Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Earhart's plane found at last?
THE discovery of the wreckage of an aircraft in the Ip River in East Pomio, East New Britain province last week, has generated renewed speculation that it could be the aircraft belonging to famed American aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, The National newspaper reports.
What makes this particular discovery significant is the fact that an Australian aircraft engineer, who has been involved since 1994 in a project to locate Ms Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, had pinpointed the location where the wreckage was found as the place where he believed Ms Earhart’s plane went down.
An entry on the free internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Ear ... e_from_Lae
) says the engineer, former Air Niugini employee David Billings, asserts that a map marked with notations consistent with Ms Earhart’s engine model number and her airframe’s construction number, was seen briefly by Australian soldiers during World War II.
Mr Billings’ theory originates from the WWII Australian patrol stationed on East New Britain and indicates a crash site 64km (40 miles) southwest of Rabaul, which is only a few kilometres away from where the wreckage was found last week.
Mr Billings speculated that Ms Earhart turned back from her intended destination of Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean after unsuccessfully trying to rendezvous with an American warship, and tried to reach Rabaul for fuel.
Mr Billings and his team had made 10 attempts to locate the wreckage. His theory is contained in an exhaustive article on an American aviation website (http://www.wingsoverkansas.com/earhart/ ... asp?id=850
) detailing the reasons for his conclusion that the wreckage spotted by the Diggers on April 17, 1945, belonged to Ms Earhart.
Ms Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off from Lae on July 2, 1937, in the heavily loaded Electra for Howland Island 4,113km (2,556 miles) away. To date, their disappearance had remained an enduring mystery.
A brief report in Monday’s The National prompted one reader from Australia to write in to suggest that the wreckage could belong to Ms Earhart’s Electra.
Further research on the internet revealed Mr Billings’ theory pinpointing the area 64km southwest of Rabaul where the Diggers spotted the wreckage in 1945.
A community leader from the Kalip ward in East Pomio, Isidor Vote, said last week that the aircraft was discovered by a group of youths in the Ip River in the bushes of East Pomio.
Local villagers believed the aircraft might have been shot down during World War I between 1913 and 1914, and even suggested it was being flown by a female American pilot. It is not known what their theory is based on.
Mr Vote said the wreckage had the serial number 06751 on one of its body parts that had remained intact all these years, and parts of one of its wings had dents on it.
Mr Vote wanted Government authorities to visit the site and inspect the aircraft in order to get more information.
He said it would serve as a record for the War Museum in Kokopo.
If the find proves to indeed be Ms Earhart’s Electra, it will have far more significance and could prompt an international media frenzy in the Pomio area.