Earhart Project Research Bulletin #74
November 16, 2014
Is TIGHAR Artifact 2-2-V-1 from a PBY?
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As detailed in The Window, The Patch, and The Artifact, TIGHAR research has, to a high degree of certainty, identified a piece of aircraft debris found on Nikumaroro in 1991 as the patch installed on Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra Model 10E Special during her stop in Miami at the beginning of her second world flight attempt. Earhart researcher and author Elgen Long disagrees. He has publicly asserted that the artifact is a perfect match to an area on the upper wing surface of a Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. From 1944 to 1946 PBYs serviced the Coast Guard Loran radio station on Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro) from their base at Canton Island 200 miles away. None were lost or damaged at Gardner but several PBYs are known to have been wrecked on Canton during WWII. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to suppose that parts salvaged from those aircraft were brought to the metals-poor British colonial settlement on Gardner Island, but the question is whether TIGHAR Artifact 2-2-V-1 could be from a PBY. PBY in museum

 

The requirements for a match to 2-2-V-1 are quantifiable:

1. The aluminum sheet must have a thickness of .032″.
2. There must be no paint on either side of the sheet.
3. There must be four parallel rows of 3/32″ AN455 brazier head rivets with no crossing line of rivets.
4. The 3/32″ rivets must have a pitch (distance between rivets) of precisely one inch.
5. The space between parallel lines of rivets must be nominally 4½″.
6. There must be a double staggered row of 5/32″ rivets with a pitch of 1.5″.
2-2-V-1

Elgen Long photo
In 1992, TIGHAR provided Elgen Long with a template and details of Artifact 2-2-V-1. Mr. Long later published this photo showing where he claimed to have found a perfect match for the template on the upper wing surface of a PBY.

PBY planform

The area in question is as shown in this planfrom view of a PBY.1

 

A closer look shows Mr. Long’s claim to be unfounded.


repair manual

1. The aluminum sheet must have a thickness of .032″.

The PBY Repair Manual (page 17, Figure 2-3) documents that the sheeting thickness in the area of Mr. Long’s “perfect match” is .045″ – far heavier that the artifact.2

2. There must be no paint on either side of the sheet.

All PBYs were painted on both the exterior and interior surfaces.

four parallel rows

3. There must be four parallel rows of 3/32″ AN455 brazier head rivets with no crossing line of rivets.

The area of Mr. Long’s “perfect match” has four parallel rows of rivets with no crossing line but the rivets are not 3/32″ size and they are not AN455 brazier heads.

brazier head rivet universal head rivet
The rivets appear to be AN470 Universal head, and the size is either 1/8″ or 5/32″.
rivet pitch

4. The 3/32″ rivets must have a pitch (distance between rivets) of precisely one inch.

The rivets in the area of Mr. Long’s “perfect match” have a pitch of one inch but they are the wrong size and head type.

rivet line spacing

5. The space between parallel lines of rivets must be nominally 4½″.

The space between parallel lines of rivets on the PBY is 4½″. This is the only aspect of the PBY rivet pattern that matches the artifact.

Upper wing

6. There must be a double staggered row of 5/32″ rivets with a pitch of 1.5″.

There is no double staggered row of rivets anywhere on the upper surface of the PBY wing.

In summary:

  1. The skin thickness is wrong.
  2. There should be some remnant of paint on the artifact. There isn’t.
  3. The rivet size is wrong.
  4. The rivet head type is wrong.
  5. The rivet pattern is wrong (no double staggered row).
There is no “perfect match” of the artifact with a PBY. There is no close match with a PBY. The area on the PBY identified by Mr. Long has, at best, a superficial similarity to Artifact 2-2-V-1.

So the answer is no. There is no evidence to suggest that Artifact 2-2-V-1 came from a PBY.


Bill MangusSpecial thanks to TIGHAR researcher Lt. Col. William Mangus, USAF (ret.), who collected data and took the photos for this report at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, VA.  Thanks also to Virginia Beach Airport Facility Manager Donald Siemieniek, Museum Director Donald Hunt, and Museum Volunteer David Gayton, for making the museum’s PBY-5A available, and assisting Lt. Col. Mangus in getting access to the upper wing surface.

Notes
1.  PBY Catalina In Action, by David Doyle. Squadron /Signal Publications, 1983, p. 41. Back.
2. Consolidated PBY Structural Repair Manual. Back.

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