It looks like researchers are ready to say that an airplane fragment found in 1991 has been identified with a "high degree of certainty to be part of Amelia Earhart's long-missing twin-engined Lockheed Electra aircraft.
The fragment of aluminum aircraft debris was recovered from Nikumaroro, an uninhabited atoll in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati located between Hawaii and Australia.
Researchers from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery say that the aluminum sheet is a patch of metal installed on the Electra during the Earhart's eight-day stay in Miami. It was the fourth stop on her quest to fly around the world.
So how do they know that piece belongs to that plane? Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR says the Miami Patch was "an expedient field repair" and that "its complex fingerprint of dimensions, proportions, materials and rivet patterns was as unique to Earhart’s Electra as a fingerprint is to an individual."
According to the Discovery News article:
"TIGHAR researchers went to Wichita Air Services in Newton, Kans., and compared the dimensions and features of the Artifact 2-2-V-1, as the metal sheet found on Nikumaroro was called, with the structural components of a Lockheed Electra being restored to airworthy condition.
The rivet pattern and other features on the 19-inch-wide by 23-inch-long Nikumaroro artifact matched the patch and lined up with the structural components of the Lockheed Electra. TIGHAR detailed the finding in a report on its website."
Gillespie says it's the first time that an artifact recovered from Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Earhart.
According to the article:
"The breakthrough would prove that, contrary to what was generally believed, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, did not crash in the Pacific Ocean, running out of fuel somewhere near their target destination of Howland Island.
Instead, they made a forced landing on Nikumaroro' smooth, flat coral reef. The two became castaways and eventually died on the atoll, which is some 350 miles southeast of Howland Island."
There are many more juicy details in the attached Discovery News article, including information on the possibility that they have already spotted the rest of the plane. What a fascinating historical breakthrough!