely on a long distance flight. The repeated indecisiveness indicators “about” and “approximately”, are words that indicate that their status is “imprecise” something a Navigator would not openly say until he had no option but to say it, in other words “I am lost” but at 10,000 feet with some distance to go, I feel that the words as spoken are not words “He” would use and therefore they would have come from Earhart. If it was minor he would have carried on. Food poisoning comes to mind as a crippler.

      Where could she go ? Not much choice at all if she was on her own and could not expect any help from Noonan, If HOW refused to appear she has no choice but to turn back for The Gilberts and hope for the best. If she is on her own, she cannot leave the controls. Remember that people moving around on Ann Pellegreno’s 10 A affected the trim of the aircraft so too dangerous to climb back over the tanks to aid Noonan if he was floored and I say “If”.

      …and now MERRY CHRISTMAS to all the readers of this website…

      Regards,

      David

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  8. I don’t think the Indiegogo was a great success for the project David but now you have so much detail on this website might it be worth a go at another CrowdFunding perhaps with a different Crowdfunder?

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    1. @”H” Jan 1st

      The Indiegogo fund raiser of what ? 4-5 years ago ? …..was a complete failure because it was set up incorrectly. At the time a lady in Los Angeles had sent some funding and she had the temporary “rights” to the story under a contract. She was attempting further fundraising by this method and she and her friends decided to set it up without including me as the “face” of the funding appeal and instead placed another guy as the “explaining person” when he was not qualified to do that. I didn’t like it but there was little I could do at the time. I think the total I received was under 2 Grand which went nowhere on the next trip.

      I think I have explained before that part of the problem of accepting funding from a person or persons is that they want their slice of the action by a contract signature and it usually incurs signing away the story rights in perpetuity or for a set period. In the case above the capture of the rights depended on completion of the funding arrangement in a set period of time, something that I had insisted upon and which was stipulated in the contract. The period passed and the contract became null….. Luckily.

      Since then the words “in perpetuity” do not exist for me in the English language when it is in reference to the rights to the story of the Earhart Search Project in East New Britain.

      Regards and Happy New Year to All,
      David

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  9. David, you obviously know the terrain and jungle characteristics of the likely crash site you are looking at although I appreciate it might have been a bit different in 1937 but I wonder what chance you think the planes crew would have stood of initial survival ? Would the trees be strong enough to support the Electra, at least for a while, and if injured would Earhart and Noonan be able to descend safely to ground level. Would post crash radio messages have been feasible in certain circumstances in your view?

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    1. @ “H” Jan 5th

      The Vets described a “round hole” maybe 40 feet across with trees having broken branches visible and the aircraft on the ground on its’ underside. The cockpit smashed back to the wing and the right hand wing bent upwards at the tip from about ten feet or so from the tip. Sounds to me as if it went straight through the tree canopy and hit the ground on the nose and starboard wingtip. The missing engine is the Port engine which if the records are correct should be Serial No. 6150.. I have previously discussed the fact that the props could not be feathered and depending on the position of the Pitch Levers would depend on what the props would do. Possible scenario is a spin to the right and rapid descent into the trees and the impetus ripping the No. 1 engine out and the aircraft going straight though breaking branches and hitting the ground. I would think survivability would be nil. The front of the aircraft was very lightly built hence the damage rearwards to the more substantial wing.
      Radio ? No, not in my view.

      Regards,
      David

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