Floatplane wreckage found off Whidbey Island, but recovery process likely to be ‘dangerous dive’

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Monday that they had found the wreckage of the floatplane, which crashed into Mutiny Bay eight days ago, killing everyone on board.

Nine adults and one child were on board the floatplane when it went down at 3:11 p.m. on Sept. 4.

According to the NTSB, the wreckage is about 190 feet underwater and as there is a current of 3 to 5 knots, they will need a remotely operated vehicle to retrieve the plane. The NTSB said it coordinated with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory and NOAA. Getting the wreckage back will not be easy.

“What would make it so difficult there is that current that they’re in and the turbidity or the poor visibility of the water, so it would be a dangerous dive under those circumstances,” said Kathleen Bangs, a former pilot and an aviation expert. Bangs said it’s crucial that the NTSB brings the plane back up in as pristine condition as possible. She said the NTSB would want to avoid breaking it into pieces so it can figure out what went wrong. To do this, NTSB will need a remotely operated vehicle.

“In this accident, there is no voice recorder, there is no data recorder and the pilot is no longer alive for us to talk to, so the only clues, and there was no distress call, the only clues they’re really going to have to go by is looking at the structure and trying to figure out where did it break what happened, what went wrong,” Bangs said.

Only one of the 10 victims has been found and Bangs said finding the other victims could provide more answers.

“Sometimes they can get a clue from the bodies or they can get a clue sometimes if there was an onboard fire from bodies if they found there was smoke they inhaled, that sort of thing,” she said. Bangs said it’s likely that once the plane is recovered, it will be taken to a hangar and they will go piece by piece to see what happened.

“First you always have to look at pilot incapacitation, secondly you have to look at an intentional act of violence by a pilot or by somebody on board the airplane,” she said. “Then you’re going to look at, did something impact this airplane, in other words, large migratory birds, some kind of drone, something that hit this aircraft so that it was no longer flying.”

Bangs said finding out what happened is more than just getting answers.

“That’s always the name of the game is let’s learn from what happened and use it to make aviation safer overall,” Bangs said.