Norman’s Cay Plane Wreck

I’ve been waiting for this flight to some of the Bahamas “out Islands” for a long time.  Whereas Cuba was absolutely fascinating now it’s time for some pure fun. Mark’s goal for the Bahamas is simple: Fly to some of the out islands and land on a small island surrounded by that gorgeous blue water.  My Bahamas goal is to find the sunken C-46 Commando drug plane that I seen photos of and dive there. It turns out the drug plane is in a bay on a very small island called Norman’s Cay where there isn’t much more than a runway.  So we get to knock off both our goals. Today!

We take off from Nassau and fly south and low to the northern islands off the Exuma chain. Most visitors have a boat, not an airplane, so I had to do some research on how to get out to the wreck. I had used Google Earth to determine that after a short hike from the airstrip, the wreck would be about ¼ mile off shore. Mark had seen a YouTube video of someone who tried to use a cheap drugstore raft but failed to get even a few feet offshore because of the wind. We decide to just swim with just mask, snorkel and fins and we take one boogie board as an emergency flotation device in case one of us needs it.

Luckily at this tide level there is a piece of the wreck above the water so can find it easily offshore, even while swimming. The snorkeling is fantastic and far exceeds expectations – I just can’t believe water can be this clear! We have a lot of fun swimming in, around and through the wreck. 

The story behind the wreck is a good one: a summary is that the pilot landed short, bent his prop, then tried a go-around but landed in the bay. He and a passenger were unscathed. At the time the island was used by drug lord Carlos Lehder as a stopping point between Columbia and the US, though the plane did not have drugs on it at the time.  Here are a couple of links with more information:

C-46 Wreck Accident Report

Norman’s Cay C-46 Story

Graeme in his element
Wait, who has the controls?
Just plain fun…
Beach chairs left on a deserted beach near the wreck and not far from the runway. Really? This exists? It kinda seems like we flew from California through Cuba to Norman’s Cay just for this moment.

After we swim back to shore, hang out on some beach chairs that are oddly alone on the beach, we then fly to Farmer’s Cay, very cool because the runway is literally right next to the sand. After all this time flying Mark’s plane you would think I would be use to the extra weight and performance difference, but I still tend to use the power settings for my plane and on the first attempt to land I’m too slow on base and I go around instead of trying to turn final. On the next attempt I thought I had it nailed – this is a short runway for the loaded P210 so I’m planning on coming in a little slow and planting it firmly on the runway. However there is also a crosswind of around 10 knots and that is apparently causing a downdraft as the wind comes up the beach and over the runway. Usually you would carry extra speed in a crosswind but I’m more afraid of putting Mark’s plane into the water at the end of the runway.  Once over the threshold and ready to level out, the plane just drops and although I pull up and expect some ground affect to cushion us, it really doesn’t happen and we bounce hard. The second landing a few moments later is better. Sorry Mark. I guess the good news is we didn’t need but half of the runway.

We picnic under the wing, next to the sand and water, then head back to Nassau, flying low over the cobalt waters.

Graeme relaxing and me thinking about the bounced landing
Ahhhh…

Next post in the adventure: The Bahamas Experience

2 thoughts on “Norman’s Cay Plane Wreck

  1. Hi Ney, been following you for quite a while and always enjoy your stuff.

    Thought you might appreciate our latest newsletter even though our “demographic” is across the table from yours!

    We’re looking for advertisers so if something strikes you about our newsletter or you can recommend someone that fits our niche, would love to chat.

    Best to you

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    1. Hi Bert – Did you want to send a link to your newsletter? I didn’t receive anything. – Ney (or email at ney at ney dot com.

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