During a 1992 underwater survey, a military aircraft was discovered off the coast of San Diego, CA. The survey team deployed an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) and recorded the find on video tape. According to a local newspaper report, the survey team described the aircraft as being in "extremely poor condition," and said there was no sign of bodies in it or nearby. A careful examination of the video footage leaves little doubt that the deterorating aircraft is a TBM Avenger.
Diver John Walker was given a copy of the video footage and rough coordinates for the wreck site more than 10 years ago. Subsequent attempts to locate the wreck with this information has proven unsuccessful until recently. Gary Fabian and Ray Arntz, with the aid of side scan sonar, located what they believed to be the wreck site on January 9, 2007. A future visit to the site with divers would be required for positive confirmation.
A return trip to the site was made on Jaunary 31, 2007, aboard the SUNDIVER II out of Long Beach, CA. The topside support team consisted of Capt. Ray Arntz, Ken Peters, and Gary Fabian. Divers John Walker and Kendall Raine descended to the site and confirmed it to be the same aircraft wreck that was discovered in 1992. John recorded the dive with a high definition video camera. The wreck remains the property of the U.S. Navy so nothing on the wreck was removed or disturbed.
Pat Macha, noted aircraft archaeologist (aircraftwrecks.com), has provided valuable clues that should help narrow down the search for the identity of this aircraft. The most significant clue is the fact that the red bars surrounding the star on the fuselage were not applied to U.S. aircraft until 1947. Therefore any accidents that happened prior to this date can be ignored. Pat also provided likely locations to look for identifying numbers if they haven't deteriorated over time.
A special thanks to Pat Macha for researching and providing us with the following aircraft accident information. It is his opinion and ours that this is the TBM Avenger in question. We hope to confirm this by locating identifying marks on the aircraft itself.
DATE OF ACCIDENT: 1 OCTOBER 1952
AIRCRAFT MODEL: TBM-3S2
BUREAU NO: 53439
NAME OF UNIT: Air Anti Submarine Squadron-23 NAS San Diego, California
GENZ, Ross C., LT USNR-A - Pilot
TENNEY, Harold B., AN, USN - Radarman
PURPOSE OF FLIGHT: Night Radar Bombing
MANEUVER INVOLVED: Low frequency range approach
TYPE OF ACCIDENT: Collision - Water
PLACE: Approximately two and one-half miles (2 1/2) miles west of Pt. Loma, Cal.
SPEED ON IMPACT: 110 knots
METHOD OF EXIT: Open canopy (cockpit)
TIME IN WATER: 4 hours in life raft, 5 minutes in water
METHOD OF RESCUE: Pilot picked up by civilian ship
After hitting the water, the pilot immediately left cockpit and went back to the radar compartment to see if his crewman had been hurt. The crewman was partially out of the aircraft when the pilot had reached him. The pilot asked him if he was hurt and the crewman replied that he was not injured. The pilot then went back to his cockpit and got his chute harness and pack (seat) and then both the pilot and crewman proceeded to walk out on the starboard wing and thence into the water.
The pilot states that the crewman was seen in the water behind him and that he had his life vest on, but he was not able to tell if it had been inflated or not. The pilot immediately inflated his vest and then proceeded to get his life raft from the chute pack and inflate it. He then looked around and the crewman was gone from his sight. He thought perhaps that they had been separated so he climbed into the raft and proceeded to look and call out for the crewman. At no time after they left the wing of the aircraft did either the pilot or the crewman talk to each other. The pilot states that at no time did he hear a cry or yell from the crewman.
There was no evidence of the crewman after an exhaustive search of the area which at the time that this report was prepared had not yet been completely terminated. It is assumed that the crewman must have drowned shortly after leaving the aircraft wing. There is a remote possibility that some of his gear got tangled with the debris of the aircraft and that he was pulled under when the aircraft sank.
We were informed today that the dive team from SDTechDiving.com has made positive confirmation of the identity of the TBM Avenger. The bureau number was located on the aircraft and confirms that this is the TBM Avenger that was flown by Lt. Genz. Thanks to Paul Kim for keeping us updated on their progress.
Side scan sonar image of the TBM Avenger wreck site and a likely debris field.
Topside photos by Gary Fabian.
(Left) Capt. Ray Arntz and Ken Peters aboard the SUNDIVER II. (Right) Divers Kendall Raine and John Walker.
Kendall and John prepare to make their first dive to the wreck site.
(Left) Kendall about to step off the swim step. (Right) The SUNDIVER II back at Dana Landing in Mission Bay.
Below are still frames from the High Definition video footage. HD footage by John Walker.
Kendall Raine examines the cockpit of the TBM-3S2 Avenger
50 caliber machine gun in the starboard wing.
The instrument panel inside the cockpit.
A view from the front of the aircraft showing the engine oil tank.
The word 'NAVY' is clearly visible on the starboard side.
The canopy and port side of the aircraft.
The star and red bars on the starboard side.
The starboard side and tail.
The tail viewed from the port side looking aft.
Kendall Raine during deco on the ascent/desent line.