TOKYO — The U.S. Navy has located a transport aircraft deep on the Pacific Ocean floor where it crashed in November, killing three sailors on board.
The C-2A “Greyhound” aircraft, which was traveling to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan when it crashed the day before Thanksgiving in the Philippine Sea, rests at a depth of about 18,500 feet (5,640 meters), the Japan-based 7th Fleet said in a statement Saturday.
Salvaging it will be the deepest recovery attempt of an aircraft to date, the Navy said.
The plane was located last week by a contracted salvage vessel that deployed a pinger locator that picked up the aircraft’s emergency signal. After marking the location, the search team returned to port in Japan.
In the coming weeks, the team will return to the site with a side-scan sonar and remote operated vehicle to map the debris field and attach heavy lines for lifting the aircraft to the surface, the statement said.
“Despite very challenging conditions, every effort will be made to recover the aircraft and our fallen sailors,” the Navy said, adding that the mission was initially delayed by the poor weather.
Eight people were rescued and the dead were identified as Lt. Steven Combs Jr. and Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso of Florida and Airman Matthew Chialastri of Louisiana.
Elizabeth Combs has said that her brother was piloting the aircraft and managed to settle it in the sea, allowing for the rescue of the eight people. The Navy called Combs’ actions “heroic.”
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The 7th Fleet had two fatal naval accidents in Asian waters last year, leaving 17 sailors dead and prompting the removal of eight top Navy officers from their posts, including the fleet commander.