Billings’ latest search fails to locate Earhart Electra

David Billings recently returned from his seventeenth trip to East New Britain in search of the Earhart Electra, and again he was unable to find the hidden wreck that he believes is the lost Electra 10E that Amelia Earhart flew from Lae, New Guinea on the morning of July 2, 1937. 

Billings’ New Britain theory is the only hypothesis among all the various possible explanations that varies from the truth as we know it, but which presents us information and poses questions that cannot be explained or answered.  Unless and until the twin-engine wreck that an Australian army team found in the East New Britain jungle 1945 is rediscovered, this loose end will forever irritate and annoy researchers who take such findings seriously.

Readers can review the details of Billings’ work by reading my Dec. 5, 2016 post, New Britain theory presents incredible possibilities.  You can also go to Billings’ website Earhart Lockheed Electra Search Project and see “Earhart’s Disappearance Leads to New Britain: Second World War Australian Patrol Finds Tangible Evidence” which offers a wealth of information on this unique and fascinating theory.

Billings has sent me a detailed report on the events of the last three weeks, and it’s presented below.  I wish he had better news, as this aspect of the continuing Earhart search is one that screams for resolution, unlike the others, which are all flat-out lies and disinformation, intended only to keep the public ignorant about Amelia’s sad fate.  (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)


by David Billings

The Start
Our last expedition started on Friday, June 2, when the six members of the Australian team met at the Brisbane International Motel on the Friday evening prior to the flight out of Brisbane for Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on the morning of Saturday, June 3.

We flew from Brisbane for three hours and went into transit at Port Moresby, then on to the flight which is nominally to Rabaul but actually Kokopo and arrived at Tokua Airport after an hour and 20 minutes, on time, and then by mini-bus to the Rapopo Plantation Resort just outside of Kokopo, which was the base for our equipment and rationsgathering over the next two days.

The local singing group welcomes David Billings to Rapopo Plantation Resort.  (Photo courtesy David Billings.)

The hired HiLux vehicles arrived and Sunday and Monday was spent on shopping for the major items from prepared lists and boxing all the goods up and storing them in the rooms.  Money changing at the banks in Kokopo and final shopping was Tuesday for odds and ends.

The U.S. team members arrived at the Rapopo on Monday, June 5, and after their hectic flight schedule relaxed on the Tuesday ready for the road trip on Wednesday.

The Journey to Wide Bay
The road trip with all 10 members was carried out in three Toyota HiLux Dual Cab 4WD’s with diesel engines.  We had walkie-talkies for contact during the drive.  The road we had planned on was to be approximately 160 kilometers (99.4 miles) and we expected to be able to do this in about four and-a-half hours.  The actual time was seven hours over very rough roads and with a planned one major river crossing and several minor river crossings.  In the event, due to finding one road impassable, we were forced to ford a quite wide and substantial river which we know from previous trips can be in flood quite rapidly as it has a large watershed area stretching up into the Baining Mountains.

The supposed sealedroads out of Kokopo through small villages towards Kerevat town were a nightmare with potholes every few yards and the daily multitude of vehicles were weaving in and out of the potholes and wandering all over the road to avoid the holes.

A good 10 kilometers out of Kerevat town, a turnoff towards the village of Malasait brought us onto the very rough tracks that we were to use for the rest of the journey.  This rough track constitutes the major part of what is euphemistically called the “East New Britain Highway.”  For a detailed look at the Gazelle Peninsula in relation to the Billings search, please click here.

The Gazelle Peninsula forms the northeastern part of East New Britain Province.  Billings said the route from Kokopo to Wide Bay (below southern part of map, not labeled) is “mainly over very rough logging tracks.”

On the Highway
All went well over the awful rough roads until about the halfway point whereupon we came across a gigantic mudslide over a stretch of the highwayon a downslope about 100 meters long, with ruts in the mud about 500 millimeters (19.6 inches) deep.  There was a truck there which they had shed the load off of it and copra bags littered the drains as they had strived to get the truck through and they were picking the bags up on a long pole when we got there.  Rain water had gone completely over this section and washed the road out.  After throwing rocks into the deepest rutted sections and pushing the loose mud down also, we managed to get through this area in four-wheel drive.  We had to remember this section of road and prepare for it for the return journey.

Shortly after this, we crossed the Sambei River No. 2, in a wide sweeping arc with water just over the wheel hubs which allowed us to stay on the shallowest parts and then continued on the way.

At this river crossing we had met up with a local man who said he was going to the Lamerien area and we followed him along a newly cut forestry road which joined up with the old road near to the turn-off to Awungi, then we entered the steep descending curves down into the Mevelo River Valley and expected to turn off to the right to follow the track through the Mumus and Yarras River Valleys.  However, our guide drove straight ahead to a security guard post leading into the Palm Oil Plantation, sited on the northern side of the Mevelo River.  On realizing that we were being led into the Palm Oil Plantation the expectation then was that the bridge over the Mevelo which we could seenot completedin Satellite views must then becompleted,which would mean we could cross the wide Mevelo River with ease.

The Mevelo River
After driving through the Palm Oil roads for about 40 minutes we came to the Mevelo River and our hopes were dashed!  There was no bridge.  We had seen a bridge with a very nearly completed driving span in the satellite pictures with but one span to be completed.  What we were now looking at was a damaged bridge with no roadway across the pylons.  The Mevelo River is a very fast flowing river in flood and an earlier flood had obviously caused the bridge supports to move and the bridge had collapsed.

The bridge was down, destroyed by the “mighty” Mevelo at some time in a flood.  Several of the old shipping containers that had been used as ballast cans for rocks to hold and support the concrete bridgeworks had been moved out of position by the strength of the flow of water down the Mevelo River and now we were left with a choice — we must now ford the river or turn back.

Luckily, while we had a rest stop close to the access road to the river, I had seen two Toyota Land Cruiser troop carrier vehicles come out of the track entrance to the river and sure enough when we arrived at the river, there were the wet wheel tracks of these vehicles left behind on the steep entrance into the river, so we decided to go across, fording the river in the HiLux in H4, in four-wheel drive.  I went first and kept a straight line across and the water was deeper over on the far side of the river and estimated to be just at wheel height.  The second vehicle came across and then Matt took a different wider line and we could see water up to the bonnet before the front end of the vehicle reared up out of the water onto dry land.  A sigh of relief went up from all watching!

The Mevelo River ford point with the damaged bridgeworks and sunken dislodged containers (looking north).  (Photo courtesy David Billings.)

The Old Track
What we now know is that the former old track (part of which I have previously walked) which leads out of the Mevelo Valley and up to the Mumus and Yarras River Valleys, our planned route, is totally overgrown and cannot be used.  It is a seven-hour 166 kilometer (106 miles) drive from Kokopo to Lamerien over very rough roads with what we thought were two major river crossings.  We had three large rivers to cross, only one of which was bridged.

Change to the Planning
The crossing of the Mevelo River by the ford, which was forced upon us by the closure of the now overgrown roadout of the Mevelo Valley meant that we had to rethink our carefully laid plans on several aspects: The Americans had appointments to keep on their return so had to get back for their flights.  We got to the campsite on Thursday, June 7 and managed to get the tents up before dark.  That left a maximum for them of six nights in the camp but in the light of the river fords (particularly the Mevelo River ford) we had to gauge intervals in the rain to get back over the Mevelo River, which was accessed as the biggest obstacle. 

1.  The American participants had a maximum of seven nights/six days at Wide Bay and had to return to Kokopo, the seventh day had been planned as thereturn to Kokopo day.

2.  Originally it had been planned for two vehicles to return with the American participants and then one vehicle return to Wide Bay on the same day.  It was now deemed too dangerous for one vehicle to make the trip back due possible breakdown on the rough roads or getting bogged on the mudslide.  This planned return trip would take two days if carried out.

3.  The drive cannot be done Kokopo to Wide Bay (Lamerien) and back in one day, it had been planned as a one-day trip because if the river crossings were possible on that day in the morningthen they would still be able to be crossed later in the day.  The two-day return trip negated that idea.

4.  More importantly, we would have to ford the Mevelo River on a return journey and to that there was no alternative, the Mevelo River had to be crossed in order to get back to Kokopo with the vehicles, that meant the surety of a day when the river ford was at a low point.

5.  We also had to make a contingency for the 100-meter-long mudslide in the road at roughly the halfway point, after the Sambei River, which doubtless would not have been repaired by the time of our return.  This meant that lengths of logs had to be carried both for ballast in crossing the two main river fords and as fill to drop into the ruts on the mudslide section.  The chainsaw also had to return with the vehicles in case of the need for more wood.

Secondary Jungle Visited Three Times
It rained the first night (Thursday) and Friday afternoon we made it up the hill.  Since 2012 it has become just a tangled mess up there, the old bulldozer tracks are barely visible and the tree roots across the ground hold pools of water making it treacherous. 

The climb up to the top of the hill can be quite steep in places and with the rain it was very slippery and some assistance was needed in paces and the willing hands of the young men of the village gave that assistance.  The hill height is around 420 feet and the start level is 150 feet, so it is a tough climb over 270 feet of elevation.

David Billings in the East New Britain jungle checking search area location from previous GPS waypoints.  (Photo courtesy David Billings.)

It rained the second night for three hours with lightning and thunder rolls and lashing rain from 12 p.m. to 3 a.m., and then more rain during that new day.  June is supposed to be the drier month of the year.  We went up the hill three times, it rained while we were in there.

Due to the available time for the Americans in the team, the rain, the rising rivers to cross and the vehicles to be got across the rivers, we had to consider getting out at an opportune time with the biggest obstacle, the Mevelo River, at a low point.  We watched the Mevelo on a daily basis.  The Mevelo went down a bit and we took the opportunity to get out on Monday, June 12.  Seven hours later we were back in Kokopo.  

“East New Britain Highway” is Atrocious
Back to the mudslide!  Yes, the mudslide was still there and still about 100 meters long, but this time on the return, on an upslope.  We had to remember that stretch for going back so we cut some logs the length of the HiLux tray and took two layers of 5-foot round logs back with us both as ballast for the river crossing and to patch up the road when we got to the mudslide.  When we got there a big truck was bogged in, but luckily off to the side, so we gave them a shovel, then we filled in the deeper parts of one rut with the logs we carried and I went first with one wheel side in the rut and the other on the center heap of slime, and in H4 we all got through but it was close-run thing.  All the villagers that were working on the road cheered!  Most of the road is laterite where a bulldozer has shaved off the top soil and exposed the rock underneath but this section was just mud.  The roads must be terrible on the HiLux suspension and most of the journey is in first and second gear with occasional third being used.

Members of David Billings’ team sweep the East New Britain jungle in search of the Earhart Electra. Once again, nothing was found on this, the seventeenth time he’s visited this remote area of the world in search of the lost plane. (Photo courtesy David Billings.)

Where do we go from here
It is obvious that we cannot use vehicles again until the roads improve and bridges are built, that means use and reliance on a helicopter again, for in and out, with additional expense.

The idea was that by using vehicles we could cut down the expense and carry as much as we liked to make the camp comfortable.  We had also intended to go down to the Ip River where a World War II wreck had been reported about 10 years ago and which no one has been to identify, so we had thought that we would do that, but the villagers told us that the coast track was impassable.

All the film taken will now be used to make a documentary concerning the search for the aircraft wreck seen in 1945, which I am convinced on the basis of the documentary evidence on the World War II map and the visual description by the Army veterans, is the elusive Electra.  We shall have to wait and see what interest is generated by the documentary.


David Billings,
Queensland,  Australia (June 20, 2017)

Billings’ next trip to East New Britain will be his eighteenth, if he indeed makes it, and if persistence means anything at all, perhaps he will finally locate the wrecked airplane he believes was Amelia Earhart’s bird. I wish him the best of luck, as he will surely need it.  If you’d like to contribute to his cause, you can visit his website, Earhart Lockheed Electra Search Project for details.

12 responses

  1. WOW – David Billings soldiers on in this elusive search for another, supposed Lockheed Electra? You wonder WHY, he puts himself through all this TroUbLe? Just hire some of the local natives and equip them with machete’s, metal detectors & digital camera’s………………………Problem solved!
    Our hats off to you David, but your really making more work for yourself. Under those conditions, hurdles to jump through & over, plus the setbacks; it’s time take another approach. We *COMMEND you DAVID, especially your dogged determination in this endeavor. ALL the *VERY BEST & SUCCESS next time.


  2. Even though I don’t believe he is correct on his hypothesis, you have to admire his determination to find the truth.


  3. David Atchason | Reply

    It makes me wonder how the Army Patrol in 1945 was able to get around the area? It sounds like now there are no passable roads, the jungle has grown back, the supposed wrecked plane has been buried, and David doesn’t explain how he arrived at the GPS coordinates. I would like to hear more details of what he actually did there when he apparently arrived at his search area. This latest post poses more questions than it answers. Maybe David will write a more detailed history of the details of his search. I tend to believe if they ever do find the plane it will turn out that the engine with the C/N on it will turn out to be installed in a completely different Electra 10E. Although I admit there were not that many Electras built and most of them have been accounted for already. David claims ALL of them have been accounted for. I have no way of proving him wrong.


    1. I tend to agree with you, David. You have Mr. Billings contact information, and I suggest that you direct these questions to David B.


  4. *Cannot print out pages. Text off-centered to the right. *

    Has anyone considered that the Electra 1055 build was flown from Lae to Rabual as a American / British covert spying mission?

    The plane lost an engine and spun into the jungle short of the mountain range. It left Lae just before sunrise with a light fuel load and was to be refueled at the British Rabual air strip.and take off near sunset for a sunrise overfly of the Eastern Marshall Islands for camera proof of the land build up on Worte, Tarwa (MelXXXXXXX Atoll Naval repair station) and Juliaet Jap Navy headquarters.

    Earhart left Lae about three hours ;later for a non-stop flight to Howland. She was flying Lockheed number three that was delivered in late April to Purdue Aeronautics. Number two ended up in Siapan when Jap land based aircraft fighters forced the plane down on Worte airstrip and took them and the plane to Siapan at the time of the first attempt in March 1936. This was the Electra seen by US Marines in 1944.

    Lockheed constructed three similar long range Electra 10Es for the US Navy. Purdue Univ. archives know only of the first July build (1055) which all three never never were delivered to the Indiana based school. It was a cover for US Intell

    Earhart’ personal secretary said that 90 % of the money for the “World Flight” came from the US Navy. . The entire “World Fight was a US and British covert spy mission on the Marshall Island buildup.

    Keep up the good work, perhaps one day the TIGHAR fraud will go away?

    On Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 11:08 PM, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last wrote:

    > earharttruth posted: “David Billings recently returned from his > seventeenth trip to East New Britain in search of the Earhart Electra, and > again he was unable to find the hidden wreck that he believes is the lost > Electra 10E that Amelia Earhart flew from Lae, New Guinea on the” >


    1. Bob,
      You really can’t be serious! Are you trying to set a record for irresponsible, unfounded Earhart claims? Do I really have to now recite back to you the list of your gaffes?

      – What evidence do you have that the Electra was flying to Rabaul?
      – What evidence do you have that “the plane lost an engine and spun into the jungle short of the mountain range”?
      – The Electra did NOT leave Lae “just before sunrise,” but left at 10 am, which is a solid, documented fact with film.
      – What evidence do you have that the plane “was to be refueled at the British Rabual air strip and take off near sunset for a sunrise overfly of the Eastern Marshall Islands for camera proof of the land build up on Worte, Tarwa (MelXXXXXXX Atoll Naval repair station) and Juliaet Jap Navy headquarters’?
      – Where did you learn to spell, Bob? You have misspelled Wotje Atoll, Tarawa Atoll and Jaluit Atoll all in the same same sentence. And what does “(MelXXXXXXX
      Atoll Naval repair station)” mean?

      Topping off this dog’s breakfast, you write: “Earhart left Lae about three hours later for a non-stop flight to Howland. She was flying Lockheed number three that was delivered in late April to Purdue Aeronautics. Number two ended up in Siapan when Jap land based aircraft fighters forced the plane down on Worte airstrip and took them and the plane to Siapan at the time of the first attempt in March 1936. This was the Electra seen by US Marines in 1944.”
      This small paragraph contains so many errors in fact that I’m not even going to dissect them one by one. Each single sentence sets new records for delusion, and you can’t even spell Saipan correctly.

      Congrats, Bob. You are now officially a member of the Earhart lunatic fringe, along with such luminaries as J.A. Donahue, author of The Earhart Disappearance: The British Connection, and Robert Myers, official author of Stand by to Die, actually ghosted by Barbara Wiley, two of the worst, most irresponsible books ever written about this already completely misunderstood story.

      Thanks Bob,
      Mike C.


      1. the Melxxxx is Maloelap. I live in the Marshalls. I can spell, and when I find her plane on the bottom of some lagoon, I will sell AE T-shirts and sun hats to tourists… Matt Holly, Marshall Islands Aquatics, Majuro, RMI


  5. David, you are a dedicated researcher and adventurer! What a horror story! I cannot wait to see the documentary – PLEASE keep us posted!!


  6. Mike;

    Your over the top and hateful comments on those you disagree with do not do you any personal credit. It’s like you’re erasing the good will that your excellent research has established. Please stop before you wipe out your credibility which is your greatest asset.

    I kind of dread opening your mails because of this behavior. I’m always glad to get new insights and information about AE but a lot of what you write comes across as a conspiricy theory from somewhere like Fox and I’ve about had enough.

    Personally, if I were a TV host, I would never invite you on the air even thought I strongly agree with most of your findings. Your rude presentation is killing you.


    1. I don’t know who you are, Joe, because you’re so brave you don’t identify yourself further than your first name. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the one making hateful comments — toward me. Please provide one example of what you refer to as my “over the top and hateful comments” on this blog. If you think I’m hateful and over the top, you haven’t seen anything yet. Much more is yet to come within the next few weeks. You sound like one of these “snowflakes” I’m hearing so much about lately. And don’t compare anything I do with Fox, which is still promoting Gillespie and TIGHAR and not allowing my name or book to stand on the comments section of their website. And you think it’s because I’m somehow not nice enough to suit you? Grow a set, Joe, and grow up while you’re at it. You don’t understand this story at all, but don’t blame for me for that. I do all I can to explain it, though some are just too fragile for the hard truths.

      Mike C.


  7. Hello, Just finished reading the whole Billings hypothesis. All the technical details seem to open the possibility for a return to Rabaul. BUT, Why no radio calls from AE simply saying something like “abandoning Howland, am now trying for a return to Rabaul”. This should have occurred shortly after Noonan got a daylight visual ID on Tabiteuea, and fixed their position overhead. No doubt her eyes were glued to the gas gauges up to the last, but why no radio calls from AE, prior to the three “deadstick” intermittent carrier transmissions?


    1. Itasca received seven clear, coherent messages from Amelia (see p. 31-34 TAL), none of them lasting more than 10 seconds. She never sent a Mayday at any time. The fact she never stayed on the air indicates something quite strange was afoot. She never turned around and headed for East New Britain. Some other explanation exists for the alleged wreck with the same construction number as the Electra.


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