NTSB to recover TransAir Boeing 737 cargo jet from Pacific Ocean shelf

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Investigators of the United States National Transportation Safety Board have scheduled the recovery operation of the TransAir Boeing 737 cargo aircraft, which suffered an engine problem and made an emergency landing on water (ditching) in the Pacific Ocean near the coast of Honolulu.

The aircraft recovery operation is scheduled to start on October 9, 2021. Investigators estimate that the special operation will take up to 14 days, during which rescuers will attempt to raise the aft section with the wings of the freighter and load it on a barge in order to remove the flight data and cockpit voice recorders for further investigation.

“NTSB investigators will document the wreckage in Honolulu before the engines and other selected components are crated and shipped to facilities on the U.S. mainland for further examination and testing,” the agency reported in the statement dated September 30, 2021.

To find the freighter wreckage, which contains crucial information captured by the flight recorders, investigators will deploy a research vessel with remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and a barge equipped with a crane. 

During the initial NTSB investigation, which was done shortly after the incident on July 2, 2021, the rescue team found that due to the rough impact with the water, the  Boeing 737-200 fuselage broke into two pieces – the aft section with the wings and tail attached, and the forward section that includes the cockpit.

Investigators say that the wreckage is located on the Pacific ocean shelf at a depth ranging from 350 to 450 feet (100 to 140 meters) about two miles (three kilometers) from Ewa Beach in Honolulu.

“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,“ NTSB Chair Jennifer L. Homendy was quoted saying in the statement.

“[The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder] are of particular interest to investigators because of the flight and cockpit information they can provide about the performance and operation of the airplane,” NTSB concluded.

What happened

The incident happened on July 2, 2021, when the Boeing 737-200 cargo jet, registered N810TA, operated by Rhoades Aviation, was en route from Honolulu International Airport (HNL) to Kahului Airport (OGG), Hawaii. According to the flight history data found on Flightradar24.com, the freighter departed for Flight 810 at around 1.33 a.m. (UTC) but did not reach its final destination. 

“The pilots had reported engine trouble and were attempting to return to Honolulu when they were forced to land the aircraft in the water,” read the Federal Aviation Administration statement released on the day of the incident.

Both pilots survived the impact, escaped from the wreckage, and were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Honolulu Airport Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Unit.

According to Planespotters.com data, the substantially damaged N810TA cargo aircraft was 46 years old.


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