New Wreck : Upside Down TBM Avenger (Pt Loma — 170 fsw)

Background

We initially were doing some “round robin” diving on targets back in late October 2022 based upon a long list of targets that Tyler had.

We found an upside down aircraft that we believed to be a TBM, but we were not sure if it was a dumped airplane — of which there are numerous in that area. We knew that we wanted to return to obtain more photos and information about the wreck. We were pretty sure this was not a dumped airplane, but needed another dive.

Second Dive

I finally got a chance to dive the wreck to do some more investigation and returned on Feb 17 ,2023. My primary goal was to get photos to build a good photogrammetry model to aid in the identification. The conditions were not great. The visibility was somewhat limited and there was definitely a bottom current which made shooting photos for the model a challenge.

While we were trying to get to the site, a nuclear submarine was coming into port with patrol/chase boats. We got a little too close and got buzzed off by one of them! Hey – they were going near our target! 🙂

Photos & Model

As you can see, the wreck is “upside down” which isn’t entirely unheard of. The wings definitely look “clipped” like we would see on a dumped airplane and the engine is sheared off which would also typically indicate a dumped airplane. However, there are some other clues which gave us pause back on the initial dive and we now are relatively confident that this is a “real” wreck.

For example, if you look on the overall model, you can see that the fuselage sections are there (but collapsed). In addition, off to port side (which would be on the right in this case since it is upside down), it looks as if the rest of the wing has folded under and sticks back to the aft. There is also the large triangular structure about in the middle of the plane.

Below is an overview of the model with some numbers to indicate some specific areas that I have supplied detailed photos. Note again that conditions were not great for photography and, for some reason, my camera wasn’t getting “tack-sharp” photos.

Area 1 – Folded back wing

We believe the port side wing is collapsed and folded up and under. Below is a photo of the area and a drawing that Tyler created to show where the wing would normally be.

Area 2 – Tail structure

We aren’t sure exactly what this is, but based upon the location, it is clearly at the very back of the airplane. It could be the support for the tail hook for carrier landings. It is next to the lobster trap.

Area 3 – Rear Landing Gear

If you look closely, you will see the small wheel in the sand next to the landing gear strut / structure.

Area 4 – Back of canopy

You can see the arc of the fuselage on this part of the plane. I believe this is near the rear of the canopy.

Area 5 – Co-Pilot Instrument Panel

This is in the right position and the round holes look like they would be where the co-pilot’s instrument panel would be.

Area 6 – Underside of the wing near the front of the fuselage.

This doesn’t have the “normal” look of a dumped airplane.

Area 7 – Inside of the cockpit

Area 8 – Starboard Side Wheel Well

This is exactly where the wheel strut assembly is positioned on a TBM and where the wing breaks for the very unique TBM folding wing design.

Aircraft Identification / Next Steps

This is a tough one.

Given the amount of debris, the wires & cables, the landing gear & tire, etc. we are relatively certain that it is a “natural” wreck and not a dumped airplane. However, the possibility exists that it was dumped by the Navy along with a lot of the other planes in the area.

As we mentioned in the initial post, there was another airplane nearby that did look like a dumped plane; however we aren’t sure. There are also a few sonar hits nearby that would justify some additional bounce dives to see if they are the engine or other debris.

Tyler did find record of a mid-air collision between two Avenger aircraft in that general vicinity. There were reports of 2 miles offshore and 4 miles offshore and this wreck (and the other nearby) are around 3 miles offshore. However, we don’t yet have enough evidence to tie the two together.

We don’t have immediate plans to dive the area again, but we would like to get more data. Until then, it will remain a mystery.

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