Wreckage from a downed medical flight that went missing in waters off of East Maui on Dec. 15, has since been recovered, the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed.
The flight crew and the majority of the wreckage from the Hawaiʻi Life Flight was recovered on Tuesday, Jan. 10 from an area in the ocean about 6,420 feet deep. This was about 1,200 feet south of the last data point received from the missing aircraft, according to the NTSB.
The Hawaiʻi Life Flight recovery operation began a deep water search on Sunday, Jan. 8. Guardian Flight, the parent company of Hawaiʻi Life Flight, contracted to undertake the deep-water search operation.
Aboard the MV Island Pride vessel operated by Ocean Infinity, were: an NTSB investigator-in-charge, the Chief of the NTSB Office of Transportation Disaster Assistance and the Director of Safety for Guardian Flight, and a project manager that has prior experience with over-water loss recoveries.
The NTSB reports that the vessel’s high precision acoustic positioning system detected a series of “pings” from the acoustic beacon installed on the cockpit voice recorder. This lead the search crew to the wreckage, which was located at about 5:30 a.m. HST on Monday, Jan. 9, according to investigators.
According to the NTSB, the search effort involved the use of “side-scan and multibeam sonar,” autonomous underwater vehicles and a remotely operated vehicle, to search an area about 54 square miles.
The recovery crew used surveys from the ROV to create and execute a recovery plan, which was carried out yesterday.
“The wreckage will be transported to a secure location in Hawaiʻi for further examination,” according to an NTSB statement. “The airplane’s cockpit voice recorder, the cockpit image recorder and other electronic components will be transported to the NTSB laboratory in Washington.”
The NTSB expects the investigation to be completed in 12 to 24 months.
The Raytheon Aircraft Company (formerly Beech) C90A, twin-engine, turbine-powered airplane, N13GZ, operated by Hawaiʻi Life Flight crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Kaupō, Maui on Dec. 15, 2022.
The flight was enroute to pick up a patient located on Hawaiʻi island for transport to Honolulu when the accident occurred.
All three aboard the flight, including the pilot, flight paramedic and flight nurse, were fatally injured.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report for this accident on Jan. 5.
The NTSB report indicates that a witness from another small plane observed the accident aircraft descend and spiral right before impacting the surface of the water.
The 4-page NTSB preliminary report provides a timeline of communication between air traffic control and the pilot, including a 21 second interaction before all communication was lost. In that period, the air traffic controller was trying to verify the pilot’s course, and the pilot was heard saying “… we’re gonna give it a try.”
An extensive search was launched by the United States Coast Guard following the accident, and prior to the search and recovery operation that was carried out this week.