National Transportation Safety Board Recovers Crashed TransAir 737 Near Honolulu

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National Transportation Safety Board for Horizons

By: Emma Rasmussen, Correspondent

Image Source: National Transportation Safety Board

Few airmen have ditched an aircraft in large bodies of water and have lived to tell the tale. However, every rule has its exceptions. On July 2, 2021, a TransAir cargo Boeing 737-200 crashed into the Pacific Ocean shortly after takeoff from Honolulu’s Daniel L. Inouye International Airport. Flight 810 experienced engine troubles over the bay, and the pilots did not appear confident in returning the aircraft back to the airport safely. Miraculously, both pilots survived crash-landing into the ocean with just moments to spare.

The cause of the accident continues to puzzle many, as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was unable to begin recovery efforts of the aircraft until this month. Since July, the aircraft and its black box data recorders have sat on a shelf at depths in excess of 400 feet. For the NTSB, gaining access to the aircraft above water is extremely critical for the investigation, making potential safety recommendations, and determining probable cause. “The recovery effort of the recorders and virtually the entire airplane represents a major step forward in the investigation” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Hommendy, who replaced recently-retired Chair Robert Sumwalt. After the accident, the NTSB surveyed the accident site with cameras and underwater drones, revealing haunting images of the destroyed 737 cabin resting on the seafloor.

Underwater investigation attempts determined that the aircraft’s fuselage had split into two, with cargo containers being located in the aft section. Two other cargo containers were separated from the fuselage. According to Aviation International News, the forward landing gear and engines were completely separated from the aircraft. The wings remained attached to the aft section of the fuselage. Flight 810’s engines will be taken to a teardown facility for testing and examination on the mainland, and are of primary interest due to the pilots’ reports of engine failure during the eleven-minute flight.

The recovery effort of TransAir Flight 810 was financially supported by the cargo airline’s insurance provider, with barges and research vessels participating in the undertaking. Two NTSB investigators, a pair of engineers from Boeing, and multiple recovery specialists watched as remotely operated vehicles extracted the ditched airplane from the seafloor. Images of the aircraft’s arduous recovery have been released by the NTSB.

With the NTSB now able to get a closer look at the aircraft and it’s engines, the careful investigation of the accident can resume. Flight 810’s unusual and unreachable location prevented investigators from getting a closer look at the aircraft. The NTSB has cautioned that a final accident report can take anywhere between 12 and 24 months to be finalized, and it is unlikely that details beyond what is currently known will become immediately available.

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