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The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart | The Nation

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The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

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Our greatest female aviator disappears off the map somewhere in the South Pacific. Had she been familiar with Morse Code, she might have survived when her plane went down.

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But all the genuine emotion that surrounds the loss of the two fliers has not suppressed a measure of criticism and cold appraisal. Apparently it is established that Amelia Earhart had scrapped the 500-kilocycle transmitting wave length universally used by ships at sea. Neither she nor her navigator knew how to send or receive messages in code and it was for this reason that she decided against an equipment involving an awkward trailing antenna which demanded added attention during landings and takeoffs. As a result it was impossible for her to communicate with the Coast Guard cutter Itasca or for that vessel to use its radio direction-finder to take a bearing. Her decision appears, incredibly enough, to have been unknown to the commander of the Itasca, who frequently requested her to transmit messages on 500 kilocycles. Such an error of judgment seems inexcusable. Another focus of post-mortem attacks is long-distance flying when undertaken for no scientific purpose. To her credit Amelia Earhart never claimed any objective other than her own pleasure. But it still remains a question whether the government should permit useless and perilous flights that may, if disaster overtakes them, involve the expenditure of vast work and expense. Apologists insist that the rescue flight provided the Navy and the Coast Guard with an opportunity to use in an actual emergency equipment which would otherwise be tried only in set maneuvers. But no one pretends that the $250,000 a day spent on the search would have been needed for routine practice or testing. The tragic death of two fine fliers should force the government to reconsider its present free-and-easy policy toward flights of this kind.

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