What happened to Amelia Earheart's plane? Fresh 'clue' found to 77-year-old mystery

If an aircraft recovery group is to be believed, they could be closer to demystifying a decades old enigma of what happened to American aviatrix Amelia Earheart while she set out on her second attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

By Supriya Jha | Updated: Oct 30, 2014, 17:55 PM IST
What happened to Amelia Earheart's plane? Fresh 'clue' found to 77-year-old mystery

Washington: If an aircraft recovery group is to be believed, they could be closer to demystifying a decades-old enigma of what happened to American aviatrix Amelia Earheart while she set out on her second attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

In what may spark the hopes of solving a 77-year-old missing plane mystery, a Pennsylvania-based aircraft recovery group suggests that an artifact it possesses is actually a piece of wreckage from Amelia Earhart’s aircraft which vanished over the Pacific in 1937.

The International Historic Aircraft Recovery Group aka TIGHAR says new tests done on a clue - an aluminium patch discovered by it in 1991 - increase the possibility of it being a part of Earheart's plane Lockheed Electra.

On its website, the group named TIGHAR, writes that the aluminium metal piece they discovered in 1991 at Nikumaroro, an atoll in the western Pacific Ocean , matches a “pattern of rivets” on an aluminum patch that Amelia got installed on the plane in place of a special window.

The group says that at the beginning of her second world flight attempt, she stayed at Miami and “a custom-made, special window on her Lockheed Electra aircraft was removed and replaced with an aluminum patch. The patch was an expedient field modification”.

“Its dimensions, proportions, and pattern of rivets were dictated by the hole to be covered and the structure of the aircraft. 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,” ads the group on its website.

There are a plethora of theories revolving around what happened to Amelia Earheart's plane that was on a global circumnavigation mission and never got back.

Many historians feel that the plane manned by Amelia and her co-pilot, Fred Noonan might have run out of fuel and ended in a watery grave. Others suggest, the pilots might have died as castaways after having survived the crash. Another theory doubts that she survived as a castaway and she secretly returned to the United States and was given a new identity. Some say her plane was downed by the Japanese around the Marshall Islands.

However, TIGHAR seeks to suugest that “Earhart actually landed safely”, reports the CNN citing a press release by the group.

The groups surmises that she and her navigator Fred Noonan landed on a reef on a deserted island called Nikumaroro. After which, Earheart might have "sent radio distress calls for at least five nights before the Electra was washed into the ocean by rising tides and surf leaving Earhart and Noonan cast away on the uninhabited atoll," adds the group in its press release.

Buttressing its theory, Richard Gillespie, TIGHAR's executive director and the author of "Finding Amelia," told Discovery News that not long after Earhart's disappearance, a castaway's bones were found on that island.