Photos show sunken airliner recovered off the coast of Hawaii

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In late October, the NTSB completed the arduous task of lifting a submerged Boeing 737 from the ocean floor off the coast of Hawaii. The plane, which was operated by air cargo company Transair, sank on July 2 after pilots reported anomalies in both engines after takeoff from Honolulu and abandoned the plane in the ocean.

Transair aircraft

Chris Heaton / Airliners.net


Source: NTSB

The two pilots, who were the plane’s sole occupants, survived after escaping through the plane’s cockpit windows. The plane came to rest on an ocean shelf at a depth of 350 to 450 feet, according to the NTSB.

Images of planes during the crash site survey

Images of airplanes on display screens used by remote control vehicle specialists to inspect and rig the wreckage

NTSB


Source: NTSB

NTSB investigators prepared for recovery for more than three months, after conducting interviews, evaluating air traffic control data and locating the wreckage. The underwater study of the accident showed that the plane broke into two main parts: the front part with the cockpit …

Sea Engineering Inc. via NTSB


Sea Engineering Inc. via NTSB


Source: NTSB

And the rear section with the tail and wings attached. Four of the six cargo containers were still inside the aft section, the other two containers having separated but still near the wreckage.

Sea Engineering Inc. via NTSB


Sea Engineering Inc. via NTSB


Source: NTSB

Both engines and the nose landing gear also separated from the sunk aircraft and a cargo pallet was found nearby.

Sea Engineering Inc. via NTSB


Sea Engineering Inc. via NTSB


Source: NTSB

The recovery is unique because when the plane crashed into the water, it shattered into two large sections instead of fragmented pieces, Lorena Ward, NTSB senior security investigator, said during a briefing in Hawaii.

Front fuselage

Front fuselage

NTSB


Source: NTSB

The recovery operation required special underwater recovery equipment and a coordinated effort between several organizations, including state and federal agencies and entities hired by Transair’s insurance company. Three NTSB investigators were on site, with two 12-hour shifts on the ship.

Remote Control Vehicle (ROV) on the Bold Horizon

Remote Control Vehicle (ROV) on the Bold Horizon

NTSB


Source: NTSB

The contracted organizations included the Eclipse Group, which supplied its research vessel Bold Horizon equipped with remote control vehicles and other current equipment …

NTSB investigators board the Bold Horizon

NTSB investigators board the Bold Horizon

NTSB


Source: NTSB

And Curtin Maritime Corporation’s barge Salta Verde, pulled by the company’s tug Shirley C. The two ships sailed from California to the wreck, arriving in mid-October, and were used to rig the plane, bring it to the surface, and finally ashore in Hawaii.

Houseboat Salta Verde

Houseboat Salta Verde

Curtin Shipping Company


Source: NTSB

For the operation, Transair’s insurance company also contracted the Pacific Environmental Corporation for marine clean-up if necessary and the NTSB worked with state and federal agencies to minimize the environmental impacts caused by the salvage.

Recovery of the left engine

Recovery of the left engine

NTSB


Source: NTSB

According to the NTSB, a protected species observer was on board the ship to monitor any encounters with endangered species, such as Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles, although none were encountered.

Front fuselage recovery

Front fuselage recovery

NTSB


Source: NTSB

Ward explained that recovery relies on specific environmental conditions because in order to lift the aircraft there has to be a perfect combination of wind, waves and swell.

Front fuselage

Front fuselage

NTSB


Source: NTSB

The recovery effort began on October 12 when the Bold Horizon left Honolulu for the crash site with two NTSB investigators, two Boeing engineers and a team of recovery specialists.

Bold Horizon as it leaves Honolulu for the crash site

Bold Horizon as it leaves Honolulu for the crash site

NTSB


Source: NTSB

The first task was to recover the separate pieces of the jet, including the two engines and the nose landing gear. The team used cables and straps to rig up the parts and brought them ashore on October 17.

Engine on the Bold Horizon after recovery

Engine on the Bold Horizon after recovery

NTSB


Source: NTSB

The rear section was retrieved second, and retrieving was much more difficult than the front piece due to its size and weight, according to the NTSB. The rear section is approximately 63 feet long and weighs approximately 48,500 pounds empty and approximately 60,500 pounds with the four cargo containers inside.

Rear fuselage recovery

Rear fuselage recovery

NTSB


Source: NTSB

The team had to carefully rig the section so that the wings and tail did not fall out when it was lifted, which the crew did successfully on October 30. The team also recovered smaller pieces of the aircraft and cargo. The work took 20 days from start to finish.

NTSB investigator inspects the interior of the forward fuselage

NTSB investigator inspects the interior of the forward fuselage

NTSB


Source: NTSB

The NTSB will document every part of the fuselage, which will remain in Hawaii. Meanwhile, the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder will be transported to the agency’s laboratory in Washington DC where they will be “cleaned, dried, downloaded and analyzed.”

Front fuselage on Bold Horizon

Front fuselage on Bold Horizon

NTSB


Source: NTSB

Both engines will be placed on the Salta Verde barge and returned to the mainland where NTSB investigators will oversee the dismantling and examination of both.

NTSB investigator inspecting the right engine ashore

NTSB investigator inspecting the right engine ashore

NTSB


Source: NTSB

According to the NTSB, the full investigation will take 12 to 24 months and will include “a complete examination of the aircraft structure, engines, systems, maintenance, survivors, vehicle performance, aircraft control. air traffic, human factors, federal oversight, and emergency response. “

Photo of an NTSB investigator documenting the cockpit

Photo of an NTSB investigator documenting the cockpit

NTSB


Source: NTSB


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