Which way, Amelia?
Internet Version published by Paul Niquette in 2010.
Script Drafted for Interview by Christopher Williamson in 2017
Version 1.1
Williamson: Exactly 80 years ago, on July 2, 1937, for the final leg of her round-the-world flying adventure, Amelia Earhart, along with her navigator Fred Noonan, took off in her Lockheed Electra from Lae, New Guinea.  The destination for the flight was an airstrip on Howland Island more than 2,500 miles toward the west along the equator.  She never arrived.  Mr. Niquette, what happened to Amelia Earhart?

Niquette: The answer to that question is arguably the greatest mystery in aviation history. For eight decades now, journalists and authors have written thousands of pages full of speculations and theories.  As you know from your own research, Mr. Williamson, there are dozens of fascinating books on this historical subject, each putting forth a theory about the disappearance of the Amelia Earhart. 

Williamson: Your book, which is entitled Which way, Amelia? uses a unique format.  Tell us about it.

Niquette: Thank you for noticing.  Yes, I have organized my investigation into ten puzzles -- what the French call énigmes -- along with proposed solutions.  Each addresses specific issues that arose during those final 20 hours of the flight.  [chuckling] Do you want me to go over the solutions to all ten puzzles?

Williamson: [also chuckling] Do you think that is really necessary?

Niquette: I don't.  Here is my answer to your question: Failure in radio navigation was the culprit.  The flight arrived at the selected 'sun-line-of-position', which crossed their flight path over Howland Island, but Amelia Earhart turned the wrong direction -- probably against the advice of her navigator -- and ultimately crashed in the ocean following fuel exhaustion.

Williamson: That explanation is much simpler than others I've read.  The most extravagant range from disguising their true location so that they could spy on the Japanese to deliberately landing at an airfield on one of the Guilbert Islands, thereby staging their own disappearance as a publicity stunt, which went awry.

Niquette: To this day, there are eye-witnesses -- rather their descendants -- who will confirm some of the most outlandish stories.  No trace has ever been found, despite many expeditions to land masses near Howland.

Williamson: Am I correct in remembering that you spoke about confining your studies to the final 20 hours of the flight?

Niquette: Yes -- with one exception.  The solution to one puzzle, "Gathering Range," refers to an incident that happened nearly a month earlier, on June 8, 1937.  Amelia Earhart crossed the Atlantic eastbound, with Dakar as her destination.  Fred Noonan had to use dead reckoning and deliberately set a course north of Dakar in a procedure called "landfall navigating."  Upon arrival at the African coastline, the Electra was supposed to turn right and fly south to the airfield.  Amelia Earhart did not believe that to be correct and, exercising her prerogative as pilot in command, she turned left and flew along the coastline.  Fortunately, there was another airport in French West Africa, 120 miles north of Dakar.

Williamson: How is that relevant to your conclusion?

Niquette: The conditions were nearly the same at Howland: dead reckoning, landfall navigation -- with the selected 'sun-line-of'-position' in place of an actual coastline -- a deliberate offset of the Electra's course to the north, then  mistakenly calling for a left turn but with no alternate airfield -- only ocean -- farther to the north.

Williamson: ...and the same pilot in command.  So there was more than one 'culprit', you're saying.

Niquette: Indeed, but I have never counted them all  up.  They vary from obvious mistakes, particularly resulting from confusing time-zones, complexity in procedures, mismanagement of radio frequencies, incompetence in Morse Code, and the need for high fuel consumption while racing into equatorial headwinds against the rising sun that threatened to extinguish celestial navigation.  Plenty to write books about.

To facilitate the preparation of inteview questions,
extensive explanatory improvements have been
carried out on the solution page for
Which Way, Amelia?

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