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Was Amelia Earhart's airplane really found? All about the $11 million expedition and why experts think so

Deep Sea Vision CEO Tony Romeo conducted an expedition throughout the Pacific Ocean, and found an object he believes is the long-lost airplane

Amelia Earhart smiles as she sits clad in a leather aviator's jacket in the cockpit of a small airplane, 1937© Getty
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
February 1, 2024
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Chief among some of the most dumbfounding, unsolved mysteries in history – from who was Jack the Ripper to the location of Cleopatra's tomb or who really killed JonBenét Ramsey – what happened to Amelia Earhart, and her airplane, has always been at the top.

Earhart, born in 1897 in Atchison Kansas, was the first female aviator to fly by herself across the Atlantic Ocean. She famously disappeared in 1937, three weeks before her 40th birthday, when she attempted to become the first woman to complete a circumnavigational flight across the world, along with navigator Fred Noonan.

They were last seen in Lae, New Guinea, close to their last stop, though evidence of a crash – from remains to the plane itself, a Lockheed 10-E Electra – have never been found… until now? Nearly 90 years and $11 million later, ocean explorers are claiming they may have found the infamous wreckage. Get all you need to know about it below.

Amelia Earhart stands June 14, 1928 in front of her bi-plane called "Friendship" in Newfoundland© Getty
Earhart with one of her planes in 1928

Where was Amelia Earhart's plane found?

While it has yet to be determined that the long-lost aircraft was really found, Deep Sea Vision CEO Tony Romeo has reason to believe his crew of deep-sea explorers did.

After selling his commercial real-estate properties to raise the $11 million needed for the expedition, his team of 16 scanned over 5,200 square miles of the Pacific Ocean floor, which left them with photos of a plane-shaped object about 100 miles from Howland Island, where Earhart and Noonan were headed to refuel before their last stop.

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Reasons to believe the plane was found

Romeo told NPR there are "three main reasons" his team believes they found the plane, explaining: "First, the twin vertical stabilizers in the back of the empennage, the tail section, are very distinctive of Amelia's aircraft. 

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"Two, the area that we found this was incredibly flat and smooth. So, you know, any natural formation protruding up from the bottom would be very unusual. And then, three, the size of the aircraft in the image is, you know, very much within the parameters of what we'd expect for her aircraft."

Photo shared by Deep Sea Vision on Instagram of the plane-shaped object they found during their Amelia Earhart expedition, which they believe could be imagery of the long-lost plane.© Deep Sea Vision
Deep Sea Vision shared their images from the plane-shaped object they found and believe could be Earhart's

What are the next steps?

Romeo and his team aren't trying to be the next OceanGate fiasco, and they know the site is too deep for it to be reached without the proper technology.

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He said: "It's about 15,000 feet. But the next step is to get an ROV down there, take pictures and maybe take a look at what the condition the aircraft is in."

Howland Island is an uninhabited coral island located just north of the equator in the central Pacific Ocean.  It is best known as the island Amelia Earhart was searching for but never reached when her airplane disappeared on July 2, 1937© Getty
Howland Island, an uninhabited coral island located just north of the equator in the central Pacific Ocean, is best known as the island Earhart was searching for but never reached when her airplane disappeared on July 2, 1937

What would prove Amelia Earhart's plane was found?

There are definitely skeptical experts who aren't convinced the imagery from the search, which took over 100 days, shows Earhart's plane, with some suspecting it might not show a plane at all. 

For now, Romeo is hoping to launch another, deeper expedition with an even more advanced remotely operated vehicle that can get closer to the site for photos. The main proof his team, and the world, would need to confirm it is in fact Earhart's plane is to find the registration number, NR16020, still painted on the wing. While after over 80 years in the water that could prove difficult, he said: "We expect, based on what we've seen from other World War II airplanes at similar depths in the ocean, that the paint and the plane will be still in really good condition."

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