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NTSB prepares to recover cargo jet from ocean floor in Hawaii

Investigators want to learn why Transair flight experienced mechanical problems

National Transportation Safety Board investigators are scheduled to begin recovery operations this weekend for the wreckage of a Boeing 737 cargo jet that ditched off the Hawaiian island of Oahu on July 2.

The TransAir 737-200 was bound for Kahului. Shortly after takeoff from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, the pilots reported anomalies in both engines and put the plane into Mamala Bay. The pilots escaped and were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Honolulu Airport Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Unit.

Investigators want to get the flight data recorder, cockpit voice recorder, engines and other components to help piece together what went wrong during Transair flight 810. The recorders are important because they can provide information about the performance and operation of the plane. 

The fuselage broke into two pieces, with the wings and tail attached to the aft section. Both engines separated from the wings at impact. All the wreckage is on an ocean shelf at a depth ranging from 350 to 450 feet, the NTSB said last week.

Transair’s insurance provider has hired several companies to bring the wreckage and cargo to the surface. The recovery operation will involve a research vessel with remotely operated vehicles and a barge equipped with a crane. Several NTSB investigators will be aboard the research vessel to coordinate the recovery effort.

The automated submersibles will be used to rig each of the engines and fuselage sections so they can be brought to the surface.

The recorders will be transported to the NTSB Recorder Laboratory in Washington, where they will be downloaded for analysis. The components will be put in crates and shipped to mainland facilities for further examination and testing. 

The NTSB said the entire recovery operation is expected to last 10 to 14 days, depending on weather and other factors.

The Federal Aviation Administration suspended the operating authority of Rhoades Aviation, the official corporate entity operating as Transair, following the crash. 

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at