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Environmental damage feared as US navy plane lands in Hawaii bay
22 November 2023, 11:44
There are fears fuel could spill from the aircraft after it overshot a runway.
A large US Navy plane remains in a Hawaii bay after it overshot a runway and landed in the water.
The incident raised concerns about environmental damage as well as questions over how the military would remove the aircraft.
All nine people aboard the P-8A were uninjured when the plane, flying in rainy weather, overshot the runway on Monday at a Marine Corps base in Kaneohe Bay outside Honolulu.
Crews set up a temporary floating barrier to protect the environment, and an investigation is under way, Navy spokesperson Lt Mohammad N Issa said.
The P-8A is often used to hunt for submarines and for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. It is manufactured by Boeing and shares many parts with the 737 commercial jet.
Residents near the bay were eager to hear plans for the massive plane’s removal and were worried about possible damage to the coral reef in the area, along with harms from fuel and other chemicals.
The plane landed about 1.5 miles from an ancient Hawaiian fish pond, said Hi’ilei Kawelo, executive director of Paepae o Heʻeia, the organisation that cares for the pond.
“The plane in the water is concerning,” she said. “It’s directly upwind from our fishpond.”
Ms Kawelo said she understands removing the plane is a big undertaking but is hopeful the military will at least defuel it “in a timely fashion – like today”.
Navy officials did not immediately answer questions about extraction plans, environmental concerns and how the plane ended up in the water.
A news release from the Navy later on Tuesday said divers worked overnight to help stabilise the plane.
“Preliminary assessment indicates the aircraft is structurally intact, and there was no sign of fuel leaking from the aircraft,” the statement said.
The area where the plane landed near the base isn’t accessible to the public, but Ms Kawelo said she is familiar with the broader reef that extends in the bay, which is abundant in small fish and octopuses.
“I’m hoping that it landed on a sandy patch that didn’t house any coral,” she said.
“But our coral reefs are absolutely critical and important for the ecosystem. They are the foundation for life in the ocean.”
The plane is adding to the community’s distrust for the military, said Wayne Tanaka, executive director of Sierra Club of Hawaii, noting a massive fuel storage facility that sickened 6,000 people when it leaked jet fuel into a Pearl Harbour drinking water well in 2021.
Mr Tanaka said he wants the state to hold the Navy accountable for any damage.
The state department of land and natural resources is expected to conduct a damage assessment after the plane is removed, department spokesperson Dan Dennison said.
The state department of health, which responds to potential fuel spills, said no fuel has been released so far.
A US coast guard pollution response team is assisting the navy.