Has a Piece of Amelia Earhart’s Missing Plane Been Found?

Mike Schuler
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October 30, 2014

Amelia Earhart’s plane showing the “Miami Patch”. Photo credit: TIGHAR

A piece of aircraft debris found on a remote South Pacific atoll is reinforcing speculation that a sonar anomaly detected in 2012 just off the island is in fact the lost aircraft of Amelia Earhart.

According a group of experts with The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), new research has determined that a piece of aluminum found on the Nikumaroro atoll in 1991 is likely a window patch that was installed on Earhart’s Lockheed Electra aircraft during a brief stopover in Miami towards the start of her ill-fated world flight attempt.

The aluminum aircraft debris. Photo credit: TIGHAR
The aluminum aircraft debris. Photo credit: TIGHAR

In their findings, TIGHAR notes that the dimensions, proportions, and pattern of rivets found on the piece of aluminum match what would have been placed on Earhart’s aircraft.

“During Amelia Earhart’s stay in Miami at the beginning of her second world flight attempt, a custom-made, special window on her Lockheed Electra aircraft was removed and replaced with an aluminum patch,” said TIGHAR in the abstract of the new findings. “The patch was as unique to her particular aircraft as a fingerprint is to an individual. Research has now shown that a section of aircraft aluminum TIGHAR found on Nikumaroro in 1991 matches that fingerprint in many respects.”

The identification of the aluminum debris is reinforcing the possibility that the sonar anomaly detected by an AUV at a depth of 600 feet off the west end of the island is the fuselage of the Earhart’s Lockheed Electra.

Is this a sonar image Amelia Earhart's plane? Image credit: TIGHAR
Is this a sonar image Amelia Earhart’s plane? Image credit: TIGHAR

The leading hypothesis is that Earhart landed her aircraft safely on the reef at Nikumaroro and sent radio distress calls for at least five nights before the aircraft was washed into the ocean by rising tides and surf, leaving Earhart and her navigator cast away on the uninhabited atoll.

Of course whether or not the sonar anomaly actually shows the remains of Earhart’s aircraft, or if Earhart crash landed at Nikumaroro at all, are yet to be determined. To find out for sure, TIGHAR plans to return to the island in June 2015 with a Remote Operated Vehicle, the 120-foot research vessel Nai’a, and a team of divers who will scour the waters for other wreckage.

More information about the search for Earhart’s missing plane can be found at the TIGHAR website.

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