Amelia Earhart Plane Found? Lawsuit Claims Group Hid Discovery for Financial Gain

A Delaware-based aircraft preservation group is fighting claims that they deceived a wealthy philanthropist who gave the group $1 million in order to locate the aircraft flown by Amelia Earhart.

Timothy Mellon filed a federal lawsuit recently in Wyoming against The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) and their executive director Richard E. Gillespie. He insists the group was given $1 million from him last year without informing him that the missing plane had been found in 2010.

The lawsuit claims that a search in 2010 by the Delaware group at the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro, which is south of Hawaii, caught images underwater of "wreckage of the Lockheed Electra flown by Amelia Earhart when she disappeared in 1937."

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery posted on its website in May that grainy sonar images that was recorded a year ago near Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific showed an unusual object resting on the ocean bed.

The sonar image was taken several hundreds of feet below the ocean's surface and may lead to the long-lost explanation of what happened to the aircraft so many years ago.

In March, the organization revealed that closer analyzation provided some basis to assert that the object may be an aircraft fuselage, but others maintain that it is either a geologic formation or another man-made object. Until divers can obtain a closer look, speculation will abound.

Lawyer Bill Carter, who represents TIGHAR, also commented on the claims and he said that the group "did not conclusively make any discoveries" during the 2010 search.

"TIGHAR does not possess any definitive evidence as to the whereabouts of Earhart's Lockheed Electra, and did not conclusively make any discoveries in 2010 which it's withheld," Carter said about the search mission via The Associated Press. "All of its information and its research is compiled and available for public viewing on its website."

In 1937, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan embarked on an attempt to fly around the world in their Lockheed Electra plane but wound up disappearing, with evidence of their disappearance never being recovered.