Thursday, January 2, 2020

Is 2-2-V-1 Piece of the Sydney Island C-47 Wreck? Update #3

The latest notable response to Tom Palshaw's report is a post on the TIGHAR discussion forum by Ric Gillespie reporting new rivet line spacing measurements for 2-2-V-1 [1]. According to Gillespie:

 “The differences, while not huge (see “Actual v template”.jpg ) are significant when measuring precise alignment with the pattern on the C-47 wing. Palshaw’s template appears to fit the C-47B wing but it does not accurately reflect the artifact.

The ‘Actual v. template’ figure (see below) is Gillespie’s markup of a photo in the Palshaw report showing a paper template of 2-2-V-1 laid over the New England Air Museum (NEAM)  C-47 wing. The lines on the template were made by Tom Palshaw to indicate 2-2-V-1’s rivet line spacings based on earlier TIGHAR data. The numbers in yellow were added by Ric Gillespie to indicate his new rivet line spacings. I’ve further marked up the photo with the numbers in blue to correct errors in two of Gillespie’s numbers.

Gillespie's new rivet line spacing measurements superimposed on Tom Palshaw's  2-2-V-1 template.
The differences between the new rivet line spacings and those in Tom Palshaw’s template are small, as Gillespie notes. Do these differences matter with regard to the question of whether 2-2-V-1’s rivet lines match those of the NEAM C-47 wing? Tom’s template was a stand-in for 2-2-V-1, which he didn’t have access to when he wrote his report. Rather than concerning ourselves with Tom’s template, let’s consider how well the thing itself, 2-2-V-1, matches the wing. The photo below is a screen shot from the YouTube video of Gillespie and Palshaw comparing 2-2-V-1 to the NEAM C-47 wing in 2017 [2]. At the edge of 2-2-V-1 closest to the camera 2-2-V-1’s rivet hole lines appear align well with those on the underlying C-47 wing. Gillespie’s new measurements don’t appear to disqualify the NEAM C-47 wing as a match for 2-2-V-1, at least at the side closest to the camera. The YouTube video does not provide as good a view of the far end of 2-2-V-1, but neither Gillespie or Palshaw say in the video that the rivet line spacings of the C-47 wing and 2-2-V-1 don’t match.

Direct comparison of 2-2-V-1 to the NEAM C-47 wing

Further along in the same TIGHAR forum post in which Ric Gillespie reports his new rivet line spacing measurements, he writes:

For the best possible comparison to the C-47A that crashed on Sydney Island, we need to come as close as we can to apples-to-apples. We need to do a detailed examination and measurement of the relevant section on the wing of the closest surviving C-47A by tail number.  We will be doing that later this winter.

While it would be interesting to see how well 2-2-V-1 matches the wings of other C-47s, surely a careful examination of the NEAM C-47 wing should take precedence over comparisons to other C-47s. All information available so far indicates that the NEAM C-47 wing is a close match to 2-2-V-1. The doubts Gillespie raised in the YouTube video were addressed in the Palshaw report, and since then Tom has found additional matching features, as discussed in my earlier posts. TIGHAR should collaborate with Tom Palshaw to carefully compare 2-2-V-1 to the NEAM C-47 wing to determine just how well they match. Ric Gillespie has written that “TIGHAR is an educational foundation and the Earhart mystery is a perfect vehicle for exploring, demonstrating, and teaching the scientific method of inquiry” [3]. The scientific method of inquiry most definitely is not about ignoring observations that suggest a favored hypothesis is wrong.

If we are to believe that 2-2-V-1 came from the Sydney Island C-47 wreck, it is reasonable to expect proof that 2-2-V-1 matches some part of a C-47.  Likewise, if we are to believe that 2-2-V-1 is a piece of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra it is reasonable to expect that TIGHAR demonstrate that  2-2-V-1 corresponds to a source location on Earhart’s Electra. According to TIGHAR, that source location is the ‘Miami Patch’, an aluminum alloy sheet that was attached to Earhart’s Electra in Miami to cover a window early on the voyage on which she disappeared. In the photo below taken shortly after it was installed, the shiny new Miami Patch stands out from the more weathered fuselage to which it had been attached.

The newly-installed window patch. Miami, June 1937.

A basic requirement for 2-2-V-1 to be a piece of the Miami Patch is that it must be smaller than the Miami Patch. This is necessarily true because nowhere on 2-2-V-1 is there an original manufactured edge; 2-2-V-1 was clearly torn away from a larger piece of aircraft skin. TIGHAR has stated that 2-2-V-1 fits within the perimeter of the Miami Patch but as far as I know it has never published a photo demonstrating this to be the case. One place where TIGHAR states that 2-2-V-1 fits within perimeter of the Miami Patch is in TIGHAR Research Bulletin #72 [4]. A section titled ‘Do the dimensions of the artifact fit within the dimensions of the patch?’ states:

To answer that question required accurate scaling and the removal of camera-induced distortion from the Miami Herald photo and a photo of 2-2-V-1 pressed down to allow measurement of its full size.  The edges of the patch were straight and riveted, while the borders of the artifact are all failed edges, with one side showing evidence of a line of staggered rivets. If the artifact is a broken-out portion of the patch it must fit within the dimensions of the patch. TIGHAR forensic imaging scientist Jeff Glickman was able to remove the distortion and accurately scale and overlay the photos. The artifact fits nicely within the patch.

The accompanying image of the overlay, see below, does indeed depict 2-2-V-1 as nicely fitting within the boundaries of the Miami Patch. Given 2-2-V-1’s size, the overlay suggests that 2-2-V-1 is several inches smaller than the Miami Patch both vertically and horizontally.

But this overlay must be in error, because actual photos of 2-2-V-1 held close to surviving Lockheed Model 10 Electras show that if 2-2-V-1 fits within the Miami Patch’s boundaries at all, it does so with very little room to spare. TIGHAR Research Bulletin #73 [5] reports the results of an examination of an Electra undergoing restoration in Wichita, Kansas. The report includes the photo below of 2-2-V-1 held close to the exterior of the Wichita Electra’s fuselage, with the perimeter of the Miami Patch outlined somewhat inaccurately with yellow adhesive measuring tape. 2-2-V-1 does not appear to fit within the marked boundaries of the Miami Patch. The ‘Tab’ feature at the bottom edge of 2-2-V-1 extends below the lower boundary of the Miami Patch, which in this photo corresponds to the upper edge of the yellow tape. 2-2-V-1 also overlaps the yellow tape that marks the forward perimeter of the Miami Patch, which in this photo is placed too far forward. As discussed in TIGHAR Research Bulletin #73 itself, the forward edge of the patch had to be tailward of where it appears in the photo [6]. 2-2-V-1 fits within the upper perimeter of the patch, but perhaps only because as 2-2-V-1 is held in this photo it bulges outward, which lessens any vertical mismatch between it and the patch. Remember that since 2-2-V-1 is a remnant of a larger piece of metal, it must not only fit within the perimeter of the patch, it must do so with room to spare. TIGHAR Research Bulletin #73 notes the lack of fit apparent in this photo and explains it as being an effect of perspective, i.e., 2-2-V-1 appears to be larger relative to the fuselage than it really is because it’s slightly closer to the camera. Why this report did not include a photo of 2-2-V-1 pressed against the side of the Wichita Electra to clearly show how well it fits within the required perimeter is a mystery; surely a thin sheet of transparent plastic could have been placed between fuselage and 2-2-V-1 to prevent cosmetic damage to the surface of the airplane if that was a concern.

2-2-V-1 compared to the Miami patch perimeter, Wichita.

If TIGHAR has a photo from the Wichita exercise that properly compares 2-2-V-1 to the Miami Patch’s perimeter, it should publish that photo to support its claim that 2-2-V-1 is a piece of the Miami Patch. If TIGHAR does not have such a photo, it is all the more reason to return to NEAM. NEAM has a Lockheed Model 10 Electra in its collection, so in addition to documenting how well 2-2-V-1 matches the NEAM C-47 wing, TIGHAR can document how well 2-2-V-1 fits within the boundaries of the Miami Patch.

Some time ago Ric Gillespie posted a photo on the TIGHAR Forum similar in composition to the Wichita photo, but using the NEAM Electra's fuselage as the backdrop and the patch perimeter marked with clear adhesive tape.  That photo (see below) shares some of the Wichita photo’s problems, e.g., the forward perimeter is placed too far forward and 2-2-V-1 bulges outward. Additionally, 2-2-V-1 is held at an unlikely angle with respect to the Electra’s fuselage; the lowest rivet line would not span the width of the patch at the angle it makes with the lower boundary of the patch. Gillespie notes some of these problems, but his assessment was nevertheless that "It's not a great photo and the placement is a bit too high and a tad too far forward on the airplane but, as you can see, it all works". But it doesn't all work. 2-2-V-1 extends beyond the upper and lower perimeter of the patch even though its outward bulge reduces the extent of the overlap, and since the forward perimeter is too far forward, it is not clear that 2-2-V-1 is fits horizontally within the Miami Patch's boundaries. Once again I note that 2-2-V-1 must fit with room to spare since it is a fragment of a larger piece of metal.

2-2-V-1 compared to the Miami Patch perimeter, New England Air Museum

TIGHAR claims that 2-2-V-1 is small enough to be a piece of the Miami Patch, but it hasn’t provided clear photographic proof that this is true. It should take less than an hour at NEAM to properly compose a comparison photo that would provide this needed proof. The four borders of the patch perimeter would need to be properly positioned on the fuselage and 2-2-V-1 would need to be pressed against the NEAM Electra's fuselage to minimize bulges and to eliminate effects of perspective.

Comments, corrections, additional relevant facts, differing viewpoints, etc., are always welcome.  Send to

[6] In the Wichita photo, the forwaed perimeter coincides with a row of staggered rivets at what is referred to as 'Station 293 5/8'.  TIGHAR Research Bulletin #73 states: "The frame could not be riveted directly to the underlying structure at Sta. 293 5/8 because of the thick lavatory bulkhead on the interior (no way to buck the rivets), so new underlying structure was added just aft of Sta. 293 5/8 to provide something to rivet the frame to".