Amelia Earhart Plane
June 23, 2012

TIGHAR’s Earhart Project Readies With Ambitious Support From FedEx

Lawrence LeBlond for

One of aviation´s most puzzling mysteries could be solved in the coming weeks as TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) gears up for its most ambitious project yet: the search for Amelia Earhart´s Lockheed Model 10E Electra aircraft that went down somewhere in the Pacific in 1937.

And to help make that happen, TIGHAR is relying, in part, on the logistical expertise of FedEx to deliver valuable high-tech search equipment from the continental US to Hawaii for the upcoming expedition, which launches on July 2nd, the 75th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

FedEx will deliver key pieces of sensitive equipment for the project, including a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) and an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). In all, FedEx is shipping more than 27,000 pounds of underwater search equipment more than 20,000 miles.

Ric Gillespie, Executive Director at TIGHAR, and author of “Finding Amelia - The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance,” told Lawrence LeBlond at that FedEx has played a “vital part” in the search for an answer to the Amelia Earhart mystery for more than 16 years, donating all shipping costs of “archaeological equipment and supplies to ports of embarkation for six on-shore archaeological surveys of Nikumaroro” since 1996.

Yet, the upcoming underwater search for Earhart´s wreckage is far more technologically complex than anything TIGHAR, or FedEx, has embarked on to date. Shipping requirements are “far greater, more diverse, and more time-critical - than anything we´ve done before,” said Gillespie.

The primary vehicle to be used in the search efforts -- the Bluefin 21 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) -- will utilize side-scan sonar to search for man-made objects on the steep, craggy underwater mountainside of the island´s western reef slope. The project will also use a TRV 005 Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to investigate and photograph targets identified by the AUV.

Gillespie noted that “these vehicles and the equipment to support them are large, heavy, and delicate. They are coming from Massachusetts and Louisiana and must arrive dockside undamaged and on time for loading aboard the expedition ship. This expedition could not happen without FedEx.”

Just as Amelia Earhart was an aviation pioneer of her time, FedEx is an aviation history-maker as well, pioneering overnight delivery. And in celebrating the anniversary of the disappearance, FedEx incorporated a number of FedEx subsidiaries to create a seamless end-to-end delivery solution for TIGHAR that includes deliveries by ground, sea and, of course, air.

FedEx departed Louisiana on June 15 with the first set of underwater search equipment, being hauled by truck to California, where it was loaded onto a cargo ship for its 4-day journey to Honolulu, Hawaii. The ROV is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu sometime on June 24. FedEx will help transport the containers safely from port to a staging location at the University of Hawaii and then onto the expedition vessel on June 27.

But the deliveries do not end there. FedEx will also be shipping more than 2,000 pounds of cargo via airline, including the AUV. That shipment is scheduled to depart Massachusetts via FedEx Express jet on June 25.

Paul Cassel, Senior Vice President of Flight Operations at FedEx Express said: “It´s thrilling for FedEx to be involved in the search for answers to one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time. While millions find the tale of her disappearance fascinating, as an airline we feel a special connection to her story and a gratitude for her contributions to the aviation industry.”

Besides the significant contributions from FedEx, a number of other equally as important supporters have joined in the search for Earhart´s lost Electra aircraft.

Lockheed Martin and Discovery Communications are major supporters of the Project, as well as Photek Forensic Imaging and the GeoEye Foundation. Photek has provided vital photo interpretation services and GeoEye has provided high-resolution satellite imagery of the island, according to Gillespie.

“But, by far, the bulk of the funding for this expedition has come, and is coming from contributions, large and small, from private citizens,” Gillespie tells

When asked how strongly he felt that we are on the verge of solving one of the most puzzling mysteries in aviation history, Gillespie said: “I think our hypothesis is sound and we have assembled the best available technology and expertise to test it - but for us to succeed there must be wreckage there that is findable and there are things that could have happened that could make it not findable. Or we may have misinterpreted something - taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. All we can guarantee is that we will do the best job we can.”

The Earhart Project will include a scientific/technological team of 17 people when the expedition embarks on July 2, but will be supported by a research staff numbering in the hundreds.

Please visit to read more on the latest news and to lend your support for the Earhart Project. The project needs $2,000,000 to make this ambitious project become a reality and is now more than 82 percent fulfilled. Without support from people like us, this mission would not be possible.