USAFE - AFAFRICA   Right Corner Banner
Join the Air Force

News > Sailors, Airmen wrap up aircraft salvage operation
Previous ImageNext Image
Aircraft salvage operation concludes
Navy divers from Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 2, Company 4, prepare to dive from the salvage vessel USNS Grapple (T-ARS 53), Feb 14, 2013. Navy divers performed deep sea salvage operations from Grapple to help find wreckage from an F-16 Fighting Falcon which crashed in the Adriatic Sea, Jan. 28. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez/Released)
Download HiRes
Sailors, Airmen wrap up aircraft salvage operation

Posted 2/25/2013   Updated 2/26/2013 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/25/2013 - USNS GRAPPLE, At Sea -- U.S. Navy and Air Force personnel completed salvage operations Feb. 22 to recover the wreckage of an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon which crashed off the coast of Italy Jan. 28.

Navy divers from Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 2, Company 4, and Airmen from Aviano Air Base, Italy, worked aboard the USNS Grapple (T-ARS 53) for more than two weeks. Their mission was to identify, locate, and recover wreckage of the Aviano fighter jet which crashed in the Adriatic Sea during a training mission.

Collaborating to better identify debris and information, the joint salvage operation faced several challenges.

"Weather, size of debris field and poor visibility have been some of the challenges we have had to overcome these last few weeks," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Woods, MDSU 2, Company 4, master diver. "We have been forced to operate with even greater caution under these conditions."

Identifying components of the aircraft recovered by the divers has presented a significant challenge.

"As subject matter experts we are able to provide immediate answers for proper handling of sensitive equipment," said Master Sgt. Chad Aubuchon, 31st Maintenance Squadron flight chief, aboard the Grapple. "It is important for us to caution the divers on potential dangers that might hurt them or damage their equipment."

After Air Force personnel briefed divers on the proper handling of sensitive equipment, members of MDSU 2, Company 4, began operations with scuba dives to locate potential wreckage utilizing underwater scanning devices. Divers then conducted surface-supplied diving operations, which allowed them to perform difficult tasks such as moving heavy objects.

"With surface supplied diving operations we are able to stay down in the sea longer and gather more debris as opposed to scuba," said Woods. "We have unlimited air supply with this type of dive."

The divers recovered more than 200 pieces of debris within the first few days of the operation. This has been a difficult feat, according to the divers, as the significant amount of soft mud at the bottom of the sea has greatly reduced visibility.

"We have overcome cold weather, bad sea state, mud and zero visibility," said Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Swartwood. "Although it has been difficult, we are trained to operate in these conditions."

Despite the difficulties, the Sailors and Airmen remained committed to their mission and reported the partnership between them has been a positive experience.

"The teamwork I have seen is outstanding," said Aubuchon. "The Navy works well together, and having the opportunity to work with them while participating in their traditions is definitely an eye-opening experience."

2/26/2013 5:05:16 AM ET
As with any such mishap two separate investigations are being conducted -- a Safety Investigation Board and an Accident Investigation Board. Safety investigations are conducted to prevent future mishaps. Safety investigations of weapons systems such as aircraft missiles and space platforms also assess possible force-wide implications on the combat readiness of these systems. Accident investigations are conducted to provide a report for public release. The aircraft accident investigation team gathers and preserves factual information for claims litigation administrative or potential disciplinary actions and all other purposes. More information can be found at the following link:
Maj Erick Saks, Aviano Air Base Italy
2/25/2013 9:28:10 AM ET
So my question is this obviously there is going to be an investigation. How long will it take before an offical report regaurding the crash is released to the public. Mechanical or Human error Will that be an unclassified report Just wondering if we will find out the reason we lost Maj. Gruenther.Thanks Jamie
Jamie, Tuolumne CA
Add a comment


ima cornerSearch

Site Map      Contact Us     Questions     Security and Privacy notice     E-publishing  
Suicide Prevention    SAPR   IG   EEO   Accessibility/Section 508   No FEAR Act