National Geographic : 1935 May
MY FLIGHT FROM HAWAII BY AMELIA EARHART THE story of my flight from Honolulu to San Francisco begins several months before the date of the cross ing. Paul Mantz, my technical adviser, Ernie Tissot, mechanic, and others had worked for some time getting the plane and motor in readiness. On December 22, 1934, these two, with Mrs. Mantz, Mr. Putnam and me, set off from Los Angeles for Honolulu. The airplane, intact, rode with us on the Lurline, secured as only sailors could do it, on the aft tennis deck. During the five days of the voyage we ran the motor up several times, lest it swal low too much corroding salt moisture, and tested the radio. After midnight, as far as 1,000 miles from shore, we picked up the familiar airway station signals. "Sparks," the Lurline's radio operator, was much in terested in our set and was extremely helpful. Two weeks in Honolulu were necessary for final testing and checking. Paul and Ernie, with United States Army helpers, worked day and night. I stayed away ex cept for special tests I had to make. This was partly because I could not help the competent gentlemen in any way and partly because I believe it is better for the flyer's peace of mind to back away from the proj ect in hand, occasionally, and get perspec tive. By January 11, Paul had completed to his satisfaction final mechanical details on the plane. I was fit as could be and weather was favorable. THE WIND IS PERVERSE I had intended to try taking off about 1:30 or 2 o'clock in the afternoon, but late in the morning light rain began to fall. Before 1 o'clock it had turned into a tropi cal downpour. The wind, instead of blow ing from the northeast as it had been doing, came perversely from the southwest. Wheeler Field, the Army airport which I planned to use, has no hard-surface run ways, and I knew the ground would be fairly soft for a heavily loaded plane. I was carrying more than 500 gallons of gas oline, and this, combined with other extras, weighted my plane more than ever before. However, the field is 6,000 feet long and slopes into the direction of the prevailing winds. A plane takes off against the wind as does a small boy's kite. Even with unfavorable surface conditions and with out the usual help from the wind, I still felt I could lift my plane in a 3,000-foot run, perhaps less. The Army authorities had kindly mowed a pathway for me in the smoothest part of the reservation and had planted small white flags along the edge to guide me. As lunch time approached with no im provement in weather, a small group of those intimately connected with the flight had luncheon at the home of Lieutenant and Mrs. George Sparhawk. The invaluable aid Lieutenant Sparhawk rendered in con nection with radio tests was equaled only by his wife's ability and willingness to turn her home into a temporary boarding house for Putnams, Mantzes, and their associates. FIELD WET, PLANE WET, AND SPIRITS DAMP Intermittently someone at the window reported weather changes. I went to sleep for a while and awoke about 2:30-to the continued patter of rain. About 3:30 the rain slackened. The wind died down and the clouds gave prom ise of breaking at last. So I drove to the hangar where my plane was housed. Weather forecasts over the Pacific were satisfactory, but would not remain so the next day. Unless I took off, despite the local meteorological upset, I might be held indefinitely. I found the field wet, the plane wet, and certainly the spirits of the faithful few who were standing by were damp, indeed. However, I asked that the motor be warmed and my few belongings stowed. At 4:30 I climbed into the cockpit and tested the motor. It sounded crisp and lusty. There were about two hundred people standing silent on the apron, somber weather having discouraged more of the curious. I saw several women with handker chiefs obviously ready for any emergency. Out of the corner of my eye I sighted three fire engines and an ambulance posted down the field where "X" might be ex pected to mark the spot if an accident occurred. The Army to a man seemed to have portable fire extinguishers in their hands.