A piece of Amelia Earhart’s plane has been authenticated, claims an organization called the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), reports USA Today.
The piece was discovered in 1991 and trumpeted as a missing link to Earhart, but Lockheed, the maker of her plane, quickly denounced that claim as inconsistent with its design. Now TIGHAR says new research strongly suggests the piece of metal was a patch for her window that was installed during a stop in Miami earlier in her circumnavigation. The group claims it could not come from any other plane.
“The Miami patch was an expedient field repair,” TIGHAR executive director Ric Gillespie told Discovery News. “Its complex fingerprint of dimensions, proportions, materials, and rivet patterns was as unique to Earhart’s Electra as a fingerprint is to an individual.”
The famed aviator, who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, is presumed to have died during a 1937 attempted circumnavigation of the globe. Her last whereabouts have never been determined after she and a navigator lost radio contact on approach to a remote Pacific island.
A host of theories have been advanced as to what could have happened, ranging from the reasonable—her plane ran out of gas and crashed—to the less plausible, like those that say she assumed a fake identity and lived to age 82 in New Jersey.
TIGHAR claims the finding bolsters its theory that Earhart crash-landed on a tiny Pacific island called Nikumaroro, where the metal fragment was found. The group is planning an expedition to the island in 2015, where they say they’ve used sonar to detect a promising “anomaly” 600 feet underwater that may be the plane.
Over the years, TIGHAR has launched a number of expeditions in an attempt to prove that Earhart crash-landed on Nikumaroro. Read our 2012 article about TIGHAR founder Ric Gillespie’s 25-year search.