Sunday, January 17, 2010

What and where

One day not long ago, as I drove down Highway A1A into St. Augustine, Florida, I saw this field of planes on the west side of the highway, just north of the St. John's County Criminal Justice Complex. Of course Lagniappe the Dog and I had to stop and see them.
As I pulled up to the fence, I saw another man coming out through a hole in the gate with his camera. Obviously none of the neighbors who were all in plain view had a problem with him being in there, so we ducked in. And this is what we saw--Vintage Grumman S-2 Trackers, Aircraft designed to hunt, track and destroy Soviet submarines during the Cold War. As I walked among these airframes, I wondered how many carrier take-offs and landings these aircraft had made over the course of their lives, and what far corners of the world they'd seen. How many Russian submarines had these noble aircraft shadowed? What else had they done? Who'd flown them, and how'd they get here? So many questions...and no answers as of yet.

So I'm posting their photos here, along with their serial numbers and as much information as I could find on them. Maybe someone who knows the history of one or more of these aircraft will see them and help fill in the blanks.


  1. OK, now I have to go check this out. I'm about 15 minutes from here for the whole week.


  2. The trackers have since been demolished and scrapped

  3. Seriously? Such a loss. I would have loved to make just one flyable again.

  4. I have been by this yard many times. Years ago they dumped a bunch of these aircraft offshore to form an artificial reef for fishing and diving.

  5. I was 20 (1970)when I first flew in one. I was an aircrew operating the sonar detection equipment with a crew from VS22.

    We were stationed out of Quonset Point, RI at the time and flew off of the Wasp.

    Just after I left the service the squadrons were all reassigned to Jacksonville and the Wasp & Intrepid were decommissioned...The Intrepid went on to NYC to become a museum, the Wasp to the scrap pile.

    The squadrons were all transitioning to the new S3 Viking and the roles were soon to change as the Cold War turned lukewarm.

    It's sad seeing these aircraft like this. They were taken such good care of when active.

    They were such a noisy plane to fly in, but you had such a sense of confidence in the airframe and those work horse 9 cylinder engines. Everyone joked about them being a "pile of nuts and bolts flying in loose formation".

    With a 72 foot wingspan and lots of HP, they were strong and stable in any weather conditions.

    We catapulted with 30 foot seas in the N. Atlantic, waves washing across the deck and into a stormy night yet felt totally comfortable in the capabilities of the aircraft.

    I appreciate seeing this article, but certainly sad at the same time...and feeling a bit vintage

  6. Could anyone give me the coordinations where they are?

  7. Ive never flown in one configured as an S-2, but several times in a COD (C-1A Trader) -- Essentially the airframe without the radome.

    COD=Carrier Onboard Delivery

    Yes, it would have been nice to have 3 of them (surplus) to make one flyable + parts... but USGOV doesn't look at it that way. Better to leave them to the elements.

  8. Having flown in them with VS-32 , USS Lake Champlain CVS 39.
    This is sad to see.

  9. I got a fam flight in the S2 at Kingsville back in 1972. Got to fly it for a couple of hours and really liked it.

  10. Even more detailed info about how they got there and why.

  11. I flew in them with VS-30, a training squadron at Boca Chica Naval Air station, in 1970, as a non-acoustic AW-3 running radar, MAD, Sniffer, and ECM. I mustered out before it happened, but would have been assigned to the Decrepit Intrepid if I had stayed in. I believe that would have been with VS-22, if memory hasn't failed me once again. I think the Intrepid was scheduled for a Med cruise, which almost enticed me to stay in.

    When I lived on the West Coast years later (a few miles from the Oregon state line in Far Northern Californica), I think there were a few S-2s being used for fire suppression by a either CDF (California Division of Forestry, the main state forest fire-fighting agency) or a civilian company operating up there during the massive fires we experienced back in 1987, when I was working for the California Highway Patrol.