Earhart Museum to Explore Evidence Related to Aviatrix’s Disappearance

Experts are expected to discuss where they believe Amelia Earhart’s Electra is now and evidence behind why it disappeared.

Amelia Earhart in the cockpit of her Lockheed Electra 10-E. [Courtesy: Purdue University Libraries]

On July 2, 1937, aviatrix Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared while flying over the Pacific in their Lockheed Electra 10-E. 

Although the disappearance was 87 years ago, it remains of interest to many. On July 19 and 20, it will be the topic of two separate events presented by the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum in Atchison, Kansas.

The discussions are set to take place the same weekend as the town's Amelia Earhart Festival, which is held the third weekend in July to honor the aviatrix's birthday, according to museum spokesperson Vanessa Bonavia. Although both talks are sponsored by the museum, they will be held off museum property to allow for a capacity crowd.

The first talk, Adventure Amelia: A Conversation with Explorers in the Search for Amelia Earhart, will be a panel discussion on July 19 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CST at the Fox Theatre Atchison, 612 Commercial Street. The presentation is free, but registration is required. 

The panelists include Deep Sea Vision founder Tony Romeo, who got the world's attention in January after publishing underwater images taken in the South Pacific that he alleges may be Earhart's aircraft. He will be joined by his brother Lloyd Romeo, who served as project manager during the expedition.

Also scheduled to participate on the panel is Gary LaPook, a celestial navigation expert with The Stratus Project, a U.K.-based organization that has been searching for Earhart. Liz Smith, a Date Line Theory expert, ocean exploration, and science documentary producer, is also participating. The panel discussion will be moderated by Dorothy Cochrane, curator of the aeronautics department at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Panelists are expected to discuss where they believe the famous Electra is now, the reasons for its disappearance, and the evidence that supports their claims.

“As the curator for general aviation that includes the history of women in aviation, I have presented in various conferences and forums solo or with others," Cochrane said. "Of course, I've done many media interviews and articles. At the museum I am responsible for Earhart's transatlantic Lockheed Vega and related material that will soon be displayed again in the museum's Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery.”

According to Cochrane, a common question asked is “why Howland Island?” followed by “why was Earhart making the flight?” 

“While not perfectly planned, it was not a stunt,” Cochrane said. “It is exactly what Earhart did for a living—setting records and then writing and lecturing. Women pilots had very few money-making opportunities since they were not allowed to fly in the military or in commercial airlines, and the private sector had little serious interest in them (except Beech Aircraft, that's another story with Louise Thaden). So, Earhart built her own career. She truly loved flying and touring and supporting other women pilots.”

Deep Dive With Deep Sea Vision

On July 20, the Romeo brothers will talk about their process for searching the more than 5,200 square miles of ocean near Howland Island looking for the final resting place of the Electra.

The expedition spent 90 days on-site searching for the famous airplane that disappeared while trying to find Howland Island, which was a fuel stop as part of Earhart's attempt to fly around the world. The Deep Sea Vision expedition relied on underwater drones. One of them captured a sonar image that to some people resembles an airplane.

Ocean exploration company Deep Sea Vision has a fuzzy underwater image it thinks is Amelia Earhart’s Electra. [Courtesy: Deep Sea Vision]

"Both the Romeo brothers are pilots, so they will be bringing the pilot perspective into it," Bonavia said.

The pair will share highlights from their search for the Lockheed Electra 10-E and the company’s plans to launch its confirmation expedition with a high-powered camera to look for more evidence, such as the aircraft’s “NR16020” registration number. The conversation will be moderated by Amelia Rose Earhart, a pilot, author, and artist who in 2014 honored her namesake by completing a global circumnavigation flight.

The Deep Dive with Deep Sea Vision will take place at 9 a.m. CDT at the O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium at Benedictine College in Atchison. 

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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