A man is in critical condition and another in serious condition after a Boeing 737-200 cargo plane they piloted made an emergency landing in waters off Kalaeloa in West Oahu early today.
The pilots of a Maui-bound Transair Flight 810 reported engine trouble after takeoff from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and were attempting to return to the airport when they were forced to land the aircraft in the water, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and Honolulu Fire Department.
The Coast Guard received an initial report of a downed cargo plane in the water approximately two miles off south of Kalaeloa at 1:40 a.m.
The Coast Guard quickly deployed an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, C-130 Hercules plane, 45 response boat medium and Cutter Joseph Gerczak to the area, according to spokesman Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew West.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting boat also responded and took approximately 30 to 40 minutes to get to the scene as they navigated through a debris field which was approximately 1.25 miles wide.
HFD spokesman Capt. Malcolm Medrano said the fire department’s Air 3 helicopter assisted as the ARFF boat crew rescued one of the pilots, 50, from the water at 2:51 a.m.
The rescue boat took him to the end of Lagoon Drive where Emergency Medical Services personnel treated him for a head injury and multiple lacerations. He was then taken in serious condition to Queen’s Medical Center.
At about 2:57 a.m., the Coast Guard’s Dolphin helicopter hoisted the other pilot, 58, out of the ocean and airlifted him to Queen’s.
Honolulu Department of Emergency Services Director Dr. James Ireland said, “Our hope from the department is that the two pilots make a speedy recovery.”
The pilots told air traffic controllers that their engine had cut out and they needed help moments before the crash.
“It doesn’t look good out here,” one of the pilots said before the Boeing 737 broke apart as it entered the water.
An hour later, rescuers found the two clinging to packages and parts of the plane in about 150 feet of water several miles off Oahu, authorities said.
“One was on the tail and the other clinging to packages,” Coast Guard Lt. Commander Karin Evelyn wrote in an email to the Associated Press. As an agency helicopter got close, “the airplane began to sink putting the individual on the tail in the water. The crews hoisted them safely on the aircraft. The rescue swimmer then assisted the other individual.”
“We’ve lost No. 1 engine, and we’re coming straight to the airport,” one of the pilots said in air traffic control communications. “We’re going to need the fire department. There’s a chance we’re going to lose the other engine, too, it’s running very hot. We’re very low on speed.”
The pilot said they weren’t carrying hazardous materials and had two hours’ worth of fuel. They asked the tower to advise the Coast Guard, then asked if there was a closer airport than Honolulu.
After a stretch of silence, the controller asks if the pilot is still there. There was no response.
“Looks like they went down in the water,” the tower says.
Later, a rescuer aboard a Coast Guard helicopter sent to search for the pilots tells air traffic control: “We do have an aircraft in the water … we’re currently overhead (the) debris field.”
Minutes later: “We have zero, two souls in sight in the water.”
The tower responded, “OK, so you have both guys, both souls in sight?”
“Both souls in sight, yes, sir,” the rescuers responded.
The FAA and a team of 10 investigators of the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the emergency landing.
Two NTSB investigators are scheduled to arrive in Honolulu tonight and remaining eight members are expected to arrive late Saturday afternoon.
In a statement by Transair today, chief executive officer Teimour Riahi said, “We are working with the Coast Guard, the FAA and NTSB to secure the scene and investigate the cause. Our most immediate concern is the care and recovery of our colleagues. We will provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.”
Transair, an interisland cargo company, has been operating in Hawaii since 1982. It has a fleet of five Boeing 737 and five Bombardier SD3-60-300 aircraft that fly daily to Kauai, Maui, Kona and Hilo with extended service to Lanai and Molokai, according to its website.
The plane involved in Friday’s emergency landing is 46 years old. It is a much earlier version of the Boeing 737 than the 737 Max, and U.S. airlines no longer use the older ones for passenger flights.
Boeing said in a statement: “We are aware of the reports out of Honolulu, Hawaii and are closely monitoring the situation. We are in contact with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and are working to gather more information.”
A 737-200 cargo aircraft operated for Transair by Rhoades Aviation made an emergency landing in the water near Honolulu after reportedly suffering engine trouble. The FAA reports that both crew members have been rescued. ADS-B data is available at https://t.co/lsdJ4WlkHy pic.twitter.com/8D71tEQ3wy
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) July 2, 2021
The Associated Press contributed to this report.