The NTSB Wants To Recover The Boeing 737 That Crashed Off Honolulu

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will attempt to retrieve the wreckage of a Boeing 737 that ditched into Mamala Bay off Hawaii in July. On Thursday, the NTSB confirmed it was sending investigators to Hawaii to coordinate the October recovery.

A TransAir Boeing 737-200 ditched into the sea off Hawaii in July. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

The NTSB wants the TransAir recorders

An initial underwater survey conducted shortly after the ditching confirmed the location and disposition of the crashed TransAir Boeing 737-200 freighter. The plane went down shortly after takeoff from Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on July 2.

“The wreckage of TransAir flight 810 contains important investigative information, including that captured by the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder,” NTSB Chairperson Jennifer Homendy said on Thursday.

“Having access to the recorders, the engines, and other components will be critical to understanding not only how this accident occurred, but how future accidents might be prevented.”

The aft fuselage of the TransAir Boeing 737-200 resting on the seafloor. Photo: Sea Engineering Inc via NTSB

Small amounts of debris were initially retrieved

The July ditching made headlines worldwide. The Kahului-bound jet went down after reporting engine trouble and trying to return to Honolulu Airport.

“We’ve lost number one engine, and we’re coming straight to the airport,” one of the pilots told ATC shortly before the ditching. “We’re going to need the fire department. There’s a chance we’re going to lose the other engine, too, it’s running very hot. We’re very low on speed.”

The TransAir Boeing crashed two miles (3.2 kilometers) offshore in 350-450 feet (107-137 meters) of water. Coast Guard helicopters plucked the two injured pilots from the water.

NTSB investigators were on the scene shortly after the ditching. At the time, they recovered a small amount of floating debris. Sonar scans located the plane and gave investigators some idea of the plane’s orientation and condition on the seabed.

The forward section of the crashed TransAir Boeing. Photo: Sea Engineering Inc via NTSB

NTSB Retrieval operation expected to commence on October 9

Now revisiting the crash site, the NTSB will send remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) down to the plane to see if it has shifted. The NTSB knows the fuselage broke into two pieces;  the aft section with the wings and tail attached and the forward section that includes the cockpit. Both engines separated from the wings at impact.

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder are still underwater, located in the aft fuselage. Investigators will recover both. The NTSB wants the recorders because they can provide critical information about the performance and operation of the airplane before the crash. Shortly after the crash, the FAA went to ground Rhoades Aviation, the company that flies jets under the TransAir brand.

One of the Boeing 737-200’s engines resting on the seabed. Photo: Sea Engineering Inc via NTSB

Investigators will bring both sections of the plane to the surface during the retrieval operation. A barge equipped with a crane will do the heavy lifting. NTSB investigators will base themselves on an onsite research vessel.

The recovered recorders will go straight to NTSB labs in Washington DC for analysis. Other recovered wreckage will get cataloged in Hawaii before been transported to the mainland for further investigation.

The recovery effort is expected to begin on or about October 9, and will take up to two weeks, depending on the weather and other factors.