October 6, 2019 – After months of intensive testing and preparation a Grumman Tracker (844) flew, for the first time since 1998, from HMAS Albatross to her new home at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Aviation Museum at Illawarra Regional Airport.
With the Tracker now at home in the museum, visitors will have the opportunity to view a flying icon of Naval Aviation History.
Fleet Air Arm Museum Manager Stuart Harwood said it was a heartwarming sight.
“Previously I was the volunteer manager of the Royal Australian Navy Historic Flight, so watching 844 roll down runway 03 in the very capable hands of ex-Navy Tracker pilots Owen Nicols and Steve McMahon, and then take flight, was an extremely gratifying moment,” Harwood said.
“Many Historic Flight volunteers have spent many, many hours tending to 844, so to see her finally take-off was a tribute to them and the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) volunteers who have continued their legacy,” he said.
Mr Harwood said the Tracker was going to a good home.
“Since 2007, the Royal Australian Navy has endeavored to transfer the flying activities of the Navy’s Historic Flight to a suitable Australian heritage organization.
HARS has significant experience in saving and operating historic aircraft and this allowed Tracker 844 to continue to dynamically present Navy heritage to the Australian public.
“I hope that this helps the Australian public to better understand the Fleet Air Arm’s history,” he said.
The Grumman S-2 Tracker, whose primary role was as an anti-submarine warfare aircraft, was a familiar sight on the Albatross airfield from its introduction in 1967 until the end of the fixed wing flight era and its retirement from service in 1984.
Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Don Dezentje, said the Tracker had provided outstanding service.
“The Trackers had an exceptional operational record of service to the Fleet Air Arm, the Navy and the Australian Defence Force.
“They participated in operations as varied as Operation TROCHUS – conducting aerial patrols over the north-west coastline of Western Australia, searching for illegal foreign fishing vessels, Bass Strait Oil Rig Surveillance (BSORS), anti-terrorist patrols and a plethora of multinational exercises.
“The flight of this impressive aircraft on the weekend was an outstanding achievement and provided an opportunity for a historic piece of Naval Aviation to take to the sky’s once more.
“Getting a historic aircraft back into the air after a considerable period on the ground is a significant achievement and I would like to acknowledge HARS for all the work it has put into getting the Tracker airborne and dynamically showcasing the heritage of the FAA in such a magnificent manner,” Commodore Dezentje said.
No doubt there will be many fond memories and stories shared on 23-24 October 2019, when HARS will host a Tracker reunion. Tracker 844 may even conduct a flypast at the event, and demonstrate its show stopping folding wings.
Mr Harwood sad the Tracker had a strong following in the ex-Royal Australian Navy community, and when asked what he thought those attending would feel about the presence of Tracker 844 at the event, he said “Nostalgic. Very, very nostalgic.”