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Sea Hunt Surveys International Recovers Missing Plane

This week, on board the vessel Sea Hunter, MRR and Sea Hunt Surveys International captains Dan Porter, Levin Shavers and Art Schweizer located a missing plane that was lost over the Christmas holiday. The plane went missing in the vicinity of Mayport Inlet, off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. Sea Hunt Surveys International (SHSI) was contracted on January 28th, 2019 by Florida Air Recovery, LLC to search for the missing plane, a Piper PA-46 that disappeared on December 20th, 2018 while in route to New Jersey from Orlando.

Sonar image of the plane captured with side scan survey technology by Sea Hunt Surveys International, LLC.

Coast Guard helicopters, an aircraft and a 45-foot response boat, along with U.S. Navy assets, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and St. Johns County and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue units, were sent out to search for the plane on December 20th, 2018. The search continued overnight with an 85-foot cutter as well as a helicopter.

After waiting for a suitable weather window, the Sea Hunter and crew were mobilized to Mayport and started a Side Scan survey on February 5th, 2019. At approximately 1:30pm, the missing plane was located. SHSI/MRR diver Levin Shavers did the initial dive investigation to positively confirm that the side scan image acquired was actually the missing plane. Levin’s first comment was, “thank God we have put an end to the family’s mystery.”

Material with recovery airbags attached is lifted from the water at Morningstar Marina on Wednesday.

After all the proper authorities were notified, SHSI/MRR was awarded the salvage contract to recover the plane for Florida Air Recovery, LLC. The crew of the Sea Hunter initially attached air bags to float the plane to the surface, which was done in conjunction with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office dive team and other authorities. The plane was then towed by the Sea Hunter and other JSO vessels to the Morningstar Marina where it was lifted from the water with the help of the marina's fork lift.

Airbags were used to raise material, seen here in tow behind the Sea Hunter with assistance from JSO vessels.

The Sea Hunter continued to survey the area and located additional smaller material form the site, including electronics and wing flaps, which were delivered to Florida Air Recovery, LLC.

All of us at SHSI and MRR send our deepest condolences to family that had to suffer through this horrific loss. We would like to say what an honor it was to work with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office specialized dive team. They are a great group of men and women that are assigned a with an unimaginable task every day of their lives.

Sea Hunter and JSO vessels worked together to maneuver material through the inlet back to land.

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