447338120 Hrs. 40 Min. — Chapter IVAmelia Earhart



CRASHES were frequent enough in these earlier days. I had one myself, during my instruction period. Owing to carelessness in not refuelling, the motor cut out on the take-off, when the plane was about 40 or 50 feet in the air. Neta Snook was with me, but she couldn't help depositing us in a cabbage patch nearby. The propeller and landing gear suffered and I bit my tongue.

The crash was an interesting experience. In such a crisis the passage of time is very slow. I remember it seemed minutes while we were approaching the inevitable cabbages, although of course it was only a few seconds. I had leisure

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to reach over and turn off the switch before we hit.

More than once I have nosed over. Whenever a plane is compelled to stop suddenly there is danger of so doing. I have come down in a muddy field where the wheels stuck. On one occasion I landed in a mattress of dried weeds five or six feet high which stopped me so suddenly that the plane went over on its back with enough force to break my safety belt and throw me out. These are the flat tires of flying and are only as incidental. But real trouble did come to my plane eventually.

I had decided to leave Los Angeles and to sell it, much as I disliked the parting. A young man who had done some flying during the war liked the little sandpiper and eventually purchased it.

After the new owner took possession the first thing he did was to ask a friend to go up with him. At a few hundred feet he began some figure eights, banking vertically and working between a gas station and telegraph pole. All on the field stood rooted to the spot. They knew what chances he was taking. As I remember it, Kinner sent for an ambulance. Suddenly, on one vertical bank the plane slipped. That was the end of it. Both men were killed. It was a sickening sort of thing because it was so unnecessary.

I lingered on in California, another sunkist victim of inertia—or was it the siren song of the realtors? I bought a new plane. Or rather I collected it, because I found I could not buy it all together. At this time there were few who believed that an air cooled motor for planes would become practical. Human nature normally condemns anything new. The complaint of many pilots was that a multiple cylinder radial motor would be too clumsy to sit on the nose of a plane and would cause too much "head resistance." So why bother with one or two cylinder motors which developed little power comparatively? Kinner had a dream. He built one of his own. It had been bought by the man who financed one of the first planes built, in the west, by Donald Douglas, designer of the Round the World Cruisers. Mr. Davis and Mr. Douglas at the time were planning a trans-continental non-stop hop, using a big Liberty engine. But the P.2 flown by Macready and Kelly to San Diego, in the first coast to coast flight, got across first. I bought the Kinner engine from Davis, who was not ready to use it just then. It was the first engine that Kinner turned out.

Of course it was full of "bugs"-no degree of mechanical perfection is ever attained without successive stages of development. Each improvement is a result of many practical working tests. Human intelligence seems to grasp ideas in steps and must work through complicated details to efficient simplicity. The first automobiles had whip holders on the dash, remember. The planes and motors which we see today are the results of evolution. There was a preliminary design of the now famous Wright Whirlwind motor as early as 1917 and it, in turn, had grown from models of air-cooled radials begun by Mr. Lawrence in 1914.

The greatest pleasure I found in my experience with Kinner's motor was that of perhaps having a small part in its development. Its many little ailments had to be diagnosed and cured later. It smoked and spattered oil. Adjustment of a proper propeller was difficult. One of its eccentricities was an excessive vibration which tickled the soles of the feet when they rested on the rudder bar, putting a new meaning into joy ride. Such was the hilarious beginning of one of a group of motors which are being developed in the United States.

The idea of returning to the east, and doing it by air, had been simmering in my mind. Maps and data were all pretty well prepared. Then the old infection, incurred in the Toronto Hospital work, returned, and I was forced to abandon the hop, to the satisfaction of my parents.

My health was so precarious that, disappointed in my intention to fly, I exchanged my plane for a car and drove across the continent. Mother went with me to remind me I was too ill to fly, and together we covered more than 7000 miles before we reached Boston.

I enjoyed three days in Boston before entering Massachusetts General Hospital for a short stay. After convalescing a while I set off for New York, to re-enter Columbia. The next summer was spent at Harvard and the following autumn I began to look about for a job. My sister was teaching, so I indulged in it too. Teaching and settlement work filled the following years—filled them very full, for both occupations require much of one's life. All these other activities allowed little or no time for aviation.

Inevitably certain contacts had persisted from the California days so it was no surprise to hear from Mr. Kinner. He asked me whether I knew anyone in Boston who would take the agency for his planes and motors. I dropped in on the Chamber of Commerce for information. It was evident from the facts gathered from Bernard Wiesman, secretary of the committee on aviation, that the town could struggle along for a while without the additional luxury of a new plane. The air-mail industry seemed to be as strong a dose of aviation as Boston could stand at the time, and Sumner Sewall was having to hold her nose while he spooned that in.

I joined the Boston chapter of the National Aeronautic Association as a reawakening of my active interest in aviation. Ultimately I was made Vice-President (perhaps to get rid of me) serving under Mr. Sewall. Subsequently his activities took him to New York and when I returned from the trans-Atlantic flight I found myself the first woman President of a body of the N. A. A.

Several months later Mr. Kinner wrote again and said he himself had found an agent, who would communicate with me. The hand of Allah had thrown Harold T. Dennison, a young architect of Quincy, in Mr. Kinner's way in California. Mr. Dennison came home determined to build an airport. He owned enough land for an emergency field on the marshes from which Beachey flew to Boston Light in 1910 to win $10,000.

I gathered a few dollars together and became one of five incorporators of a commercial aeronautical concern. Today Dennison Aircraft Corporation is working to create a commercial airport adjoining the naval air base at Squantum.

There is so much to be done in aviation and so much fun to be got from it, that I had become increasingly involved before the flight of the Friendship. I was busy, too, with Miss Ruth Nichols of Rye in trying to work out some means of gathering more women into the fold. The National Playground Association had asked me to be on their Boston committee and judge in the model airplane tournament they were sponsoring in September, 1928. The tournament combined my two greatest interests, aviation and social work, in an unusual way, and I was very glad to serve. Unfortunately the social worker became submerged in the aerial joy-rider and the latter has been too much occupied since her return to be of any use whatsoever.

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