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November 20, 2010: Finding Amelia: A Challenge in Systems Engineering

by Communications Team on November 23, 2010  •   Print This Post Print This Post   •   

Aftermath-The Earhart Saga Unfolded at Our AIAA-INCOSE Joint Event

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan
Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart three days prior to their final flight in the Lockheed 10E.

Jointly sponsoring a meeting and inviting the public is definitely a new experience for the chapter. After a lot of work with advertising, personal contacts and coordination with the speaker, the big day arrived at 7:30AM on Saturday, November 20, 2010. Breakfast was served at the Baltimore Engineer’s Club and at 8:00AM, Ric Gillespie of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) began a presentation that lasted until shortly after 3:00PM.

The original intent was to apply system engineering principles and tools to the data collected over the past 22 years by TIGHAR and other researchers. It soon became clear to the participants however that 22 years of information when explained in proper context was not easily conveyed in several hours. Over a lunch of Lasagna and Thai chicken, the participants opted to delay the system engineering and to hear more about the historical record by asking questions and permitting Gillespie to delve deeper into areas such as celestial navigation, radio communications and weather conditions.

From a system engineering perspective, the Earhart tragedy provides a wealth of data that can quickly overwhelm anyone trying to reach meaningful conclusions. The most important conclusion being sought is to identify the best area for the next multi-million dollar search effort. To learn about previous searches tune into Ric and the TIGHAR team on an upcoming two-hour TV special program on the Discovery Channel. Currently it is scheduled to run on December 11, 2010.

The 28 members of the audience included systems and aeronautical engineers, pilots, a schoolteacher, data analysts, mapping experts and engineering students and faculty from Morgan State University. A video team that accompanied Mr. Gillespie recorded throughout the long session.

After adjournment, Mr. Gillespie was briefly available to autograph the hardbound copies of his book “Finding Amelia” and then rushed out to catch a 4pm Amtrak train to his home in Wilmington Delaware.

Overall, the group had a great, time, were treated to a mansion tour during a break and left with a much deeper understanding of the events leading up to the loss of two iconic aviation pioneers on July 2, 1937, over 73 years ago.

Well done AIAA Mid-Atlantic and Chesapeake INCOSE!

As for the incomplete systems engineering project, Gundars Osvalds intends to look at the visualization aspect of the data and George Anderson will examine the possibility of restating the problem into an NTSB investigation format. This would allow clear distinctions between fact and analysis. Anyone interested in learning more about these efforts can Contact Gundars Osvalds at: or George Anderson at:

Event Poster

Event Collage

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