Navy Plane Still Resting in Shoal of Kaneohe Bay

Navy Sailors try to retrieve the flight recorder from a downed P-8A Poseidon
This photo provided by U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy Sailors with Company 1-3, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, enter the water to retrieve the aircraft flight recorder from a downed U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon in waters just off the runway at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023. (Lance Cpl. Hunter Jones/U.S. Marine Corps via AP)

The Navy war plane that slid off a runway at Marine Corps Base Hawaii a week ago while trying to land in rainy weather continues to rest in shallow water about 100 feet off the runway, with at least two points of the 42-foot-high P-8A sitting on coral reef.

U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda—who lives nearby in Kaneohe with her husband and two school-age sons—toured the site Saturday and said the plane was unarmed when it missed its landing and ended up in water so shallow that the plane's doors "are completely above water, " Tokuda told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday.

Even before the P-8A mishap, the Marines already had a boom in place around the runway as a precaution to prevent contaminants from leeching into the ocean, Tokuda said.

"The plane essentially slid into the water, " Tokuda said. "It literally slid right into that boom like a lei."

The plane has since been surrounded by a second boom, along with "hydrophobic absorbent material " designed to absorb potential toxic material from the plane.

But Tokuda said she saw no sheen on the surface of the water indicating potential leaking during her hourlong visit to the runway Saturday.

"The water was absolutely clear, " she said.

She indicated the direction of her nearby house to Navy and Marine Corps officials and emphasized the importance of communicating to the public about their plans to remove the plane, prevent any further environmental damage and "to get it right."

"They need to over-communicate, over-test and over-engineer to consider every possible scenario, " Tokuda said she told the Navy and Marines. "This is not about rushing. This is about doing it right. They need to consider every possible scenario."

Instead, neither the Navy's Third Fleet in San Diego nor the Honolulu-based Pacific Fleet responded to multiple requests for comment Sunday on what Tokuda told the Star-Advertiser. But the Third Fleet said a news conference is scheduled for today.

The lack of public information over the botched landing and its environmental impact on Kaneohe Bay and the ocean has exacerbated frustration among some environmentalists and other elected officials following the lack of transparency over years of fuel leaks at the Navy's Red Hill fuel storage facility that contaminated Oahu's water supply, leading Tokuda and others to demand greater candor about information regarding the P-8A failed landing and its impact on the environment, including plans to remove the plane and ensure no further damage.

Sometime around 2 p.m.

Nov. 20, amid cloudy and rainy weather, the three pilots and six crew members of the P-8A based out of Whidbey Island in Washington overshot their landing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and ended up in the water.

No one was injured.

The Navy uses the P-8A Poseidons assigned to the "Skinny Dragons " Patrol Squadron 4 for multiple missions including submarine warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Boeing-built Poseidon is based on a 737 airframe and stands 42 feet tall with a wingspan of nearly 124 feet and a length of nearly 130 feet, according to the Navy.

It can be armed with torpedoes and cruise missiles and has a maximum takeoff weight of 189, 200 pounds, according to the Navy.

The Poseidon resting offshore of Marine Corps Base Hawaii "is not armed, " Tokuda said. "There's no weaponry of that nature on board."

Tokuda said she emphasized the community's concerns to the Navy and Marines about the mishap in Kaneohe Bay, a site of cultural, environmental and marine significance.

"I pointed out where my house is, " she told military leaders Saturday. "This is literally our backyard. As a lifelong Kaneohe resident and parent, this is personal for me. This is a long conversation. How do we make sure this never happens again ?"

Tokuda said she was impressed by the response, which includes 24-hour surveillance, Navy divers inspecting the plane, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, state Health Department "and pretty much everyone who should be at the table ... from the first day."

"It's good to know the state has been actively involved, " Tokuda said.

Boeing officials are also being consulted about how best to remove the plane, Tokuda said.

"They are literally looking at every scenario that preserves life and safety and the environment, in that order, " she said.

Flight operations at Marine Corps Base Hawaii already were reduced last week because of the Thanksgiving holiday, but the military has since diverted some flights from the base out of concern that wind shear from takeoffs and landings could shift the position of the downed P-8A and cause more problems, Tokuda said.

The military, Tokuda said, continues to review "double and triple safety measures."


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