Some eight months before its last, fateful flight over the Pacific, Amelia Earhart's aircraft appeared on theater screens chasing a panicked crowd all around an airport apron and then making a wild takeoff, new research into the world's most famous missing plane has revealed.
Researchers at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has long been investigating the last, fateful flight taken by Earhart on July 2, 1937, have discovered the twin-engined Lockheed Electra had a cameo role in the MGM romantic comedy "Love On The Run," starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford.
"With Hollywood stunt pilot Paul Mantz at the controls, the plane cavorted for the camera," Ric Gillespie executive director of TIGHAR, told Discovery News.
Photos: Amelia Earhart's Fate Reconstructed
According to TIGHAR, the Electra was filmed within weeks of its delivery to Amelia on her 39th birthday on July 24, 1936. Whether she knew or approved of her new airplane's debut is not clear.
After the crazy takeoff performed by Mantz, who was also Earhart's technical adviser, the newly-licensed airplane wasn't used again in the film. All of the later shots were done using a scale model.
In the story, the plane ultimately crashed, though Clark Gable and Joan Crawford escaped without injury.
"It is little wonder that this bizarre use of Earhart's aircraft was kept quiet," Gillespie said.
Photos: Jars Hint at Amelia Earhart as Castaway
He noted that scenes in the movie clearly show the registration number R1602 of Earhart's plane on the upper wing surface.
The strange episode has been unknown to Earhart biographers and researchers until now. The fate of Earhart and resting place of the Electra remain unknown as well.
In the attempt to finally solve the mystery, a new expedition will be launched in summer 2017, on the 80th anniversary of the disappearance of the legendary pilot.
Amelia Earhart Plane Fragment Identified
Gillespie told Discovery News that the comprehensive search will rely on two three-person manned submersibles operated by the University of Hawaiii's Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL).
HURL's subs, Pisces IV and Pisces V, will inspect a one-mile-long section of the steep, underwater reef slope off the west end of Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati, looking for fragments of Earhart's plane.
"An abundance of archival, photographic and artifact evidence suggests that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan made a successful landing on the island's fringing reef," Gillespie said.