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AIR AND SPACE

Report points to photo as possible new clue to Amelia Earhart's fate

AmeliaEarhartMiamiHerald.jpg

 (The Miami Herald)

A recently surfaced photo of Amelia Earhart’s plane, captured by the Miami Herald in 1937, could offer crucial evidence regarding the famous aviator’s disappearance.

The picture, snapped right before Earhart made her ill-fated second attempt to fly around the world, shows a patch of aluminum bolted onto Earhart’s plane that appears to match a piece of aluminum discovered by investigators on a remote Pacific Island in 1991, the Herald reports.

The metal plate, which experts assumed was used to cover a broken window, does not appear in any other known photos of Earhart’s plane, according to the report.

The photo adds another twist to the controversy surrounding Earhart’s death. The aviation pioneer disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 during her second attempt to circumnavigate the globe by air.

Dozens of theories about the nature of Earhart’s death have sprung up over the years. It remains one of the most debated unsolved mysteries in America even today.

In Miami in 1937, the press gathered to see Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan embark on their flight around the world. Earhart’s plane had been undergoing repairs in Miami for a week before its departure. Ric Gillespie, a prominent Earhart investigator, believes that these repairs included the patching over of a broken rear window with an aluminum plate. The window had been specially installed so Noonan could navigate via the sun and stars but may have sustained damage during Earhart’s rough landing in Miami.

Gillespie, a prominent Earhart investigator, is convinced he and his team discovered the same aluminum plate on the tiny Gardner Island in the Pacific in 1991. Upon the plate’s initial discovery, forensic analysis revealed it was made from a type of aluminum that was commonly used in the manufacturing of American airplanes during the 1930s.

Despite this evidence, the case remained open when further investigation showed the rivet patterns on the scrap did not match those on the metal used to make Earhart’s plane.

However, the Herald photo suggests the plate was not part of the plane’s original structure, but an add-on installed shortly before Earhart’s departure from Miami. If this piece of metal is in fact the same one Ric Gillespie and his team discovered, it would debunk the popular theory that Earhart simply crashed and sank into the Pacific Ocean, suggesting instead that she died after crash-landing on Gardner Island and finding herself stranded.

“The replacement of that window had to be done in Miami, at a Pan Am facility that was helping Earhart,” Gillespie told the Herald. “They may have used different materials than Lockheed ... If we can match that rivet pattern in the photo, I don’t see how anybody can argue against this anymore.”

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