New lead in Amelia Earhart’s plane search, 86 years after her disappearance

A new lead has emerged in the nearly 90-year search for Amelia Earhart’s plane, which vanished during her attempt to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in 1937.

A 2009 photograph taken during an expedition near Nikumaroro Island in the Pacific Ocean, a remote atoll between New Zealand and Hawaii, suggests the presence of an engine cover submerged underwater that might have belonged to Earhart’s historic aircraft, as per the Daily Mail.

Ric Gillespie, the executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), stated, “There is an object in the photo that appears to be a Lockheed Electra engine cowling.” His group, The Earhart Project, has been investigating the 1937 disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan since 1988.

Gillespie further explained, “The similarity to an engine cowling and prop shaft was not noticed until years later and the exact location was not noted at the time, which meant attempts to re-locate the object were unsuccessful.” 

Should the testing confirm that the engine cover belonged to Amelia Earhart’s twin-engined Lockheed Model 10E Special Electra, it would not provide an explanation for the plane’s ocean crash. However, it would challenge Gillespie’s theory that Earhart and Noonan landed on Nikumaroro and met their eventual demise there.

Gillespie’s group backs their theory by pointing to the locations of transmissions they believe could have only come from Earhart and a 1937 shoreline photo that they think might include the landing gear of the Electra aircraft.

A year following the disaster, Britain established a colony on the island, where newcomers reported sightings of plane parts, 1930s-era glass bottles, and bones near the remains of a campfire. Researchers suggested these bones could have belonged to a woman of Amelia Earhart’s build, as reported by National Geographic. Nevertheless, no concrete evidence has been uncovered to confirm that Earhart and Noonan landed on the uninhabited atoll.

The most recent significant development occurred late last year when scientists from Penn State’s Radiation Science and Engineering Center discovered previously unseen letters on a metal plate recovered on the island in 1991. Although the panel displayed rivet punctures resembling those on Earhart’s plane, experts later determined it was “not a precise match” and likely a part of the wreckage from a World War II plane that crashed several years later.

According to National Geographic, the official U.S. stance is that Earhart’s plane ran out of fuel en route to Howland Island and ultimately crashed into the ocean. Howland Island, situated approximately 400 miles away from Nikumaroro Island, was intended to be Earhart’s final refueling stop before her journey to California to complete her historic 29,000-mile flight.

Despite extensive large-scale expeditions around the small island, no evidence of Amelia Earhart’s plane has been discovered.

A third theory proposes that Earhart and Noonan may have landed in the Marshall Islands and were subsequently held captive by the Japanese.

Some adherents of this conspiracy theory speculate that Earhart and Noonan might have eventually made their way back to the United States using assumed identities.

Amelia Earhart achieved several significant aviation milestones during her career, including being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and setting a world altitude record of 18,415 feet in 1931.

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