LACONIA — Students enrolled in WinnAero’s ACE Academies this summer will participate in a unique aviation history opportunity. It involves the search, some 81 years later, for the underwater wreckage of the Pan Am “Flying Clipper.” A live satellite feed of the search will be viewed by ACE classes, and students will have a 30 minute question and answer session with the search team. History buffs will be familiar with the story of the disappearance of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. Earhart was a prominent female pilot in America during the 1920s and 1930s, and had planned an around-the-world flight to prove her skills. She would be joined on the flight only by Navigator Fred Noonan. They launched from Honolulu in July 1937, with a destination 2,200 miles away in the Pacific, Howland Island. They never made it, but vanished over the Pacific.  Several months later, another plane vanished flying over the Pacific; the Samoan Clipper.

Owned by Pan American Airways and piloted by their most experienced pilot, Captain Edwin Musick, the Clipper was one of ten flying boats built by Sikorsky Aircraft for Pan Am’s Pacific flights between tropical islands. Capable of landing on water, the Clipper departed Pago Pago for New Zealand on January 11, 1938. An hour into the flight, the crew reported an oil leak in one of four engines and shut it down. Musick radioed he was dumping fuel and return to Pago Pago. Shortly thereafter, native fishermen reported seeing smoke in the water off the Northwest Coast of Pago Pago. The Samoan Clipper apparently exploded at low altitude and crashed in water where a depth of 6,000 feet precluded recovery with 1938 technology.

Now, the Air and Sea Heritage Foundation, using modern technology, hopes to find and map the final resting place of the Samoan Clipper. A research ship, The Nautilus, owned by underwater explorer Dr. Robert Ballard, has contracted with the foundation to search for the Samoan Clipper in July. The search will be documented with real-time video and audio of the operation broadcast via satellite. Over 7,000 nautical miles away from the crash site, WinnAero has signed on to receive the satellite imaging and narration from the scene. This will permit students attending the July WinnAero ACE Academies at the Laconia Airport to see an underwater search for an aircraft missing for more than 81 years. “Dan Caron, our ACE Education Director, has done a great job making this very unique opportunity available to our ACE students,” said WinnAero President Karen Mitchell. “Our goal in ACE is to inform, educate and enlighten our students about STEM and aviation and aerospace careers," Mitchell continued. "This link to a historical search will bring all the factors together for our ACE students; technology, engineering, math, planning and flying safety,” she added. 

Space is still available for youth to register for the ACE Academies. For more information, contact Dan Caron at dwcaron@hotmail.com.

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