Pellegreno, Ann Holtgren
World Flight - The Earhart Trail (The Iowa State University Press, 1971)
Valuable data from this 1967 Commemorative Flight includes references to climb speed of 100-120 mph, and 20 minutes time to climb to 1000 feet after a gross weight takeoff. This reference is made twice and the author comments that this is normal performance for her Electra.
The author cites several cruise performance values which provide good comparisons for AE mission analysis, in speed and fuel consumption, despite flying an Electra model 10A with smaller engines, but effectively the same horsepower-to-weight ratio, as for AE’s Electra 10E.
The author also cites en route winds throughout the flight from Lae to Nauru Island, indicating useful information about the behavior of en route winds in this area.
Pellegrino cites work published by Polhemus (p208) in which Polhemus calculates AE’s initial fuel at Lae at 900 gallons, and that AE executed a direct (great circle) flight path to Howland. Polhemus estimates AE’s final position “…in the vicinity of Howland Island….”
Near Howland Island, as Pellegreno was flying on the Line of Position heading 157 degrees at 1905 GMT (p160), a squall appeared over where Howland Island should be. The flight adjusted course slightly to avoid the squall, but continued to pursue visual acquisition of the island.
With pilot Pellegreno flying, and two dedicated observers (one in the cockpit right seat and one in the cabin), Howland Island could not be found until approximately 1957 GMT, when the person in the cabin spotted what he thought was land. They had less than 20 minutes remaining fuel on station to devote to the search for the Island, and as Pellegreno later said, “we nearly missed it.” This, after searching for nearly an hour.
They were approximately 10-12 miles [units not specified] north of Howland Island at the moment they visually acquired the island.
Pelllegreno’s account of her thoughts and feelings upon arriving and not seeing Howland, then conducting a protracted search with limited fuel resources, is extremely interesting as a human factors and operational comparison to what may have occurred on AE’s mission. Pellegreno writes a compelling narrative here, one that can not help but evoke a sense of urgency, desperation, and elevated tension.
Pellegreno’s flight had the advantage of better navigation equipment, a third set of human eyes, a nearby ship providing good DF bearings, and the luxury of having departed Nauru Island, with a Canton Island destination. With all of these advantages, they nearly missed visually acquiring Howland Island.
This account demonstrates the great challenge attempted by Amelia and Fred, and provides a good assessment of the difficulty in visually acquiring tiny Howland Island.