Honolulu, HI Skydiving Plane Crash, Dec 1981


Honolulu (AP) -- An airplane taking skydivers to a football game jump sputtered and spun into Pearl Harbor near the USS Arizona Memorial, officials said. Eleven of the 12 people believed to be aboard were killed.
One man was pulled alive from the harbor by three men who saw the plane go down.
Authorities first were told 13 people were aboard by the man who was found alive. Later, other members of the Jump Hawaii sports parachutist club said 12 were aboard, a Navy spokesman said.
However, a search was continuing Sunday in case the first report proved accurate, said Jerry Lambert of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base.
Club vice president Stephen Fischel identified three of those aboard the twin-engine Beechcraft as club president BYRON BLACK and two of his sons, DANNY, who was piloting the aircraft, and BOBBY.
Six bodies were recovered Saturday night by Navy and Coast Guard rescue crews and taken to the city morgue. Five bodies were discovered Sunday, the Navy said.
No names were released by authorities.
Search operations had been suspended at 1:45 a.m.Sunday because the shallow waters in the area posed a danger to boats, said Richard Rothrock, deputy public affairs officer for the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Searchers were sent out again at daybreak.
The parachutists were scheduled to jump into nearby Aloha Stadium before the start of a football game between the University of Hawaii and the University of South Carolina.
Ten minutes before the 7:10 p.m. crash, the plane contacted the control tower at Honolulu International Airport for the last time, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman George Miyachi.
The pilot radioed he was climbing to 3,500 feet in preparation for the jump, Miyachi said.
Nolin Brede, who helped pull MIKE SALMONS from the water, said he saw the plane coming down in a spin and its "motors were reved up real high" when it hit.
The plane crashed into 3 1/2 feet of water on a reef near Fort Island, about 250 yards from the USS Arizona Memorial to those who died there during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Rothrock said there was speculation that the pilot of the plane may have been trying to land on the island.
By the time Brede and his friends reached the wreckage, only the tail of the plane was visible, he said.
SALMONS, 34, was picked up about 25 yards from the wreckage and taken to a hospital for treatment of a broken leg.
"I decided I didn't want to stay in there. The others decided to stay with the plane. It did all kinds of crazy stuff," said SALMONS, who said he was sitting closest to the door.
"I jumped and three others also jumped," the veteran diver said in a telephone interview from his hospital bed, but those who followed him did not have enough altitude left to deploy their chutes.

Wisconsin State Journal Madison 1984-12-07

List of Casualties:
BYRON BLACK, club president.
DANNY BLACK, pilot, and Byron's son.
BOBBY BLACK, Byron's son.


Crash in Pearl Harbor

Byron was my uncle. In one night I lost an uncle and two cousins I loved dearly. There was nothing any of you could've done. From the bottom of my heart I appreciate how hard you all tried to help. It was just a tragic accident. I was on my way to work in Texas when I heard a report on the radio. I got chills thinking it might be them but hoped it was not. Shortly after I arrived at work, my boss told me I had a phone call. When I heard my mother's voice, I started shaking because I knew what was coming. It had a profound impact on everyone involved, but we try to take comfort in the fact that they lived life large, and died doing what they loved.

Pearl Harbor crash

Knew you when I was in Hawaii in the late '70's. The loss of our friends was traumatic but your having to identify the bodies at Ford Island would have been the worst. You told me all this in '86 when I met you, Flip, and GW at the World Skydiving Convention in Illinois. Charlie Knaebel and I served together at 21st Infantry 25th ID at Schofield and he was my best friend. Drew, hope all goes well with you these days wherever you are. We'll always remember our friends, won't we?
Richard Baker
D-14235 POPS# 3668

Jump Hawaii accident

Started at Byron Black's operation at Dillingham on 16 July 1977. Jumped the Twin Beech which crashed into Pearl Harbor many times and remember when Byron flew it in from California. He lost everything but an HF radio on the way and the Coast Guard sent a C-130 to lead him back. I was in Florida when a friend asked me if I'd heard of the crash. Called Bobby Sammis and he confirmed it all for me. Knew all on the aircraft and cried for an hour that all my friends were gone. Mike Salmon, the only survivor was also a friend. Sad day for skydiving in Hawaii and I think of my friends often. Blue skies!
Richard Baker
D-14235 POPS# 3668

David, I just saw your

David, I just saw your December post about the crash. I was a jumper and long-time friend of most of the men on board the plane. Being in the Hawaii Air Guard at the time and in uniform, I was able to get out to Ford Island not long after the crash to try and identify those who died. Please be absolutely assured that there was nothing that you or anyone could have done for them whether you were nearer to the crash site or not. Thank you for your service, your thoughts and your prayers.


I knew and jumped with them all, some better thank others. I was one of the Navy "mafia" that jumped there. Roy was a former U.S. Navy First Class Diver, Ira was a former U.S. Navy Second Class Diver. Both were great guys as were all of those guys. All the Blacks were very friendly and helpful. Everyone was a character and had character. I just returned from a holiday out there and saw the memorial that exists at Dillingham Airfield where Skydive Hawaii now resides. I asked around about some of the "old" crowd and the current jumpers know the Sammis brothers, Clarance and Flip who still jumps there. Someone told me the Sammises work at Pacific Skydiving which is next door. I think of these guys a lot, especially at this time of year. I know they found blue skies in the great beyond.

Witnessed crash from onboard USS Morton DD-948

Frankly, I didn't remember that Friday was the anniversary of the crash but for the last 33 years the thought of that night has been burned into my memory. I had duty that night which meant we had to stay onboard the ship and stand watches throughout the day and night. I was the Petty Officer of the Watch that night. It was just like any other duty night. I had worked all day and then was standing my watch. We were standing there talking and, being one of the people that operated the radar that tracked targets and fired the guns onboard the ship, I noticed the plane flying towards the harbor. I saw that it was starting to turn away from the harbor and returned to the conversation that was going on between those of us on watch. The next thing I know we heard the plane kind of sputter and then started spiraling down at a high rate of speed. At first we thought it was a stunt plane as we knew the football game was going on over at Aloha Stadium. As the plane continued to spiral downward and was getting dangerously low I remember saying, "He better pull up or he is going to crash." About that time we saw it crash into the water just on the other side of the USS Arizona Memorial. The Officer of the Deck told me to hit the General alarm which is used for setting battle stations. The other ships in the harbor that night did the same thing. We passed the word for all hands to muster on the fantail and for the motor whale boat crew to man the motor whale boat. Everyone mustered on the fantail with the exception of the boatswains mates who got the motor whale boat in the water with the corpsmen onboard. They headed towards the crash site as the other ships motor whale boats also headed that way. Everyone remained topside in case other help was needed. The rest is a bit of a blur but just remember the motor whale boat returned awhile later and the Chief Boatswains Mate came up to the Quarterdeck and said they had found one possible survivor but the rest were dead. I remember feeling almost sick to my stomach as I realized I had witnessed the last moments of those people's lives and thought how terrified they must have been. Like I said, to this day it is very vivid in my mind with just a little that slips my memory. To those of you who lost friends and loved ones that night I can only say I wish we had been able to get there quicker and I wonder if we might have been able to save some of them if they hadn't been so far away. I pray that some day we might all be able to be at peace about this but for now I know that I will mark my calendar so that I will pay my respects on the day that the crash happened. God bless you all and much Aloha.

additional comment

June, I remember you and I remember Byron. He taught me the correct way to pack a parachute. I remember most of the people at the Drop Zone. I miss them and I was very fortunate to have them be a part of my life. I will be thinking of my many friends today. Grace Sweeney


When I first met Whitey he was on the Big Island. He was such a dynamic person, a lot of people just hung around him, listening to his tales of adventures and party in paradise plans. I fell in love with him instantly. I love him still and miss him terribly, but life has gone on for me. I make sure I enjoy life as much as I can. I moved from the Island after his death, my heart broke, and though I knew he had other women, I didn't care because he had always told me, "No one has what we have at this very moment," that's what I live for, "This very moment" One day I will parachute right back into his arms and there he will tell me again, "No one has what we have at this very moment." I was blessed to know him.

jump hawaii plane crash in pearl harbor hawaii.

to the families of the men lost in this tragic accident I was one of the navy divers that was on this rescue/ recovery operation you have my salute! we treated these men during the recovery operation with the up most respect and I will never forget this day as long as I live! claude barnes gmg 1 udt usn!!

I knew them all

I knew them all -- I was nearly among them.

The exhibition jump was delayed many times that day. I made a couple jump from the plane that morning and the invitation was open to qualified jumpers in the laid-back Hawaiian way. After several delays I gave up and drove home. I lived across the island in Eva Beach. The drive crossed the middle of the island through the sugarcane fields and I was half way back when I heard on the radio that an small airplane had crashed in Pearl Harbor -- I don't know how but I knew at once which airplane it was and changed course to Pearl City. When I got there the shore was packed with cars, police, and just people. I parked and made my way to a group of police where I confirmed what airplane it was and that all were dead. Nothing to do here...now. I made my way to a phone (no cellphones in those days) and tried to call someone/anyone to find out who was on the airplane. Most phones rang silent or busy and it was later that night before I heard who was on the plane.

The next day (maybe the day after) I went to the hospital to see Mike Salmons, the only survivor. He told me the story from a skydiver's point of view. The twin beech had been circling to landing area waiting for permission to exit, when it came the plane made a tight turn onto jump run, stalled and went into a spin. Mike was in the door and pulling as hard as he could to eject himself pulling his ripcord as he cleared the door. Another jumper got out behind him but he only got line stretch when he hit the water. Just the facts, first hand. Ironically 7 or 8 of the people on the plane were pilots -- Byron a retired Air Force pilot.

The memorial was at Russ Francis' beach house across the road from Dillingham Airfield and the drop zone. Several urns were on a table with the Pacific as a backdrop. A eulogy was given and many people spoke of their friends. When those had spoken who wished to, spontaneously, one by one we approached the table and placed our leis over the urns. The urns and the three foot high stack of flowers were taken up in an airplane and they flew low along the shore and tossed the ashes of those who we just lost along with the leis. Aloha.

I knew Randy Cordes best. He was an ex-roommate and from a Navy family. Occasionally when he was towing gliders and giving airplane rides at the other end of the Dillingham runway I would ride along when he would tow the last tow of the day then we would enjoy a Hawaiian sunset from above Oahu, making a long low pass along the beach downwind to a landing. I scuba dived there and saved all the lead shot I found on the ocean floor and we would melt it down to make ammo for his pistol that we would use for target practice, shooting at targets bobbing on the ocean off the shore at Dillingham. I think of him often. Mahalo Randy.

I knew them all. Aloha friends.

Bill Davis, scr97

ps...Everybody is talking about Pearl Harbor today, deservedly but this is the memory I have every year. The Pearl Harbor Memorial is only a splash away from point of impact of this skydive/aircraft accident.