Amelia Earhart's plane found? The 'biggest aviation mystery of the century' is now solved.
Amelia Earhart's plane found? The 'biggest aviation mystery of the century' is now solved.Reuters

The 'biggest aviation mystery of the century' has just be solved, claim scientists.

After decades of search, researchers say they may have finally identified a fragment of the wreckage from Amelia Earhart's plane.

The aluminium fragment was first recovered in 1991 on Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles southwest of Hawaii. That is where, some people believe, Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonam lived as castaways after being forced to land during their 1937 attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

Earhart had disappeared during an attempt to make a circumnavigation flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra. She was hitherto believed to have been flying over central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.

"This is the first time an artefact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart," Rick Gillespie, executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), the non-profit group that made the identification, told Discovery News.

The channel notes that the breakthrough would prove that, contrary to what was generally believed, Earhart and her navigator did not crash into the Pacific Ocean after running out on fuel somewhere near their target destination of Howland Island.

After an exhaustive re-analysis of the patch's size, shape, and rivet hole patters, the TIGHAR scientists decided it was indeed a match.

"The patch was as unique to her particular aircraft as a fingerprint is to an individual," the researchers said in a statement. "Research has now shown that a section of aluminium aircraft TIGHAR found on Nikumaroro in 1991 matches that fingerprint in many respects."