HONOLULU (AP) – Two pilots told air traffic controllers that their engine had failed and that they needed help right before their cargo plane crashed off Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.
“It doesn’t look good out here,” said one of the pilots before the Boeing 737 broke apart when submerged in the water.
Both pilots, the only people on board, were seriously injured but survived the crash. An hour later, the rescuers found the two holding on to packages and parts of the plane at a depth of about 46 meters several miles from Oahu, the authorities said.
“One was at the stern and the other was clinging to packages,” wrote Coast Guard Lt. Commander Karin Evelyn in an email to The Associated Press. As a helicopter approached the agency, “the plane began to descend, taking the person with the stern into the water. The crews lifted them safely onto the plane. The lifeguard then helped the other person. “
The pilots on Transair Flight 810 en route from Honolulu to Maui reported engine problems and tried to return to Honolulu, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
A U.S. Coast Guard cutter patrols the area of the wreckage of a 737 cargo plane that crashed off Oahu near Honolulu on Friday, July 2, 2021. (Craig T. Kojima / Honolulu Star Advertiser via AP)
“We have lost engine no. 1 and are coming straight to the airport,” said one of the pilots in air traffic control communications. “We need the fire brigade. Chances are we will lose the other engine too, it runs very hot. We have a very low speed. ”
The pilot said they had no dangerous substances on board and had two hours of fuel. They asked the tower to advise the Coast Guard and then asked if there was an airport closer than Honolulu.
After a silence, the controller asks whether the pilot is still there. There was no response.
“Looks like they drowned in the water,” says the tower.
Later, a rescuer on board a Coast Guard helicopter, who is supposed to search for the pilots, tells air traffic control: “We have a plane in the water … we are currently over the debris field.”
Minutes later: “We have zero or two souls in view in the water.”
The tower replied, “OK, so you have both boys, both souls in sight?”
“Both souls in sight, yes sir,” replied the rescuers.
The pilots, whose identities were not immediately disclosed, were taken to a hospital. Queen’s Medical Center officials said a 58-year-old was in critical condition, Hawaii News Now reported. The other pilot, a 50-year-old, was in serious condition with a head injury and several lacerations, the TV station reported.
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The Coast Guard reported that it flew over the crash site off Oahu after sunrise that morning to investigate the pollution. Debris and fuel remained in the water.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate this. The NTSB said in a tweet that it would send a team of 10 investigators.
The aircraft is a 46-year-old Boeing 737-200, a much earlier version of the 737 than the Max, and one that US airlines no longer use for passenger flights. According to aviation data researcher Cirium, there are still fewer than 60 737-200 flying around the world.
The Boeing 737 first flew in the late 1960s and is the airline’s most popular aircraft still in production. Boeing has delivered more than 10,500 of these and missed around 4,000 other orders, almost all for the latest version of the aircraft, the 737 Max.
Over the years, according to the Aviation Safety Network database, around 200,737 have been destroyed in crashes and several hundred more have been implicated in less serious accidents and incidents.
“For a jet that has been in production for so long and is used so intensively, 203 accidents with loss of the fuselage can be seen as a very good safety record,” said Harro Ranter, who manages the database.
He said the plane’s accident rate had improved dramatically from the early models to the newer pre-Max models.
Boeing said in a statement, “We are aware of reports from Honolulu, Hawaii and are closely monitoring the situation. We are in contact with the US National Transportation Safety Board and are working on collecting more information. “
Over the years there have been a few human landings in water, the most famous of which was a US Airways flight crash in New York’s Hudson River in 2009, where all 155 people on board survived.
All four people on board survived a cargo plane crash in 2011 shortly before a runway in Gabon.
In other cases, some passengers and crew survived but some died, including a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane that ran out of fuel in 1996 and crashed into the Indian Ocean, a Tunisian plane that crashed off the coast of Sicily in 2005, and an Indonesian plane that landed in a river during a thunderstorm in 2002.