Footage of aviator Amelia Earhart emerges 80 years after disappearance

A May 20, 1937, photo shows US aviator Amelia Earhart at the controls of her Lockheed 10 Electra. -- PHOTO: AFP
A May 20, 1937, photo shows US aviator Amelia Earhart at the controls of her Lockheed 10 Electra. -- PHOTO: AFP

BURBANK, California (REUTERS) - Under wraps for nearly 80 years, new film footage has been released showing aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart in the run-up to her ill-fated attempt to fly around the world in 1937.

The silent black-and-white footage shows Earhart smiling as she poses on and beside her Lockheed Electra as photographer Albert Bresnik takes pictures of her on an airport tarmac, thought to be in Burbank, California.

The footage, which is well preserved, is said to have been filmed by Bresnik's brother John and sat on a shelf for decades before his son inherited it and gave it to American publisher Douglas Westfall.

Westfall was only recently granted the rights to the reel and plans to release it as a short film, Amelia Earhart's Last Photo Shoot, alongside a book.

"At the time, Amelia is the breakout feminist for all women. She's flying an aeroplane, making records, 16 by this time. She has 16 world records. And yet, she's still a girl inside. And we need to see that in her," Westfall said.

"(In) the photos that you see later on, as she travels around the world, she's getting tired... You can tell, she's done. She's really over-stressed in this. Yet here, the day before she leaves, she's bright, cheery and happy to be doing this."

Earhart's husband, George Putnam, and her navigator Fred Noonan can also be seen in the footage.

After flying from California to Florida, Earhart and Noonan officially began their 46,000km circumnavigation attempt in Miami on June 1, 1937.

With 35,000km covered, on July 2 they left New Guinea to head east across the Pacific for Howland Island, but disappeared en route, and their plane was never found.

Westfall said he planned to donate the reel to an archive.