Piper Cherokee Plane Wreck (130 feet, Catalina Island)

The weather, conditions, and visibility in local water has been hit-and-miss so after several attempts at a dive on the UB-88 in the past few weeks, we gave up and headed to Catalina for a couple of recreational dives. I was with my buddy Santiago so he was on open circuit and I was on my rEvo.

It was an amazing day. The ocean was literally like a lake and the air was crisp and cool so we had a nice trip over to Catalina.

The first dive was on a small, commercial single-engine Piper Warrior prop plane that is about 130 feet deep. Ray Artnz gave me copies of a bunch of photos that Steve Larson had taken back in the early 2000s and a copy of the accident report. The Piper lost engine power upon departure from the Catalina airport on November 3, 2001 and couldn’t get back to the airport and ditched into the ocean. The three people on-board were not injured.

I was taking pictures both for a photogrammetry model and also just to have a few stills. It was also a “practice run” for the SBD Dauntless whenever I get a chance to dive that and build a model. It is easier to practice on a wreck at 130 feet than a wreck at 200 feet. 🙂


Below are some pictures from our dive. It was definitely a fun little dive and I recommend it to anybody that is looking for a small wreck. Given that it is at 130 feet, is a great deep dive for any recreational diver.




Santiago, unfortunately, failed his final qualification flight but got an “A” for effort and preparedness for bringing along his scuba equipment just in case he had this problem:

Historical Photos

Here are some historical photos that Steve Larson took in the early 2000s:

In addition, here is a good wide angle photograph of the wreck that was published by Michael Zeigler that was taken in 2011 I believe:

The wreck nowadays has definitely changed. The engine has fallen off the frame and the propeller is no longer to be found. I’m sure it is sitting is somebody’s garage somewhere gathering dust (or possibly the front yard). The wings have collapsed onto the seabed and the tail section is longer on the wreck. I heard that somebody dragged an anchor through the tail at some point. The one thing that hasn’t changes is the abundance of kelp on the wreck. 🙂

Next ….

I’m working on a photogrammetry model of the wreck. It is close to being complete. Here is a sneak peak:

9 thoughts on “Piper Cherokee Plane Wreck (130 feet, Catalina Island)

    1. Actually, that is probably my bad assumption. I think Ray said “I have some old photos” and I had assumed they were his. I definitely want to give the right attribution.

      Can you let me know which of the photos (or if all of them) were taken by you so that I can correct it?

  1. Hi my name Daniel Stedman, I was one of the passengers.

    That was a wild day (Long Story). Iv got photo of us in the Rescue boat holding pieces of the plane that had broken off.

    I will did up the photo.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Daniel! I’m sure that was a memorable day. 🙂

      I’m not even sure how you found the site?!

      If you send me a photo, I can include it an amended post.

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