By Shaun Gibson : @ShaunyNews
A fragment of metal found on an uninhabited Pacific atoll came from the missing plane flown by legendary US pilot Amelia Earhart, researchers claim. She disappeared on a round-the-world flight in July 1937 – a mystery that has enthralled aviation enthusiasts ever since. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) says it has forensic evidence the strip of aluminium discovered in 1991 on the island of Nikumaroro is from her aircraft. The organisation says the 19in by 23in piece came from a repaired window unit on her Lockheed Electra aircraft. Earhart, who became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932, went missing five years later during a circumnavigation of the globe. She and her navigator Fred Noonan had just taken off from Papua New Guinea en route to Howland Island, three-quarters of the way through their trip. TIGHAR believes the pair landed on Nikumaroro, which is in the republic of Kiribati, after running out of fuel, then died there as castaways. It is not the first time TIGHAR has linked this patch of metal to Earhart’s plane.
The organisation’s spokesman Ric Gillespie was greeted by scepticism when he made the claim at a news conference in Washington DC in 1992. Critics pointed out that the piece did not match any component of a Lockheed Electra. Mr Gillespie, who has been investigating the Earhart mystery for 26 years, went away and conducted extensive further research into the strip of aluminium. But the aviation sleuth could not match its rivets to any other plane that flew over the Pacific. TIGHAR then looked again at a Miami Herald photo of Earhart in the Florida city, when she had her plane repaired in May 1937 during her record attempt. It shows she had a specially installed window on the aircraft covered with a strip of aluminium. TIGHAR hired forensic imaging specialist Jeff Glickman to compare the rivet lines and other features of the metal fragment in the photo. Mr Gillespie says it is a perfect match. “That’s the fingerprint,” he told Sky News. During a previous TIGHAR expedition, sonar imagery detected an anomaly 600ft underwater off the island, where its researchers believe Earhart’s plane drifted into the ocean. The organisation plans to return to the atoll in June next year with a remote operated vehicle to investigate the object.
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