The P-8A Poseidon aircraft assigned to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island that landed on Kaneohe Bay on Nov. 20 was finally removed on Dec. 3, Rear Admiral Kevin P. Lenox said during a press conference on Dec. 4.
“The aircraft is out of the bay, and the salvage operation is complete,” said Lenox, who is also the salvage operation’s on-scene commander. “The team worked smoothly through the weekend under ideal conditions and everything happened according to the plan.”
The Navy estimated it will cost $1.5 million to salvage the aircraft that landed on coral and sand after overshooting the runway Nov. 20, according to the Seattle Times. The Navy reported that no fuel leaked. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
“We will continue the work that needs to be done to characterize the state of the coral and damage that was done in the area,” said Col. Jeremy Beaven, commanding officer, MCBH. “In my role as the commanding officer, I have oversight responsibilities and obligations that I take on willingly. And, I will certainly be working with our state partners and agencies, again, in deference to their expertise.”
At 6:30 a.m. Hawaiian time on Saturday, Dec. 2, the Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, the Naval Sea Systems Command Supervisor of Salvage and other local and off-island specialists began inflating the salvage roller bags to extract the plane from the bay. With the help of divers, the plane was lifted off the coral by 8:30 a.m. and rotated and floated next to the runway by 10:18 a.m.
“The team spent a lot of time using bags of different sizes – inflating and deflating – to make small adjustments to the aircraft,” said Lenox. “Sometimes it took an hour to get everything right just to move the aircraft five feet.”
The removal process took a total of 13 hours and required many small adjustments to the roller bags and the aircraft position to minimize any impacts on the coral. According to Lenox, at times it took one hour to move the plane by just five feet.
According to a press release from the U.S. Third Fleet Public Affairs, the salvage crew placed the aircraft on land and reinforced the bags and wheels, locked down the gears on the pulling machines, and placed absorbent material between the plane and the bay in case of a leak. The crew then pulled the aircraft on bags up the ramp to a flat area on the runway, lowered the plane onto jacks, swapped out all six tires, inspected the landing gear and then towed the aircraft to the washrack to rinse it with freshwater.
Currently, the structurally intact plane is in a parking spot where it will be investigated and where Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Ten will begin the reclamation and repair process.