Although the terrorist attacks at Ataturk airport in Turkey made headlines in late June, the country made the headlines earlier in the month for striking images of an A300 Airbus jet being lowered into the ocean near the seaside town of Kuşadası. The Turkish government purchased the plane expressly to create an artificial reef, in an effort to resuscitate the area’s tourism while also providing a safe haven for marine life.
While the enormous Airbus is sure to act as a powerful draw for adventurous divers, it is one of many dive-able plane wrecks. All over the world, planes of all shapes and sizes lie on the seafloor, waiting for exploration. Some, like the Airbus, were sunk intentionally. Others are the casualties of war or weather. Here, we’ll look at 10 of the world’s most rewarding airplane wrecks to scuba dive.
Airbus A300, Kuşadası, Turkey
The Turkish government intentionally sank the Airbus A300 on June 4th, 2016. The Airbus is notable as the world’s largest dive-able plane wreck, as well as its newest. It measures a staggering 177 feet (54 m) long, and boasts an equally impressive wingspan of 144 feet (44 m). It lies in approximately 75 feet (23 m) of water, putting it well within a recreational diver’s reach. Since it sank so recently, there’s not much in the way of marine life as yet, but the plane’s sheer size is nonetheless impressive.
Although tourism to Turkey has dwindled because of ongoing terrorism fears, the country needs those dollars more than ever right now. Rather than excluding Turkey entirely from your travel plans, use caution and remain vigilant.
Jake Seaplane, Koror, Palau
Located in just 45 feet (14 m) of clear, blue water, this WWII-era Japanese Navy seaplane is still remarkably intact with the exception of the tail section and a single float. These lie a short distance from the main wreck. The plane most likely crashed after the engine cut out, as the plane’s unbent propellers suggest that the engine wasn’t running when it hit the water. The plane is a five-minute boat ride from most Koror dive shops, and visibility is usually 60 to 90 feet (20 to 30 m). Thick layers of coral now cover the plane, and marine life such as nudibranchs and other reef fish are abundant.
Corsair Plane, Oahu, Hawaii
In 1948, the pilot of this WWII aircraft executed an exemplary emergency water landing after the Corsair’s engine started to sputter mid-flight. The plane suffered very little damage, and although decades underwater have taken their toll, it’s still spectacular. Sitting in 115 feet (35 m) of clear water, in an area known for strong currents, only advanced divers should visit the Corsair. Watch for frogfish, octopus and resident moray eels, as well as garden eels in the surrounding sand.
Piper Aircraft, Makronisos, Greece
This four-seater single-engine airplane crashed into the ocean in October 1988, shearing off one of its wings on impact. A fuel-supply problem most likely caused the crash, although the pilot controlled the landing such that the wreck remains in remarkably good condition. The flight book still sits inside, and the words “Visit Greece” are still visible on the left back side of the aircraft. With excellent visibility and a depth of just 60 feet (18 m), the Piper is accessible even for entry-level divers.
Blackjack B17, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea
The U.S. bomber Blackjack B17 came to grief while taking part in a bombing mission against the Japanese in July 1943. The plane received its nickname for the last two digits of its serial number — 41-24521— which add up to “blackjack” in the table game. Mechanical problems and bad weather forced the crew to ditch the plane over Milne Bay, where it lies today in 165 feet (50 m) of water. Although only accessible to tec divers, the Blackjack is an historic treasure, complete with intact guns and ammunition.
Dakota DC-3, Kaş, Turkey
Although this wreck was intentionally sunk in 2009 at a depth of 55 to 85 feet (17 to 26 m), it nevertheless has an impressive wartime history. Measuring 65 feet (20 m) in length and with a wingspan of 100 feet (30 m), the Dakota transported Turkish paratroopers during WWII. Today, it is still more or less intact, and its iconic twin propeller engines provide an excellent subject for photographers.
Boeing 737, Chemainus, British Columbia, Canada
In January 2006, this large commercial plane became North America’s first artificial airplane wreck, sunk by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia (ARSBC). Divers should prepare for chilly water and relatively poor visibility. Those with the proper training can explore the cavernous fuselage, which has been cleared to allow for safe access. At its deepest point, the wreck lies in 100 feet (30 m) of water.
Bristol Blenheim Bomber, Delimara, Malta
At a depth of 138 feet (42 m), the historic Bristol Blenheim Bomber is just out of reach for recreational divers, but it’s a favorite spot for those learning to tec dive. In December 1941, enemy fire damaged the RAF plane while it was on a bombing raid. Its pilot was ordered to crash the plane into the sea, rather than risk damaging the nearby runway. Fortunately, all the crew survived.
Airplane Wrecks, Aruba, Lesser Antilles
When one airplane wreck isn’t enough, divers should head to Aruba. Here, they can explore the intentionally sunk wrecks of a DC-3 and a S-11 on the same dive. Hurricane Lenny broke the DC-3 into two parts. Other than a shattered nosecone, the newer S-11 wreck is completely intact. At the deepest point, this dive site is just 80 feet (25 m), so it’s a good spot for beginners.
Betty Bomber, Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Although this Mitsubishi attack bomber is one of the least-intact planes on this list, it’s also one of the most interesting. Historians think it went down while attempting to land at Etten Island airstrip in 1944. It’s uncertain, however, whether U.S. forces shot it down, or whether it simply crash landed. It now lies under heavy coral cover in 50 feet (15 m) of water.