447339420 Hrs. 40 Min. — Chapter VAmelia Earhart



When it was all over I read in the papers that I had been planning a trans-Atlantic flight for a year. I read much else that was equally imaginative. In fact, the press introduced me to an entirely new person. It appeared that I was a demi-orphan; my father, I learned, had been dead four years—I saved that clipping for him. One day I read that I was wealthy, the next that the sole purpose of my flight was to lift the mortgage from the old homestead—which there isn't any—I mean homestead.

The truth about the chance to fly was as amusing as the journalistic scenarios. The opportunity came as casually as an invitation to a matinee, and it came by telephone. As a matter of fact, the three of us who made the Atlantic crossing together all were similarly collected by telephone.

Commander Byrd telephoned Stultz, suggesting the possibility. Stultz then communicated, by telephone again, with those organizing the flight. Tentative arrangements were made as regarded himself. They asked him to choose his flying mechanic. On April 7, via long distance telephone, he reached Slim Gordon, then at Monroe, La., with the "Voice of the Sky" Corporation. "Meet me at the Cadillac Hotel in Detroit on the 9th, if you want to fly the Atlantic." "Sure," said Gordon.

So next morning Slim serviced his ship; told the boys he wasn't taking off with them that day and left to keep his appointment.

It was settled in no time at all—certainly within the limits of the conventional three minute telephone conversation.

As for me, I was working as usual around Denison House. The neighborhood was just piling in for games and classes and I was as busy as could be. I remember when called to the phone I replied I couldn't answer unless the message was more important than entertaining many little Chinese and Syrian children. The word came assuring me it was.

I excused myself and went to listen to a man's voice ask me whether I was interested in doing something aeronautic which might be hazardous. At first I thought the conversation was a joke, and told the gentleman so. At least twice before I had been approached by bootleggers who promised rich reward and no danger―"absolutely no danger to you, Leddy."

The frank admission of risk piqued my curiosity and I enquired how and why I had been called.

I demanded references and got them. They were good references, too. After checking up, I made an appointment for late the same day.

"Should you like to fly the Atlantic?"

Such was the greeting when I met Hilton H. Railey who had done the telephoning.

He told me, without mentioning specific names, that Commander Byrd's tri-motored Fokker had been purchased and was destined for trans-Atlantic flight. He asked me if I would make the flight if opportunity offered. Then he told me that a woman owned the plane, and had intended flying it herself. Circumstances had just arisen which made it impossible for her to go but there was a chance that another woman might be selected in her place; and Mr. Railey had been asked by George Palmer Putnam, New York publisher, to help find such a person.

Then followed the first period of waiting. I did not know whether or not I was going. I didn't know whether the flight really would come off. I didn't know whether I should be selected if it did. And in the meanwhile I was asked to clear the decks so I could get off if the opportunity actually arose.

At Denison House we were just working out our summer plans, with me in charge of the summer school. If I actually was to leave, Marion Perkins, our head worker, must get someone for my place. So the chaos of uncertainties spread in ripples out from me as a center.

I think what troubled me most just then was the difficulty of my relations, under the circumstances, with all these people whose plans were so much dependent upon my own. Yet I was pledged to secrecy and could not say a word to them. And of course, it is rather disconcerting to carry on a job at a desk, or with settlement children, with the probability of a trans-Atlantic flight pending.

In ten days or so I was asked to go to New York. There I met David T. Layman, Jr., who, with Mr. John S. Phipps, talked things over with me. I realized, of course, that I was being weighed. It should have been slightly embarrassing, for if I were found wanting on too many counts I should be deprived of a trip. On the other hand, if I were just too fascinating the gallant gentlemen might be loath to drown me. Anyone can see the meeting was a crisis.

I learned that the Fokker had been bought from Commander Byrd by the Honorable Mrs. Frederick Guest, of London, whose husband had been in the Air Ministry of Lloyd George and is prominently associated with aviation in Great Britain. Mrs. Guest, formerly Miss Amy Phipps of Pittsburgh, financed the expedition from first to last, and it was due entirely to her generosity and sportsmanship that opportunity to go was given me.

The transfer of ownership of the plane from Commander Byrd to Mrs. Guest had been kept secret. It had been her desire to hop off for the Atlantic crossing without attracting any advance attention. When subsequently, for personal reasons, Mrs. Guest herself abandoned the flight she was still eager to have the plans consummated, if possible, with an American woman on board.

A few days later I was told the flight actually would be made and that I could go―if I wished. Under the circumstances there was only one answer. I couldn't say no. For here was fate holding out the best in the way of flying ability in the person of Wilmer Stultz, pilot, aided by Lou Gordon as flight mechanic; and a beautiful ship admirably equipped for the test before it.

When I first saw Friendship she was jacked-up in the shadows of a hangar at East Boston. Mechanics and welders worked nearby on the struts for the pontoons that were shortly to replace the wheels. The ship's golden wings, with their spread of seventy two feet, were strong and exquisitely fashioned. The red orange of the fuselage, though blending with the gold, was chosen not for artistry but for practical use. If we had come down orange could have been seen further than any other color.

The plane just then was being equipped, presumably for its use on Byrd's forthcoming Antarctic trip. Stultz and Gordon were supposed,to be in Byrd's employ, and Commander Robert,Elmer, U.S.N. retired, was directing technical activities.

Our purpose was to keep the plans secret. Once the world knew, we should be submerged in a deluge of curiosity making it impossible to continue the preparations in orderly fashion. Then, too, it would do no good to aviation to invite discussion of a project which some accident might delay. Actually the pontoon equipment on this type of plane was experimental, and no one definitely could tell in advance whether or not it would prove practicable. Another objection was the possibility of instigating a "race," which no one wanted. Mrs. Guest proposed that the Friendship, as she afterwards named the

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plane, should cross the Atlantic irrespective of the action of others. By our example we did not want to risk hurrying ill-prepared aspirants into the field with possible tragic results.

Only twice did I actually see the Friendship during all this time. I was pretty well known at the landing fields and obviously it might provoke comment if I seemed too interested in the plane. For this reason I had no chance to take part in any of the test flying. Actually the first time I was off the water in the Friendship was the Sunday morning when we finally got under way.

The preparation of a large plane for a long flight is a complex task. It is one that cannot―or at least should not be rushed. Especially is that fact true where, as in the case of the Friendship, the equipment was of a somewhat experimental nature.

Throughout the operations Commander Byrd kept in close touch with what was being done, with Stultz and Gordon, and with Commander Elmer, who was overseeing the technical detail. Necessary instruments were installed and gradually tried out; while varying load tests, countless take-offs from the bay, and brief flights around Boston were made. The radio was tested and the inevitable last minute changes and adjustments arranged.

With the radio, we were particularly fortunate because Stultz is a skilful operator. It is unusual to find a man who is a great pilot, an instrument flyer, navigator, and a really good radio operator all in one.

Finally the ship itself was ready to go, and our problems focussed on the weather. At this stage weather is an important factor in all plans of trans-oceanic flying.

Supplementing the meagre reports available from ships to the Weather Bureau, the Friendship's backers arranged a service of their own. Special digests of the British reports were cabled to New York each morning, and meteorological data were radioed in from the ships at sea. All this information, supplementing that already at hand, was then coordinated and plotted out in the New York office of the United States Weather Bureau. There we came to feel that no flight could have a better friend than Dr. James H. Kimball, whose interest and unfailing helpfulness were indispensable.

The weather service for a flight such as ours must be largely planned and entirely underwritten by the backers of the flight itself. And, like so much else, it is an expensive undertaking,

Nearly three weeks dragged by in Boston. Sometimes Mr. and Mrs. Layman were there, hoping for an immediate take-off, sometimes Mrs. Putnam. Commander Elmer and Mr. Putnam were on hand constantly. Mrs. Guest's sons, Winston and Raymond, followed the preparations as closely as they dared without risking disclosure of the ownership.

It was during this period that I had the pleasure of seeing something of Commander and Mrs. Byrd, at their Brimmer Street home, just then bursting with the preparations for his Antarctic expedition—a place of tents and furs, specially devised instruments, concentrated foodstuffs, and all the rest of the paraphernalia which makes the practical, and sometimes the picturesque, background of a great expedition. There I met "Scotty" Allan, famous Alaskan dog driver, who was advising Byrd as to canine preparations.

The weather remained persistently unfavorable. When it was right in Boston, the mid-Atlantic was forbidding. I have a memory of long grey days which had a way of dampening our spirits against our best efforts to be cheerful. We tried to be casual by keeping occupied. On fair days my battered Kissel roadster, dubbed "Yellow Peril," was a means for sightseeing. On rainy days the top leaked too much for comfort, so we walked. We tried restaurants of all nationalities for variety and went, I think, to all the theatres.

One of the last plays we saw, I remember, was "The Good Hope," with the charming Eva LeGallienne. The story is a tragedy; all the hopeful characters drown while the most tragic one survives to carry out a cold lamb chop in the last act. A recurring line is "The fish are dearly paid for," and our crew adopted that as a heraldic motto, emblazoned under a goldfish rampant. I had the opportunity of thanking Miss LeGallienne for her cheering sendoff when I met her on returning to New York. She helped Charles Winninger auction off one of the flags we carried on the flight, at a theatrical performance for the benefit of the Olympic team which was about to sail for Europe on the ship which had brought us back, the President Roosevelt. Anyway, that evening she got us on the stage before 17,280,891 people, so we have two grievances against her.

As I look back on the flight I think two questions have been asked me most frequently. First: Was I afraid? Secondly: What did I wear?

I'm sorry to be a disappointment in answering the first query. It would sound more exciting if I only could admit having been shockingly frightened. But I honestly wasn't. Of course I realized there was a measure of danger. Obviously I faced the possibility of not returning when first I considered going. Once faced and settled there really wasn't any good reason to refer to it again. After all, even when driving one admits tacitly there is danger, but one doesn't dwell on the result of losing the front wheels or having the rear end fall out on a mountain.

Perhaps the second question may be thought feminine, but I have had as many men as women appear interested.

Remember the early stages of automobiling? In those days an "auto" ride was a rare experience, made rarer by the clothes one wore. A linen duster, gauntlets and a veil were the requisites of touring in 1907.

Fashions in air clothing are emerging from the same sort of chrysalis stage. For routine short flights I wear every-day clothes―what one would use for street wear or sports. But obviously the Friendship flight was different. Compare it, perhaps, to a strenuous camping trip. One couldn't tell what might happen. Serviceability was the prime requirement. I had to wear breeks because of the jump from the pontoon to the door and also because of the necessity of slipping on and off the flying suit which is worn outside one's other clothing.

In Boston I remember a solicitous friend wished to give me a bag for extra clothing.

"There isn't going to be any," I explained.

That appeared to concern him somewhat―certainly much more than it did me. There seems to be a feeling that a woman preparing to drop in on England, so to speak, ought to have something of a wardrobe.

However, I chose to take with me only what I had on. The men on the Friendship took no "extras." Pounds—even ounces—can count desperately. Obviously I should not load up with unessentials if they didn't.

I'm told it's interesting to know exactly what the outfit included. Just my old flying clothes, comfortably, if not elegantly, battered and worn. High laced boots, brown broadcloth breeks, white silk blouse with a red necktie (rather antiquated!) and a companionably ancient leather coat, rather long, with plenty of pockets and a snug buttoning collar. A homely brown sweater accompanied it. A light leather flying helmet and goggles completed the picture, such as it was. A single elegance was a brown and white silk scarf.

When it was cold I wore—as did the men—a



heavy fur-lined flying suit which covers one completely from head to toe, shoes and all. Mine was lent to me by my friend Major Charles. H. Woolley of Boston, who, by the way, had no idea when he lent it what it was to be used for. He suspected, I think, that I intended to do some high flying.

Toilet articles began with a toothbrush and ended with a comb. The only extras were some fresh handkerchiefs and a tube of cold cream. My "vanity case" was a small army knapsack.

Equipment was simple, too. Mr. Layman let me take his camera and Mrs. Layman her wrist watch. Field glasses, with plenty of use in the Arctic behind them, were lent me by G. P. P., and I was given a compact log book.

Besides toothbrushes—generic term—and food, our "baggage" was a book and a packet of messages which some of those associated with the enterprise asked to have carried across to friends on the other side.

The book—perhaps the only one to have crossed the Atlantic by air route—is Skyward, written by Commander Richard Evelyn Byrd. He sent it to Mrs. Guest. Commander Byrd, of course, had owned the Friendship and has outstandingly sponsored the wisdom of utilizing tri-motored ships equipped with pontoons, for long-distance over-water flying. So it was appropriate that his book should be taken to the woman who bought his plane and made the trans-Atlantic flight possible.

This copy of his book which I delivered bears the following inscription: "I am sending you this copy of my first book by the first girl to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air—the very brave Miss Earhart. But for circumstances I well know that it would have been you who would have crossed first. I send you my heartiest congratulations and good wishes. I admire your determination and courage."