Has Amelia Earhart's Plane Been Found

If your social media feed has resembled mine in any way, you've seen post after post about the possibility that part of Amelia Earhart's plane have been found then not found then found again.  I wanted to take a brief amount of your time to give you a brief history of a search that has lasted over seven decades.

The first thing you need to know is that the group who is leading this decades long search is a non-profit known as The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR).  TIGHAR has been operating, for years, off the theory that due to pilot or mechanical errors Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were forced to land on a remote South Pacific Island currently called Nikumaroro.  TIGHAR researchers have been combing Nikumaroro since 1989, and have found artifacts including improvised tools, shoe remnants, and even human bones.

Areal view of Nikumaroro. 

In 2010, TIGHAR released sonar and high definition underwater research vehicles off the coast of Nikumaroro and continued capturing images until weather and technical issues cut the exposition short.  After returning to their headquarters, the TIGHAR team spent several months reviewing what they had captured and were able to see what they believed to be the outline of the fuselage of the Lockheed Electra.  In addition to these stunning finds, they found a piece of metal they believed to be part of the Lockheed Electra which is now the cause of so many Facebook posts!

Looking at TIGHAR's research, it appears as if some time in early 1937 a part of Earhart's organization decided there should be a large window added to each side of the Lockheed Electra.  Though no documents have been found as to why these windows were added, TIGHAR speculates that these windows were for navigational purposes so that celestial observations were easier to utilize.  The airplane remnant that was discovered is being linked back to Earhart's plane via the riveting which would have been customized to Earhart's specific plane.  TIGHAR has analyzed a surviving Lockheed Electra structurally and determined how the window would have needed to be placed onto the plane.  They argue that the riveting is like a fingerprint between the piece and the plane.

Photo of Amelia with her step-daughter-in-law prior to her flight from Miami.  The plane shows the window which is in question.

TIGHAR plans to continue their research by focusing upon areas that they discovered in their 2010 expedition.  They believe that the Lockheed Electra landed safely on the reef of the island, but was not flight worthy.  If the tides washed the airplane into the ocean, TIGHAR believes that the piece may be in a (relatively) full piece.  TIGHAR researchers believe that Earhart and Noonan would have set up a camp onshre to escape the heat during the day which would account for the tools found onshore in 2010.  TIGHAR plans to return to the island and focus on a specific search area where they believe the camp site may have been located.  Something working in their favor is that the specific search area was not cleared or developed when the island was inhabited from 1939-1963.  What works against them is the need for funding.

From TIGHAR; this is the proposed search area for Earhart's campsite.

As a nonprofit, they accept donations to the project directly or you may shop for books, TIGHAR Membership, and t-shirts.  We hope they have success in this new research mission because I am enjoying following their findings.

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