WASHINGTON -- The sister of Amelia Earhart said Friday she believes the famed aviatrix simply ran out of fuel and crashed in the Pacific in 1937, and she was not on a spy mission.
'I believe she just ran out of gas and went down off Howland Island,' Mrs. Muriel Earhart Morrissey told a symposium at the National Air and Space Museum.
The symposium honored the 50th anniversary of Earhart's greatest achievements in 1932 when she became the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic and solo non-stop across the United States.
Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared July 2, 1937, while attempting a round-the-world equatorial flight. Over the years there have been persistent reports tht she was on an intelligence mission scouting Japanese held islands and was shot down or even taken prisoner.
'As far as I'm concerned she was not on a spy mission,' Mrs. Morrisey said. 'She wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. She knew nothing about spy missions. She wouldn't have been dishonest with the people who put up the money.'
Retired Rear Adm. Richard Black, who handled much of the Pacific Island logistics for Miss Earhart's last flight agreed.
'My firm opinion is that the Electra (Earhart's plane) went into the sea about 10 a.m. July 2, 1937, at a point not far from Howland. If it made a wheels up landing it would float as the gas tanks were empty and the sea was not rough.'
But a search of the area proved fruitless.
Miss Earhart was supposed to have made a refueling stop at Howland where a work force under Black's command had built a makeshift landing strip and had 18 drums of aviation fuel available.
Black was in the radio shack aboard the Coast Guard cutter Itasca off Howland during the last recorded moments of Miss Earhart's flight.
'I heard all the Earhart transmissions.' he said. 'She stated the fuel was low.'
The first radio transmission from Miss Earhart's plane was monitored by the Itasca at 2:45 a.m.. It was almost inaudible. At 3:45 a.m., she reported flying in a cloudy overcast.
At 4:43 a.m., she said she was not hearing the ship. At 6:12 a.m., she gave her bearing and said she would whistle so the ship could take a directional fix on her. At 6:14 she said she was about 200 miles from Howland.
At 6:45 a.m. and 8:03 a.m., she again asked the ship to take a bearing and report to her. Miss Earhart said she believed she was in the area but could not see the island.
At 8:44 a.m., Miss Earhart called the Itasca and gave her estimated position.
'That was the last message,' Black said.
He said that Miss Earhart and Noonan wold have been able to determine their position from the ship and the island if they had used a trailing wire directional atenna. Black said he later learned that Earhart had off-loaded vital parts of that antenna in California before setting out for the Pacific.