Australian searcher denies claims that wreckage is that of Earhart
Amelia Earhart plane searcher David Billings has denied claims in Wednesday’s front page story in The National that the aircraft wreckage found in the jungles of
And the former Air Niugini aircraft engineer, aged 68, urged Papua New Guineans to “calm down”, as the wreckage was not that of Earhart’s plane, and that her plane was still in the jungles of
American Justin Tylan, of Pacific Wrecks, however, says that there is no “historical basis” for Earhart’s loss in PNG.
Wednesday’s story said that what made last week’s discovery significant was the fact that Billings, who has been involved in a project since 1994 to locate Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, had pinpointed the location where the wreckage was as the place where he believed her plane went down in July 1937.
After a dozen trips to the jungles of East New Britain over several years since 1994 – the latest being last August - it appears he has yet to locate what he believes to be Amelia Earhart's downed Lockheed Electra L-10 aircraft.
When told of the discovery, and that the wreckage had the serial number 06751, Mr Billings replied: “It will be another WWII aircraft.
“It seems everyone in PNG is now an Electra expert.
“If the number you gave is the Bureau Number of the aircraft 06751, then the full Bureau No. is 40-6751 indicating that the aircraft came into US Service in 1940.
“As you know, Earhart was lost in 1937.
“It could, however, be anybody’s aircraft, Japanese included, (as) they also used Roman numerals in places.”
Mr Tylan, however, countered: “There is no historical basis for Amelia's loss in PNG.
“The only fact in the article that is accurate is that Amelia took off from Lae Airfield, and would have flown over part of present day PNG, before leaving present day PNG territory.
“Amelia Earhart died doing what she loved... and most likely her plane crashed near her destination, and she died at sea, drowned or was wounded in the crash.
“This is a less glamourous fate than 'conspiracy theories' present... but probably true, nor has any definitive evidence ever proven otherwise.”
Mr Billings stressed that Lockheed made 147 Electras, of which only four every visited
“Two 10A's were in Lae pre-war belonging to Guinea Airways: one was there at Lae when Earhart visted in 1937,” he said.
“The second Guinea Airways aircraft had not been delivered in 1937 when Earhart passed through.
“In 1942, one of the Guinea Airways Electra 10A's returned to PNG to ferry troops and supplies to the battle front at Buna.
“Both these aircraft are accounted for.
“One was written off at
“In 1937, Earhart passed through Lae in her 10E.
“In 1997 Finch's 10A/E flew through Moresby and Lae.
“That's four Electras total into
“Only one of the above aircraft is seriously considered to have returned and crashed in
“That aircraft is Earhart's.”
Mr Billings added: “In the last year or so, five reports emanating in various districts of PNG have proclaimed that the Electra has been found and I keep repeating to you that the area is in East New Britain not that many miles from Rabaul: not in Morobe (two reports) not in the Mt Ulawun area (one report), another one report has been, I recall, in Enga but I may have misread that and now, one in the Kalip area....all could be Electras....all found in PNG !
“The Kalip area is the closest to our search area but our Australian Army Veterans were never in the Kalip area or the Milim area.
“I did hear of a large American aircraft in the Milim area back in 1994 and I guess this one just found may be that one.
“You have to look and consider ‘where’ that area is in relation to the Flight Path from Moresby to Rabaul for the B17 Flying Fortresses, the B-24 Liberators and also all the other aircraft operating from Moresby, Kiriwina, etc.
“This includes B-25 Mitchells and B-26 Marauders operating from Ward's Strip and other satellite dromes plus all the Australian and New Zealand aircraft: Beauforts, Beaufighters, Catalinas, Hudsons etc etc, etc that also attacked Rabaul.
“On top of that you have the fighters, especially the Lockheed Lightning.
“After reading up on the actions in WWII, I am convinced that
“ Just imagine that crippled aircraft leaving Rabaul faced all that open water to get back to Moresby, and in their bad shape, it would be inevitable that lots went down in that area of East New Britain.
“Many, many, did not make it back.
“Many are in the Bainings, many elsewhere.
“To whit, I did hear of a large
“There is also a Japanese aircraft in the same area.
“Want to take a bet? Calm down people…”
Mr Tylan said that there were a lot of tall tales going on in PNG about plane wrecks.
He said: “Other myths in PNG are that Japanese brought gold bars to PNG... although everyone would like to find buried treasure, there is no historical evidence of any ship or cargo of gold bars brought into present day PNG during World War II... yet, many people - outsiders and PNG people believe this to be true, and have spent money chasing false stories... versus exploring PNG's real history.
“There is real gold in PNG... in the ground…but it was not brought there by the Japanese during World War II.
“Many planes went missing in PNG that belonged to the
“For the past 15 years, I have been studying these losses... and likely it will be a life long challenge.
“Each has a story and most claimed their crew's lives.
“These are the real ghosts of war in PNG.
“Therefore, any wreckage found in that area is most likely World War II... a number of other known wrecks are in that same area... including a B-17 Flying Fortress -http://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/b-17/41-2429.html.
“This is a known wreck, and parts of it are displayed at the
“I would be happy to review any photos of aircraft wreckage in PNG... aircraft experts like my colleagues can tell what any part is... even from photographs.
“Details on part numbers, etc, can even reveal the type of plane it was from, or in some cases, even identify them precisely.
“The aviation history of PNG is very fascinating... but I am afraid it does not include Earhart or Gold bars.
“In the article you sent... it mentions the wreck being shot down in 1913 or 1914.... no aircraft flew in present day PNG until 1918... that honor goes to a German airplane from a raiding ship!
“Anyone saying they know where gold bars are... ask them 'what is your proof?' - If they can produce wartime documents or gold bars, then the world will gladly bow to them!
“For the best article debunking the Amelia Earhart claim in PNG... I suggest reading ‘Leave Amelia Alone’ by Michael Claringbould, Flightpath Magazine.”
And so, and so, and so, the Amelia Earhart saga remains one of the greatest unsolved aviation mysteries of all time.