2013 BentProp Progress Report # 16

P-MAN XV Update #16 - Identifying a very unusual Japanese aircraft,

6 April

Today was a great day. We headed out with Pat and Lori Colin from the Coral Reef Research Foundation. They were kind enough to put a buoy on the engine so we didn't have to waste air hunting for it every time we went out. Today, they were going to retrieve the buoy so we knew this was the day to make something happen.

Joe and Casey enroute to our operating area.

An artistic interlude.

Casey about to hook a buoy; Pat Colin in background.

Pat Scannon.

We identified the Japanese airplane I've been mentioning as a Kawanishi E15K Shiun floatplane. The Allied code name was Norm. This is a pretty rare airplane. Only 9-15 were ever made (sources vary) and only six made it to operational testing in combat. All six were shot down in Palau. And we've found one of them!

It's in about 100 feet of water and you've already seen the engine in a previous post. We removed some clam shells from around the engine, an octopus has made its home there, and out popped not three but four propellor blades. The Shiun had a contra-rotating prop and two blades were on a forward hub and two aft. There were a couple of other aircraft with this kind of propulsion system so more was needed. We did a full survey of the crash site as the engine, fuselage and pontoon are 30-50 meters apart. This necessitated many dives since we don't have that much bottom time at 100 feet. At least the way we dive. Safety first, last and always.

Other identity features were the construction of the stanchion for the main pontoon, the flattened beaver tail around the vertical stabilizer, the aft cockpit machine gun, no wing armaments, the geometry of the rudder/vertical stabilizer and the overall dimensions.

Engine with buoy line. Photo by Pat Colin.

Top-of-tail geometry.

The pontoon.

As it looked before the bullets flew.

With outriggers retracted.

Yellow pilot fish at Flip's head. Photo by Lori Colin

Pat and Dan and yellow pilot fish trying to decide who's next.

Happy Campers: Pat Colin, Pat Scannon, Flip Colmer, Dan O'Brien, Joe Maldangesang.
Photo by Casey Doyle.

This was a difficult site not only because of the depth and low visibility (often less than 10 feet), but due to the black coral whips that had grown on all of the airframe surfaces. As much as we wanted to muck around the metal, we did not want to disturb the corals. Therefore we really had to use finesse around this aircraft. Trying to find the outrigger pontoons was problematic. The starboard wing area where the float should be was all shot up. On the port side, the wing was firmly against the bottom. But I managed to stick my GoPro underneath and luckily got a shot of the outrigger float attach point.

It was fun navigating from piece to piece. An underwater compass and counting flipper flips really works.

We are writing up our reports for the Palauan and Japanese governments. There is a chance that the crew is still in the airplane as we did not look into the cockpits.

And a big tip of the Homburg to Scripps for starting this search by scanning the ocean bottom and saying "Hey, we think you guys should take a look at this." Or words to that affect. Actually, in a previous post I gave a screen shot of the Echo Sounder that showed three divers on an airplane.

Back to port and a happy lunch crowd encamped at The Drop Off.

Back to the house to start writing reports and then a 6pm dinner with Dave and Margie Mendoza and Sandra and Marcello Pierantozzi. She's Palauan and he's Italian and they've been married for 37 years. Dave and Margie have been trying to get us to meet them for a few years and it finally worked out. Sandra has been in government posts for a lot of years including the Vice Presidency of Palau. Her last office was Secretary of State and is currently not in office. We had a lovely dinner at The Taj.

Back at the house again and the boss said to go to bed early. So I'll add a few pictures and send this off.

The mission is winding down. Only 6 days and a wakeup for me, then that o-dark-early 0400 flight to Tokyo. But not quite yet. We've still got work to do out here.

- Flip Colmer

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