Very little is known about Fred Noonan. Unlike Earhart who lived her life in the public eye, Noonan was very private with his personal life.
Frederick Joseph Noonan was born on April 4th 1893 in Cook Country, Illinois. In 1910 he joined the Merchant Navy and worked his way up to the rank of Captain, although when he left the Merchant Navy in 1929 he had never been given command of a ship.
In 1930 he earned his Limited Commercial Pilot’s license and he went to work for the New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Line, before it was absorbed by Pan American Airways. Noonan rose up to become Pan Am’s chief navigator, serving as navigator on the survey flights which pioneered commercial air service across the Pacific. He left Pan Am in early 1937 and on March 13th he was announced as an additional crew member on Earhart’s World Flight.
Due to his experience at navigating to small islands, he was added to help Earhart’s navigator Harry Manning on the Honolulu to Howland leg of the trip. Following the Luke Field crash which ended Earhart’s first World Flight attempt, Manning left the team and, on March 28th, Noonan was announced as Earhart’s sole companion for her second attempt, accompanying her for the entire trip.