“The discovery of this artifact is significant because it helps us reflect on and learn more about our country’s heritage, but also because it highlights the key role that direct observation plays in undersea exploration,” co-founder and CEO of OceanGate Stockton Rush said in a news release. “Our sonar technology and ability to observe the undersea environment first-hand ultimately led to the discovery of this plane.”
Both Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Navy identified the wreck has a Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter aircraft.
During World War II, the Grumman Hellcat was flown by both the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and was a mainstay of the air war in the Pacific. The state of Florida was an active training center for military fighter pilots during World War II, and records from the Naval History & Heritage Command indicate that 79 Hellcats were lost off of Florida’s Atlantic coast between 1943 and 1952, with only eight of these losses occurring after 1945.
A flight deck crew swarms over a F6F Hellcat in July, 1944.
A F6F Hellcat on the flight deck of the USS Yorktown in June, 1944.