Turkish resort town sinks plane to help diving industry take off

It’s a bird (island).. it’s a plane... it’s an artificial reef!

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

An Airbus 330 floats off the coast of Kusadasi before being lowered into the sea.

What more could tourists want than sun, sea and sand alongside impressive history and cuisine? The Turkish resort town of Kusadasi thinks it’s found the answer – an underwater plane!

Located in Turkey’s west and bordering the Aegean Sea, Kusadasi literally translates as “Bird Island” in English. The resort is a favourite of Russian, German and English holiday-makers and has a substantial expat community. It’s also home to several historic buildings and ruins – such as those of the Byzantine castle Kadikalesi.

But, as competition for tourists intensifies due to rival hotspots developing and new markets – like Iran – opening up, long-established resorts like Kusadasi are trying to raise their game in a world where sun, sea and sand just don’t cut it anymore.

A bird's eye view of the resort town of Kusadasi. 

That’s why the municipality of the nearby city of Aydin decided to sink a 54 metre-long Airbus jet into the sea, with the intention of creating an artificial reef.

Hundreds of onlookers cheered, clapped and blasted foghorns on Saturday as the largest plane to be deliberately submerged in Turkey so far was floated into the Kusadasi gulf on balloons before being carefully lowered into the sea.

The mayor of Aydin, Ozlem Cercioglu, told Hurriyet that the aim of the project “is to increase the underwater diversity off Kusadasi and to develop diving tourism in the town. We expect some 250,000 national and foreign tourists per year to come here for diving.”

Artificial reefs can be created by deliberately sending any number of things to the sea floor – such as planes, ships, or even just concrete blocks. The idea is to provide a protected habitat for diverse sea life to develop and breed, producing a spectacle for divers.

The plane cost 270,000 Turkish liras to purchase (around $93,000) and likely several thousand more to drag out and sink into the sea – but there’s good reason to think the move will be worth it.

The sinking of the warship HMS Scylla off the coast Plymouth, England, has brought an extra £1.1 million (around $1.8 million) a year into the city’s economy, creating jobs and strengthening the local diving industry.

With such success stories, the people of Kusadasi have every reason to think the sunken plane will take off – metaphorically speaking, of course.

TRTWorld and agencies