The U.S. Navy last week retrieved one of its crashed helicopters from 19,075 feet below the surface of the North Pacific, setting a record for the deepest aircraft recovery at sea.
The helicopter, a twin engine Sikorsky Seahawk, crashed off the coast of Okinawa, Japan last year while operating from the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19). The air crew was able to escape the MH-60S before it sank and no lives were lost in the accident.
Responding to a U.S. Pacific Command Fleet request, the Naval Sea Systems Command's (NAVSEA) Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) located and documented the wreckage using side-scan sonar and photographs of the helicopter as it lay on the ocean floor during North Pacific operations last spring.
SUPSALV returned to the site this month at the request of the Navy Safety Center with CURV 21, a deep-water, remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) with the ability to meet deep ocean salvage requirements to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet.
The SUPSALV team met the contracted salvage vessel in Guam, completed mobilization of CURV and its deep-lift take-up reel, and departed for the five-day transit. Arriving on the crash site March17, the team began recovery operations. Pulled from its depth of 19,075 FSW, the MH-60S's recovery broke SUPSALV's own world depth record for an aircraft recovery.
The salvage vessel will proceed to Fleet Activities Yokosuka where the MH-60S will be offloaded for transport back to the U.S., the Navy said.
"As a whole, this operation was fast-paced and entirely successful," said Bryan Blake, SUPSALV's Deep Ocean Program Manager. "Our efforts validated the Navy's deep ocean search and recovery requirements. The capability to recover the airframe and make it available to determine the cause of the accident is a huge plus helping to ensure Naval Aviation safety.