On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared during their attempt to circumnavigate the globe, and the U.S. Government began one of the most intensive searches for a missing person in history. The U.S. Navy covered 150,000 square miles of open-ocean in 6-7 days, while the State Department coordinated with foreign governments involved in the search.
However, the arduous search was called off on July 18th of that year, and it seemed the truth about where the plane went down would be forever lost to the waves of the Pacific.
Until Tuesday, when Ric Gillespie, Executive Director of The International Group for Historic Airplane Recovery (TIGHAR), explained the new discovery, in a re-enhanced photo, of what appears to be the landing gear sticking out of the water along the coast of the island of Nikumaroro, now part of Kiribati. The picture was taken a few months after Earhart’s disappearance, and the landing gear appears to be that of the type of plane that Earhart flew.
So this week, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and I joined historians, scientists and salvagers from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery to reopen the search for Earhart's Lockheed Electra.
Advised by Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard and with the aid of the Kiribati Foreign Secretary Tessie Lambourne, these researchers are planning a 10 day mission, funded by private investors, to test these theories and see if they can find Earhart’s long-lost plane, and ultimately the remains of Earhart herself.
Few mysteries have puzzled generations as much as the disappearance of history's most famous female aviator.
Earhart was a pioneer both for women and for the still young field of aviation. Her adventures are still an inspiration for girls and young women around the world who dream of becoming pilots or astronauts. And it doesn't seem like a stretch to say that pioneers such as Earhart helped pave the way for the achievements of Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Lambourne.
As Secretary Clinton remarked, “Earhart embodied the spirit of an America coming of age and increasingly confident, ready to lead in a quite uncertain and dangerous world. When she took off on that historic journey, she carried the aspirations of our entire country with her.”
Ric Gillespie and the team at TIGHAR now carry the aspirations of those who want to see this 75-year-old mystery resolved.
And one day soon, the world may finally know what became of the woman who helped pave what Wilbur Wright called, “the infinite highway of the air.”