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09/12/2008 - Ten planes sink off the Phuket coast.  09/12/2008 - Ten planes sink off the Phuket coast.

Ten aircraft have been submerged off Bang Tao Bay in Phuket's Talang district in the Andaman Sea to form a new artificial coral reef and diving site. The 16 to 18 metre deep area where the fleet was sunk has a sand bed, and is one kilometre away from the natural coral reef and Bang Tao Beach.

The fleet of sunken aircraft consists of four Douglas C-47 Dakota Skytrains and six Sikorsky S-58T helicopters. They once belonged to the Royal Thai Air Force and were housed at an air base in Lopburi Province. The For Sea Foundation initiated the project to create an artificial coral reef following operations to fix natural coral reefs that were damaged by the devastating Tsunami that hit Asia in late December 2004.

''To lure visitors to a new diving site, the artificial reefs need some sort of 'star power', like the King Cruiser wreck diving spot in Phuket, for instance. The idea of having a fleet of old and unused aircraft under the sea is equally irresistible'' said Mr. Settapan Buddhani, TAT's Phuket Office Director.

It took two years for the agencies concerned to complete the feasibility study on the environmental effects of the project and determine the best location to sink the fleet.

It was found that the aluminum body of each aircraft is non-corrosive, while their shapes do not obstruct water currents. Most importantly, it was found that they do not pose any harm to the ecological system.

The diving spot is expected to help boost Phuket's strategic position as a world class marine tourism centre with this new fascinating dive site. Corals will form a new reef along each craft, marine fauna will have a new habitat and the ecological system in the area will also eventually rehabilitate itself.

Ms. Cathleeya McIntosh, one of Thailand's best known actresses and an experienced diver herself, has been chosen as the project's Goodwill Ambassador.

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