Wednesday, 9 November 2011 8:12 AM

Aircraft Found After 22 years

A United States aircraft that went missing 22 years ago in the Solomon Islands has been found beneath the waters of Santa Ana, Makira/Ulawa.

The Piper Seneca light twin engine aircraft with registration N8295M, on a delivery flight from the United States to Australia, went missing on 18 January 1989.

The aircraft was last sighted on 17 January 1989 when its lone Italian pilot made an over-night stopover in Honiara. The aircraft departed for Brisbane on the morning of January 18 and was never seen again.

Although there were extensive searches made, the aircraft could not be located because of the lack of resources and aircrafts available at that time.

In June this year, Alfred Pita, an employee of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) went to Santa Ana for his holiday and met one of the villagers who had a knife made from one of the parts of the aircraft. As a result, Pita investigated the crash site. He was informed by village elders that the aircraft nose dived into the sea near the coast of Santa Ana around the same time N8295M disappeared.

Villagers were afraid to report the incident and remained silent for 22 years.

On his return, Pita alerted his CAA colleague George Satu, who dug out the file on the missing aircraft and discussions led to a team to the crash site in last month.

The team interviewed elders in the village before visiting the crash site. Five local divers assisted the team to look for the missing aircraft. The remains of N8295M were discovered 50 meters under-water.

Solomon Islands Civil Aviation has contacted the U.S consulate in Honiara as well as Italian authorities of their discovery. A team from US is expected to fly into the country to salvage the remains of the aircraft.