Travis AFB aids Navy in record-breaking deep-sea salvage operation

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christian Conrad
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Representatives from Travis Air Force Base, California, aided the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command recover a downed Navy MH-60S helicopter from a depth of 19,075 feet off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, March 18, 2021.

The helicopter, a twin engine Sikorsky Seahawk, crashed into the Pacific Ocean last year while operating from the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19). The air crew was able to escape the MH-60S before it sank and no lives were lost in the accident.

The 60th Aerial Port Squadron was responsible for transporting a battery of deep-sea salvaging equipment from Travis AFB to Anderson AFB, Guam, where the salvaging operations were staged.

“In total, we palletized and transported a little more than half a million pounds of equipment across the Pacific Ocean,” said Richard Salek, 60th APS Air Freight Operations manager. “In addition to our squadron’s contributions to the effort, we also worked closely with the 21st and 22nd Airlift Squadrons to ensure we got the equipment to where it needed to be when it needed to be there.”

The salvage operation broke the world depth record for an aircraft recovery, where at a depth of 19,075 feet, the force exerted on the salvaging equipment was 8,503 pounds per square inch.

For Salek’s team, though, world record-breaking is a part of the job description.

“Our folks put their noses to the grindstone every day,” he said. “Whether it’s moving deep-sea salvage equipment or COVID-19 supplies or household goods for our Airmen, we take pride in knowing we’re the go-to when people need to move things and move them fast.”

Senior Airman Christopher Moreno, 60th APS ramp operations specialist, participated in the palletizing of the salvage equipment and said although the work he did felt like just another mission in the moment, the significance of his contribution wasn’t lost on him.

“I think even though we all sometimes get sucked into a ‘just another day’-type of work flow, and we don’t always see the difference we make, I’m nevertheless grateful to have been a part of it and helped the Navy accomplish their mission as well.”

After the recovery, the salvage vessel proceeded to Fleet Activities Yokosuka where the MH-60S was offloaded for transport back to the United States.

“As a whole, this operation was fast-paced and entirely successful,” said Bryan Blake, NAVSEA’s Salvage and Diving Deep Ocean Program manager. “The capability to recover the airframe and make it available to determine the cause of the accident is a huge plus in helping to ensure Naval Aviation safety.”

Joint operations like these, help not only the sister services involved, but the entire Department of Defense as well, said Salek.

“There’s always a certain amount of static when working with different branches, but the more time we spend with them, the easier and more seamless future operations become,” he said. “Working with NAVSEA was a big boon for our squadron, and not only for us, but for the execution of the larger DoD mission too.”