A joint effort involving U.S. Navy salvage experts, Marine Corps air support teams, and contractors has successfully retrieved a P-8A Poseidon aircraft that had been adrift in a Hawaiian bay for the past two weeks following a runway overshoot.
The recovery operation, which concluded on December 2, saw the careful lifting of the aircraft from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, according to a statement released by U.S. 3rd Fleet officials on Sunday.
Rear Adm. Kevin Lenox, the on-scene commander, reported on Monday that the removal process unfolded smoothly and without incident. The P-8A Poseidon, belonging to the Whidbey Island, Wash.-based Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing, was stranded at the shallow edge of the bay after its attempted landing on November 20. While the aircraft remained structurally intact, part of its landing gear became lodged in the delicate coral reef.
Over the weekend, the Navy utilized divers to strategically position inflatable rollers beneath the aircraft, facilitating its gradual relocation to the shore on Saturday. Subsequent efforts on Sunday included jacking up the plane, changing its tires, and scheduling a washing operation for the aircraft.
The salvage operation, with an estimated cost of $1.5 million, encompasses expenses related to Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) assets and contracted personnel from SMIT Salvage and Center Lift. Third Fleet emphasized a focus on prioritizing the safe recovery of the aircraft, environmental protection, and retaining its combat capability.
The P-8A Poseidon, designed for maritime reconnaissance and patrol, underwent fuel tank drainage last week to address the approximately 2,000 gallons of fuel on board. Despite local concerns about potential damage to the coral reef and water pollution, Rear Adm. Lenox assured that containment measures were in place, with Marine Corps and Navy crews deploying booms to prevent fluid spillage.
Upon landing, the aircraft will undergo inspection and monitoring before being towed to a designated wash rack for cleaning with fresh water. The subsequent assessment and repair process will be carried out by the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing, with the Navy expressing optimism about returning the aircraft to operational status.
“Once it’s settled in its final parking spot, the aircraft will return to Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing and they will be able to begin the process of doing the assessment and repair on that aircraft and, if feasible, the Navy plans to return that aircraft to operational status,” Lenox stated.
The cause of the incident is under investigation, as the Poseidon, manned by three Navy pilots and a crew of two officers and four enlisted personnel from Patrol Squadron 4, veered off the runway for reasons yet to be determined. All nine occupants safely evacuated the aircraft, and no injuries were reported. Federal and state environmental authorities are closely monitoring the situation, with collaboration pledged to address any potential environmental impact on the bay, known for its coral reefs and diverse marine life.