Search Reveals Mystery At Bottom Of Lake Norman - A Plane
As firefighters and other emergency workers searched for a missing boater earlier this month on Lake Norman in Cornelius, they made another unexpected discovery: A sunken plane nose-down in the depths. Now authorities including the Federal Aviation Administration are trying to figure out how long the plane has been there and how it got there. But some Cornelius residents think they know the answers.
On Sept. 5, Cornelius and Charlotte firefighters were using a side-sonar imaging device as part of their search, when it sent back the surprising image, showing what appeared to be the wreckage of a small plane about 100 feet down on the lake bottom.
A pair of Charlotte Fire Department divers swam to the site, and confirmed it was a single-wing plane. They found no sign of bodies in the aircraft.
The plane’s description, information and tail number was turned over to the FAA officials.
The plane is near Marker D4, next to an old creek bed that’s one of the deepest parts of the lake. It’s near what boaters know as the Sandbar, off Shearwater Point Drive.
From the sonar images, it appears to be perched on the edge of the deepest part of the creek, according to Derek DeBord, of Tow Boat US in Cornelius.
“It’s standing on its nose, about 100 feet down. It’s a four-passenger plane,” he said.
But authorities have few clues to the mystery. Officials say the plane could be 30 years old or more and could have crashed or merely sunken. Tail numbers may have been used several times over that time period. A preliminary search of archives found no reports of known plane crashes in Lake Norman. Another theory suggests it may have been an amphibious plane that floated away from a dock and sank.
Barbara Anderson of Cornelius told WSOC-TV she thinks the plane might be hers. She said her plane sunk more than 30 years ago after a training flight, when someone forgot to secure the water landing gear. Another Cornelius woman, Jane Jennings, told WCNC-TV she remembers watching a plane make a hard landing on the lake about 35 years ago.
DeBord said his firm has offered to help raise the plane, but as of this week, “The FAA has put that on hold.”
“I talked to them today, and they want it left exactly where it’s at during the investigation,” DeBord said Monday.
After it was discovered, DeBord was looking around for information and even inquired whether the Davidson College archives might be interested in the plane. (Nope.)
He still hopes it eventually can be raised, either for an aviation museum exhibit, as a display around the lake, or for scrap.
It will be up to the FAA whether to hire a company to raise the boat, DeBord said.