In photos: how an Airbus A330 was transformed into an oceanic reef
We have seen many unusual uses of retired planes over the years, including hotels, homes, and restaurants. One of the most surprising, however, has to be Turkey’s plan in June 2019 to sink an A330 in 30 meters of water to create an artificial reef. Previous similar projects with smaller planes have proven to be popular, and it is hoped that this will be a big draw for divers.
A new life for a retired A330
The aircraft in question is an Airbus A330-300, the latter bearing the registration TC-OCB. It was initially delivered new to Hong Kong airline Dragonair in 1995 and transferred to Turkey and Saudi Arabia based airline Onur Air in 2010. It was retired in 2017, after nearly 23 years of service.
It is not uncommon for the purchase of a widebody to have received little interest at this age. Rather than being scrapped, the TC-OCB was rescued as part of a joint project with Turkish authorities to sink the fuselage as an artificial reef. This would attract marine life to form a reef, and with it tourists and divers.
Financial contributions for this have come from the Transanatolian Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP). Reports say the company paid around $ 100,000 for the A330 airframe.
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Sink the plane
Any post-retirement plan for a large aircraft is usually logistically difficult. So how did the new owners manage to get this A330 to its underwater location?
The aircraft was dismantled and dismantled in Antalya, Turkey, by the Turkish company Skyair Shop. As with any aircraft recycling, this would eliminate many parts that could be reused or resold, as well as components that could be harmful to the marine environment. The result was a largely empty airframe, with seats and kitchen components, wiring and electronics, and all flight instruments removed.
By March 2019, it was finished and the aircraft was ready to be transported to sea. The airframe was transported by six road trucks from Antalya to the port city of Ibrice, in the northwest of the province of Edirne.
After some reassembly in port, she was floated about 800 meters into the sea. This took place with a special launching ceremony on June 14th. To sink the aircraft, the floats supporting it were carefully deflated, allowing it to submerge. According to local media, it took about four hours for the plane to be fully submerged.
A boost for tourism
The plane will serve as a diving and tourist attraction for the region. It was deliberately plunged to an ideal depth of 30 meters for this purpose. The first dives took place the day after the plane sank.
Ali Uysal, vice-governor of the province, stressed the importance of scuba diving in the region during the launch ceremony. According to Turkish media Anadolu Agency, he explained that while an ordinary tourist can generate an income of between $ 500 and $ 600, a tourist coming to scuba diving generates between $ 2,000 and $ 3,000.
Not the only plane for divers
As incredible as this new reef and tourist attraction is, it is far from the first of its kind. The A330 joins several other planes at various locations in Turkish waters. An A300 was sunk off Kusadasi in 2016, and a Douglas DC-2 was sunk in 2009.
It is also not the largest submerged aircraft. In Bahrain, a Boeing 747 was sunk in 2019 to form the centerpiece of an underwater eco-park. This opened up to divers soon after.
Scuba diving attractions are certainly some of the more unusual uses for retired planes. Have you ever dived in such an attraction – or are you planning to visit this one? Let us know in the comments.