Grumman Tracker Airframe Histories

The following information is provided by ADF Serials, to whom we extend our grateful thanks.  The job would have been immeasurably harder had it not been for them. 

Serial Type Delivered Const No. RAN Code Aircraft History
USN Bu.133160 S-2A ? 131 n/a Ex-USN Bu 133160.Delivered in 1966 prior to operational aircraft for instruction, was purchased purely as a training aid/instructional airframe.
See note at the end of this table for full details.
Currently on display at the Queensland Air Museum.
USN Bu.151646 S-2E ? 179C n/a Ex-USN Bu 151646.Never flew with RAN, was purchased purely as a training aid/instructional airframe.
Was dropped into Sydney Harbour whilst being unloaded.
See note at the end of this table for full details.
The forward fuselage of Bu.151646 is at the FAA Museum, Nowra marked as 853.
N12-152333 S-2G 05/04/77 220C 844 Ex-USN Bu 152333
Withdrawn from service 12/08/84.
Flew with RAN Historic Flight carrying civil registration VH-NVX.
A change of policy has seen the RAN Historical Flight cease flying operations
N12-152334 S-2G 05/04/77 221C 845 Ex-USN Bu 152334
Was marked as NH/713 prior to service with RAN.
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Hulk at HMAS Albatross.
Sold to private owner for $200 to prevent scrapping
Located on private property near HMAS Albatross Nowra.
N12-152800 S-2G 05/04/77 269C 846 Ex-USN Bu 152800
Was marked as NH/107 prior to service with RAN.
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and flown to West Sale Vic. 09/92.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
Noted in outside storage at West Sale since at least 02/2016.
N12-152805 S-2G 05/04/77 274C 847 Ex-USN Bu 152805
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and flown to West Sale Vic.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013.
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
Appears to be stored inside at West Sale.
N12-152807 S-2G 05/04/77 276C 848 Ex-USN Bu 152807
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Retained at HMAS Albatross until scrapped in 1995.
N12-152809 S-2G 05/04/77 278C 849 Ex-USN Bu 152809
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and flown to West Sale Vic. 02/03/92.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013.
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
Noted in outside storage at West Sale since at least 02/2016.
N12-152811 S-2G 05/04/77 280C 850 Ex-USN Bu 152811
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and flown to West Sale Vic. 24/10/91.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013.
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
Noted in outside storage  at West Sale since at least 08/2015.
N12-152812 S-2G 05/04/77 281C 851 Ex-USN Bu 152812
Was marked as NH/707 prior to service with RAN.
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold 02/02/90 to Qantas as training aid.
Sold 2006 to Historical Aircraft Restoration Society.
Arrived at HARS 06/11/2006.
Reported will be rebuilt to flying condition.
N12-152816 S-2G 05/04/77 285C 852 Ex-USN Bu 152816
Was marked as NH/702 prior to service with RAN.
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and flown to West Sale Vic. 11/91.
Wears US registration N16FV although it never left Australia.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013.
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
Noted in outside storage at West Sale since at least 02/2016.
06/2016 dismantled for export to USA.
09/2016 noted in United Aeronautical Corporation’s yard adjacent to Davis Monthan AFB Arizona.
N12-152837 S-2G 05/04/77 306C 853 Ex-USN Bu 152837
Was marked as NH/016 with prior to service with RAN.
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and flown to West Sale Vic. 15/04/94.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013.
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
Noted in outside storage at West Sale since at least 08/2015.
The fuselage marked as 853 at FAA Museum, Nowra is really Bu.151646.
N12-153566 S-2G 05/04/77 322C 854 Ex-USN Bu 153566
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and flown to West Sale Vic.
Displayed outside Gippsland Armed Forces Museum.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013.
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
02/2016 still on display at West Sale outside museum.
06/2016 dismantled for export to USA.
09/2016 noted in United Aeronautical Corporation’s yard adjacent to Davis Monthan AFB Arizona.
N12-153567 S-2G 05/04/77 323C 855 Ex-USN Bu 153567
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation.
Sold to Melbourne/Kangan TAFE 02/94.
Acquired by Vietnam Veteran’s Museum Phillip Island, Vic 11/2013.
Currently on outside display at front of museum.
N12-153576 S-2G 05/04/77 332C 856 Ex-USN Bu 153576
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and flown to West Sale Vic. 05/01/93.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013.
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
Noted in outside storage at West Sale since at least 02/2016.
N12-153578 S-2G 05/04/77 334C 857 Ex-USN Bu 153578
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and flown to West Sale Vic.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013.
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
Noted in outside storage at West Sale since at least 08/2015.
N12-153580 S-2G 05/04/77 336C 858

114

Ex-USN Bu 153580
Retained USN side code 114
Never flown by RAN, retained as hulk until scrapped in 1995.
N12-153582 S-2G 05/04/77 338C 859 Ex-USN Bu 153582.
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
On display FAA Museum, Nowra NSW.
N12-153595 S-2E 27/07/67 339C 840 Officially handed over 27/07/67 in the USA prior to delivery on HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Written off after Nowra  hanger fire  04/12/76.
N12-153596 S-2E 22/11/67 340C 841 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Written off after Nowra  hanger fire  04/12/76.
N12-153597 S-2E 22/11/67 341C 842 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Undamaged by the hanger fire which wrote off 9 S-2E’s and damaged 3 more.
It was away at the time of the fire.
On board HMAS Melbourne, ‘Spithead Deployment’ 28/04/77 to 04/10/77 with VC816.
Exercise ‘Highwood’ 5-20/07/77, North Sea.
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to private owner for $200 to prevent scrapping.
Located on private property near HMAS Albatross Nowra.
N12-153598 S-2E 22/11/67 342C 843,

841

Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Damaged by Nowra hanger fire 04/12/76.
Repaired and put back into service.
Originally coded 843 but when S-2G’s arrived it was given a new code of 841.
On board HMAS Melbourne, ‘Spithead Deployment’ 28/04/77 to 04/10/77 with VC816.
Greenham Common Air Tattoo, Berkshire UK 25-26/06/77 static display.
Exercise ‘Highwood’ 5-20/07/77, North Sea.
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and flown to West Sale Vic. 12/91.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013.
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
Noted in outside storage at West Sale since at least 08/2015.
06/2016 dismantled for export to USA.
09/2016 noted in United Aeronautical Corporation’s yard adjacent to Davis Monthan AFB Arizona.
N12-153599 S-2E 22/11/67 343C 844 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Written off after Nowra  hanger fire  04/12/76.
N12-153600 S-2E 22/11/67 344C 845 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Damaged in hanger fire 04/12/76 but not repaired.
Used as training air frame and later displayed outside FAA Museum.
In storage FAA Museum, Nowra NSW.
N12-153601 S-2E 22/11/67 345C 846 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Written off after Nowra  hanger fire  04/12/76.
N12-153602 S-2E 22/11/67 346C 847 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Written off after Nowra  hanger fire  04/12/76.
N12-153603 S-2E 22/11/67 347C 848 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Written off after Nowra  hanger fire  04/12/76.
N12-153604 S-2E 22/11/67 348C 849,

840

Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Damaged by Nowra hanger fire 04/12/76.
Repaired and put back into service.
When S-2G’s arrived it was given a new code of 840.
On board HMAS Melbourne, ‘Spithead Deployment’ 28/04/77 to 04/10/77 with VC816.
Exercise “Highwood” 5-20/07/77 North Sea.
Nose wheel collapse 29/08/77 during this cruise, slight damage to props and nose wheel area.
Transported from HMAS Melbourne to Nowra by Chinook.
Withdrawn 12/08/84.
Sold to Hookway Aviation and taken to West Sale Vic. 29/11/91.
Offered for sale by Grays On-line Auctions 10/2013.
Sold to United Aeronautical Corporation, USA.
Noted in outside storage at West Sale since at least 02/2016.
06/2016 dismantled for export to USA.
09/2016 noted in United Aeronautical Corporation’s yard adjacent to Davis Monthan AFB Arizona.
N12-153605 S-2E 22/11/67 349C 850 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Written off after Nowra  hanger fire  04/12/76.
N12-153606 S-2E 22/11/67 350C 851 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Written off and disposed of after Nowra hanger fire 04/12/76.
N12-153607 S-2E 22/11/67 351C 852 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Written off and disposed of after Nowra hanger fire 04/12/76.

 

N12-153608 S-2E 22/11/67 352C 853 Delivered aboard HMAS Melbourne 22/11/67.
Served with 816 Sqn RAN.
Ditched 10/02/75 after night flying when doing a Bolter (missed wire and going around again) from HMAS Melbourne.
The 4 crew were all rescued unhurt.
DSTO extract from report into accident
This was the only RAN Tracker lost during flying operations.

Forward fuselage section marked as 853 at FAA Museum, Nowra is really Bu.151646.

X
NOTE: TRACKER INSTRUCTIONAL AIRCRAFT

The following note on Instructional Airframes was provided by ADF Serials. 

To support the introduction of the Grumman S-2 Tracker into R.A.N. service, two additional airframes were acquired as training aids. These airframes were:

S-2A    Bu No133160
S-2E  Bu No151646

The S-2A was a complete aircraft which was available to Chief Petty Officers Jock Collins and Arthur Sharland during their exchange duty with the U.S.N. at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego where they spent thirteen months (1966-67) being trained as engineering instructors on the Tracker. The S-2A also served as a repository for various training aids acquired in SanDiego.

The S-2E was obtained as an incomplete and damaged airframe, having been ditched into Long Island Sound during a pre-delivery test flight from the Grumman factory. The S-2E never flew again after this accident and it was acquired by the R.A.N. with the specific intention of cutting it up to provide components for training purposes.

On Monday 7thNovember 1966, the U.S. freighter “Australian Surf” arrived in Sydney from New York. This vessel was carrying at least one and probably both of the Tracker instructional airframes as deck cargo. It is speculated that the “Australian Surf” loaded the damaged S-2E at New York and that the ship later called at San Diego to uplift the S-2A. On Wednesday 9thNovember 1966, as the floating crane “Falcon” was lifting a Tracker from the Pyrmont wharf on to a lighter, a sling broke and the aircraft fell into Sydney Harbour. Navy divers later attached slings to the aircraft which was raised after spending four hours immersed. Contemporary press reports of the recovery depict a damaged and engineless  Tracker which appears to be an S-2E. What can be stated definitely, however, is that the aircraft is NOT an S-2A. The damage to the underside of this aircraft is consistent with what might be expected on an aeroplane which had been ditched previously. Therefore, there can be no doubt that the “dunked” Tracker was the S-2E 151646.

After its recovery, this aeroplane was off-loaded on the banks of the Parramatta River at Gladesville. It is believed that the aircraft was subsequently dismantled or cut up at this location before being trucked to Nowra where the centre section served as an undercarriage retraction training aid. The severed nose section of the S-2E resides with the Naval Aviation Museum at Nowra to this day. In the absence of any recollections of a complete S-2E at Nowra during this period, it is likely that the airframe was cut up prior to transportation to Nowra. Given that this aeroplane was ditched prior to delivery and spent another four hours on the bottom of Sydney Harbour, it is noteworthy for probably having spent more time in the water than in the air!

A report in “Australian Air Log” of April 1967 states that a Tracker instructional airframe “at Bankstown airport under overhaul” is the same aircraft reported at Gladesville after having been recovered from Sydney Harbour. We now know that these were two different aircraft. That the reporter was led to assume that two different aircraft were one and the same, tends to support the belief that both instructional airframes arrived together on the “Australian Surf”.

More fortunate was the complete S-2A, which was successfully unloaded and transported to Hawker de Havilland at Bankstown where it was de-preserved and serviced under the supervision of Chief Petty Officer Arthur Sharland. Subsequently, the aeroplane was released for a one-off flight with the undercarriage locked down. The S-2A’s one and only flight in Australia was under the command of U.S.N. exchange pilot Lieutenant Commander Saltz, with R.A.N. pilot Lieutenant Commander Ken Douglas acting as co-pilot and Chief Petty Officer Arthur Sharland occupying the observer’s seat. So successful was the test flight that it did not return to Bankstown but terminated at Nowra, where Jock Collins witnessed the landing. Windy Geale, Curator of the Naval Aviation Museum at Nowra, inspected Ken Douglas’ logbook which confirmed that the aircraft was S-2A N12-133160 and that the date was 4thMay 1967.

After its arrival at Nowra, the S-2A was used as a training aid for engine running and ground handling. To ensure that it would not be flown, Jock Collins cut a hole in the skin on the  starboard side of the fuselage. This hole served the dual purpose of providing a viewing port for the radome and MAD operating mechanisms.

After the first batch of operational Trackers was delivered on HMAS Melbourne in November 1967, the S-2A must have outlived its usefulness at Nowra, for it was decided that it should go to HMAS Nirimba, a training station at Schofields near Sydney where it was to be used as a “Repair Procedure Fuselage”. In view of this planned role, together with the requirement that it be transported through the streets of Sydney, the S-2A had its wings, engines, tail group and internal systems removed at Nowra. The resultant hulk was then transported from Jervis Bay to Sydney on HMAS Sydney,probably during 1970. (Subsequently, the Sydney sailed for the U.S. to collect the second batch of Trackers, which reached Australia in July 1971). The S-2A was then trucked from Sydney to HMAS Nirimba where the Aviation Historical Society of Australia Journal reports its presence on 21stSeptember 1970 (having been “transferred recently from Nowra”).

Quite clearly, it was during the trip from Jervis Bay to Sydney that a dismembered S-2A carrying the side number “60” was photographed on the deck of HMAS Sydney, and not as previously assumed, during its delivery from the U.S. The non-standard side number was evidently derived from the Bureau Number 133160 and applied as an unofficial allocation during the aircraft’s time at Nowra.

The R.A.N. eventually disposed of the S-2A hulk to Gary Volkers who subsequently sold it to David Bussey who in turn donated it to the Queensland Air Museum. A QAM recovery crew departed for Schofields on 8thJune 1990 and the aircraft was later trucked to Caloundra where it arrived on 16thJune. There can be no doubt that the aeroplane in QAM’s possession is an S-2A, given that:

  1. It has provision for the upper AN/APA-69 radome unique to the S-2A. (QAM has the pylon but not theradome).
  2. It carries a ventral barrier hook unique to theS-2A.
  3. It has only 8 sonobuoy ejector tubes in each engine nacelle whereas the S-2E has

Furthermore, during an inspection by QAM members Nick Sayer and Martin Hooper, traces of the Bu No 133160 were found on the rear fuselage. Jock Collins (also a QAM member) confirms that the Tracker in QAM’s collection bears evidence of the hole he cut in the fuselage of the S-2A atNowra.

The author wishes to thank the following for their contributions to this document: Trevor Boughton, Jock Collins, Ken Douglas, Bob “Windy” Geale, Martin Hooper, John Hopton, Nick Sayer and Arthur Sharland.

It is hoped that much of the confusion which has surrounded these two aeroplanes, has now been resolved.

Ron Cuskelly