Amelia Earhart watches small planes and helicopters come and go at the South Whidbey airport after being installed two weeks ago. The piece was made by artist Alexei Kazantsev using the method of sandcasting. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Amelia Earhart watches small planes and helicopters come and go at the South Whidbey airport after being installed two weeks ago. The piece was made by artist Alexei Kazantsev using the method of sandcasting. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Amelia Earhart seen in South Whidbey woods

‘They’ve been looking on the wrong island all this time.’

A sighting of famed aviator Amelia Earhart occurred recently on Whidbey Island.

“I came through the woods and there she was,” said Fred Lundahl, a Langley resident and owner of the international store, Music for the Eyes. “Apparently they’ve been looking on the wrong island all this time.”

For decades, the search for Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan has centered on remote islands in the Pacific where she is suspected to have crashed July 2, 1937 while attempting to fly around the world.

Since human remains or pieces of the Lockheed Electra 10E plane have never been verified, theories about her mysterious disappearance abound.

She was taken prisoner by the Japanese during World War II; she happily lived incognito among natives on a Polynesian Island. Last week, a researcher pronounced “the case closed” after his exhaustive study of radio transmission suggests Earhart’s plane landed on a reef near Gardner Island and she lived and died as a castaway.

Meanwhile, last week, Lundahl led a skeptical Record reporter down a South Whidbey trail to verify his exotic Earhart tale.

Walking at his usual can’t-be-late-many-things-to-do pace, Lundahl stopped and pointed from a small rise above Whidbey Airpark, a private air strip down Crawford Road.

“There she is, just like I told you,” he said before disappearing on another mission.

Indeed, a replica of the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean now greets small planes and helicopters flying into South Whidbey via Whidbey Airpark, known as W-10 or Whiskey-10 on radio chatter.

The sandcasted sculpture was installed two weeks ago after Lundahl connected its artist, Alexei Kazantsev, with the air field’s owner, Sky Rudolph (yes, the airport owner is named Sky).

“She looks pretty good for being in the woods so long,” commented Kazantsev.

“She’s taken on a nice patina. It mellowed her out, like a good wine.”

Kazantsev is a sculptor who lived on Whidbey until moving to Colorado in 2011. For one year, his tribute to the pioneering aviator stood as public art in Everett as part of the region’s celebration of flight.

Then she sat on his Whidbey property waiting under all kinds of weather for another public appearance.

“She was a great character, an American hero and a true pioneer,” said Kazantsev, who was born in Russia. His piece depicts Earhart’s famed aviator glasses atop her head fitted into a small plane that appears to be ready to land.

“One lady from Boeing told me it’s bad luck to depict an airplane pointing down,” he said. “I decided not to state the obvious.”

Rudolph said he plans to make the sculpture a centerpiece of an outdoor reception area.

“Most private air strips have a tradition of an outside place to gather with a fire pit and picnic table,” he said. “I think she’s perfect for that.”

Langley Airport owner Sky Rudolph (left) welcomed the addition of an art piece depicting famed aviator Amelia Earhart created by artist Alexei Kazantsev (right.) Rudolph plans to make the sculpture a centerpiece of an outdoor reception area. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Langley Airport owner Sky Rudolph (left) welcomed the addition of an art piece depicting famed aviator Amelia Earhart created by artist Alexei Kazantsev (right.) Rudolph plans to make the sculpture a centerpiece of an outdoor reception area. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

South Whidbey residents chat with artist Alexei Kazantsev (right) as they look over his recently-installed sculpture of Amelia Earhart near a small airstrip. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

South Whidbey residents chat with artist Alexei Kazantsev (right) as they look over his recently-installed sculpture of Amelia Earhart near a small airstrip. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Artist Alexei Kazantsev lived on Whidbey for many years but now lives in Colorado and he has a studio in New Orleans. Recently, he returned to Freeland to pick up an Italian marble sculpture he is creating for a church. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)
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Artist Alexei Kazantsev lived on Whidbey for many years but now lives in Colorado and he has a studio in New Orleans. Recently, he returned to Freeland to pick up an Italian marble sculpture he is creating for a church. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group) .

Artist Alexei Kazantsev has visitors examine the back of his Amelia Earhart sculpture to explain the method of sand casting. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Artist Alexei Kazantsev has visitors examine the back of his Amelia Earhart sculpture to explain the method of sand casting. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

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