Personnel from the Coast Guard and the State of Hawaii oversaw local salvor’s recovery of a section of the fuselage from a Hawker Hunter aircraft, downed initially in December, off Honolulu, Tuesday. 

“Using a blend of local salvage assets, remote engineering guidance, and advanced sensing technology sourced from the mainland, the locally based salvage company Parker Marine Corporation has completed the next stage of the aircraft salvage,” said Chief Warrant Officer Russ Strathern, a marine safety specialist, and response officer at Sector Honolulu. “The main section of the fuselage containing residual oil and potentially hazardous substances has been salvaged and transported to a staging location for the ongoing National Transportation Safety Board led investigation.”

Chief Warrant Officer Strathern also noted, “Because of the incident complexity and operational environment, this evolution was technically challenging. The aircraft owners worked tirelessly with the salvor and jurisdictional authorities to safely mitigate the threat to the public and environment, all while preserving evidence critical to future root-cause analyses. I’m pleased to note that there were no reported injuries after the initial accident or impacts to wildlife, these are great measures of success, and indicative of the hard work of the involved parties.”

Following exhaustive searches, the fuselage was positively identified in 260-feet of water by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in early January. After analyzing the data from the ROV, the salvor consulted with an engineer, formulated a plan, and received concurrence from the Coast Guard to proceed. Using the ROV, the salvage company lassoed the tail of the aircraft wreckage with line and slowly raised it to the surface. The team towed the section to a haul-out point designated by the State’s Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation Division. Following the section’s removal from the water, it was transported by truck to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where the NTSB will continue its investigation into the cause of the crash.

Throughout the operation, the Coast Guard worked closely with representatives from the Hawaii State Department of Health Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response and Department of Land and Natural Resources offices to monitor the salvage and recovery efforts. 

“With the removal of this section, which contained the aircraft’s engine, any oil or hazardous substances from the aircraft has either been removed or naturally dissipated and the remaining pieces do not pose a significant or substantial threat to the public or environment,” said Strathern. “Any future actions related to the crash site or remaining debris will be coordinated with the State’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.”

The privately-owned aircraft crashed in December while participating in the Hawaii Air National Guard sponsored training exercise Sentry Aloha. The pilot ejected before the crash and was rescued by the Coast Guard with the assistance of nearby good Samaritans.