Crews To Use Video To Help Raise Rare WWII Airplane

TBD Devastator Bomber Discovered Off Coast Of San Diego

Recovery crews will be relying on new video footage in an effort to raise a World War II plane discovered off the coast of San Diego.

A&T Recovery revealed the first-ever glimpse of the TBD Devastator, which is considered the "Holy Grail" of naval aviation restoration. In the video, a robotic camera captures video of a weathered cockpit and instrument panel, along with the remnants of an airplane wing.

Salvage specialist Taras Lyssenko remembers discovering the plane along the San Diego coastline 15 years ago -- a discovery he's kept secret until now.

"Based on the structures like the canopy and the assembly right behind the pilot, it's definitely a TBD Devastator," said Lyssenko.

The World War II torpedo bomber played a key role in the tide-turning Battle of Midway, when nearly all of the Devastators were shot down. Soon after, it was taken out of active service, and seven decades later, there are none on display anywhere.

Lyssenko found a 1941 accident report from a local training flight from North Island that crashed and led to a rescue involving the plane. He used sonar to locate the aircraft.

The location of the Devastator remains a secret, but those involved in the project say the plane is between 3 and 12 miles from shore, under 600 feet of water.

Local World War II veterans say it's time to bring the plane up.

"Videos and pictures are nice, but the specimen is priceless. You can touch it and look inside it, get an idea of what it's really like," said Pearl Harbor survivor Robert Ruffato.

Last summer, Lyssenko helped raise another World War II-era plane from Otay Lake. However, the raising of the Devastator will be tougher. While the plane appears largely intact, strong currents means collecting a piece of a history will be a delicate and tricky process.

The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., is trying to raise the $300,000 needed to raise the plane.

The museum says the local discovery was kept secret because they had been focused on several other Devastator discoveries.

One discovery near the Marshall Islands that needed permission from a foreign government would have cost $2 million. Another discovery near Miami has been stalled by litigation.

Experts say the San Diego discovery has become a top priority.

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