Monday, June 18, 2012

Two Hours And Six Minutes Of Going Nowhere - Fred Noonan

On this date seventy-five years ago Amelia Earhart left Calcutta, India, headed for Rangoon, Burma.  After a fuel stop at Akyab, she and Fred took off but were forced back by monsoon rains.
In her own words -- “When we reached the airport at dawn nocturnal rains had soaked it. The ground was thoroughly wet, precarious for a take-off. But meteorologists advised that more rain was coming and that likely we could dodge through the intermittent deluges of the day but that if we remained the field might become waterlogged beyond use. That take-off was precarious, perhaps as risky as any we had. The plane clung for what seemed like ages to the heavy sticky soil before the wheels finally lifted, and we cleared with nothing at all to spare the fringe of trees at the airdrome’s edge. Once in the air the elements grew progressively hostile. The wind, dead ahead, began to whip furiously. Relentless rain pelted us. Everything was obliterated in the deluge, so savage that it beat off patches of paint along the leading edge of my plane’s wings.  After trying to get through for a couple of hours we give up, forced to retreat to Akyab. Back-tracking, we headed out to sea, flying just off the surface of the water. We were afraid to come low over land on account of the hills. When it’s impossible to see a few hundred yards ahead through the driving moisture the prospect of suddenly encountering hilltops is not a pleasant one. By uncanny powers, Fred Noonan managed to navigate us back to the airport, without being able to see anything but the waves beneath our plane. His comment was, ‘Two hours and six minutes of going nowhere.’ For my part, I was glad that our landing gear was retractable, lest it be scraped on trees or waves….” —Amelia Earhart
In But This Is Different going back for any reason was the last thing Amelia wanted to do because someone waited for her on a very small, almost invisible island in the South Pacific.
In the photograph Amelia and Fred wait for possibly another opportunity to leave Akyab and resume their improbable journey.

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