In the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005, the Department of Defense (DOD) has included language that would eliminate underwater salvage operations for recovery of sunken military aircraft. Title XIV-Sunken Military Craft, Sections 1401-1408 on pages 721 through 728 of the bill, includes a provision that would ban any activity “that disturbs, removes or injures any sunken military craft”. This would include airplanes.
In order to engage in any type of underwater salvage activity for a military aircraft, a salvage permit would have to be obtained from the DOD. However, the provision does not provide any oversight or control over the permit process, other than that the permits may be issued for historical or educational reasons. The DOD would apparently have unfettered discretion as to when or whether to issue a permit. Not a good thing.
Seems like a waste of resources to me and not a little bit selfish. I am not sure why the DOD would mandate that sunken aircraft remain abandoned when it could allow the many interested individuals to invest their own time and money to recover and restore these historical artifacts. If the DOD is concerned about liability, I think the better approach would be to pass legislation providing the DOD with immunity from claims arising from salvaged military aircraft. If the DOD is concerned about a possible “military threat” posed by these aircraft, this too could be alleviated through appropriately drafted legislation.
If you would like to help preserve these historical aircraft and encourage further salvage and restoration of warbirds, contact your legislators. Tell them the current provision is unnecessarily restrictive and unacceptable.