the fuse that killed earhart
I am an avid listener of podcasts. I first started listening to them in a self-help sort of way. They were originally all personal finance and investing shows, but one can only take so much financial literacy at a time. Life is about balance. I find it by listening to the Parcast Network's Conspiracy Theories.
The format of the show involves two episodes per topic. The first presents the official narrative and other important contextual information. The second explores a few different conspiracy theories and rates their credibility on a scale from 1 to 10.
While working on a tube amp last week, I listened to the Conspiracy Theories episode on Amelia Earhart. Officially she and her navigator Fred Noonan got lost, were unable to receive radio transmissions, and ultimately crashed into the sea while attempting to circumnavigate the globe.
While finishing up the amplifier I heard something that caught my attention. At 28:03 in episode 87 "Amelia Earhart Pt. 1" the hosts discuss Earhart's radio receiver issues that occurred a few days prior to her disappearance:
The [Lockheed] Electra took off early in the morning on June 27th. They spent the night on Koepang on Timor island. Then on the 28th continued to Port Darwin, Australia. There the blown fuse of Amelia's radio receiver was replaced - an important fix since a radio receiver needs to be in good working order for a pilot to receive messages and direction finding radio signals.
It's worth pointing out here that a blown fuse is often the result of a deeper mechanical issue. So while the Australian mechanics fixed the receiver's immediate problem there may have been an underlying issue that was still unresolved and could lead to the fuse blowing once again.
I speculate that the technician who worked on Earhart's radio receiver did bad work which lead to the deaths of her and navigator Fred Noonan. C.L.A. Abbott describes the tech's troubleshooting process in this letter from August 3, 1937.
His letter hardly describes the nitty gritty of troubleshooting the receiver, but we can conjecture that the technician stopped the troubleshooting process at the point that he replaced the fuse. Knowing that Earhart was unable to receive radio transmissions before her Lockhead Electra went down, we can guess that the fuse did blow again. The receiver possibly had some sort of intermittent problem that didn't present itself in Australia. An intermittent problem can be incredibly difficult to find especially if all you do is replace a blown fuse. You have to roll your sleeves up and dig in.
Here we arrive at the point of this post. Customers often explain their issue by telling me some variation of "it's probably just a bad fuse." I am here to tell you that IT IS ALMOST NEVER JUST A FUSE. Something causes a fuse to blow. It is a symptom - not the problem.
The stakes aren't nearly as high when it comes to repairing pro audio equipment versus flying over water. A non-functional Fender Twin Reverb isn't going to cause your airplane to crash, but it could cause you to cancel a gig, lose a job, et cetera. Please remember your issue is probably not just a fuse. It might save your livelihood - if not your life.
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I'm a country blues artist, multi-instrumentalist, and pro audio repair technician. I am always curious - but never nosy.