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Mermorial Build for a Lost Tracker

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This build is currently ongoing over on the In-Progress Forum. However, another ACR'r mentioned that this subject is kinda appropriate to this thread as well. I'll cross-post my early postings and then once up to date, go from there. Here we go:

Note: This is going to be a bit more than just a standard build log. I'm going to start with a story and then conclude with the build. Also, it is going to be a long term project, in that I have some pretty hefty demands on my time (ie - a 3 month old baby girl) and some other projects still ongoing. That being said......

On August 24, 1978, a US Naval Reserve US-2B Tracker based at Naval Air Station South Weymouth, MA crashed in the neighboring town of Rockland, MA while returning from a routine training flight with a failed engine. I was a young kid at the time, living in the coastal town of Scituate, MA. Back in the day, I remember seeing a variety of NAS SoWey aircraft buzzing overhead. Most of the time, they were SH-3 Seaking helos or P-3 Orions, heading out over the ocean for ASW missions. On occasion, I'd see Marine A-4's or UH-1N Hueys. I also remember religiously attending the annual airshow at the base, checking out a wide variety of aircraft as well as the Blue Angles. Good stuff for a aircraft fanatic like myself. Alas, the air station is no more. Victim of one of the BRAC rounds, it closed in 1995. The Marine units were decommissioned, while the P-3 squadron relocated to NAS Brunswick, ME (until that base also fell victim to a BRAC round, leaving no Naval aviation presence in New England).

I barely remember hearing about the crash at the time. The annual airshow occurred a few days later and was dedicated to the memory of the two pilots killed in the crash - Cdr. Albert Bailey and LCdr. Kenneth Mariott.

Like any other event, it made the local papers and then faded from memory.

Fast forward to 2011. After hearing about Kinetic releasing an S-2 Tracker in 1/48th scale, I vaguely remembered the story of a Tracker having crashed decades ago at the base. Out of curiosity, I tried to find some additional info. An internet search yielded absolutely nothing. I was starting to wonder if this accident really happened or not. As a last resort, I posted a question about this on ARC and was able to get confirmation that it had actually occurred and some additional details (date, names of the pilots, etc). Also included was a picture of another US-2 based at South Weymouth at the same time:


For some reason, this really started to interest me. As I work in the town next to where this aircraft crashed, I decided to swing by the Rockland library on my lunch hour. After spending some time reviewing microfilm copies of old local newspapers, I found a single article on the crash:


While reading, I saw some notes that indicated that crew intentionally put the aircraft down in a wooded area, to avoid nearby homes and a sports field. This eliminated any chance of survival for them.

This just added to my interest in this crash. In search of more information (including, hopefully, details on the aircraft itself to assist with building the model), I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the US Navy. On a previous project (my AH-6C Littlebird build), I had very good results with this process and was able to obtain some very useful pictures of what was once a highly classified helo. Approximately 4 weeks after submitting my request, I received an email from the Navy Safety Center. They had located the accident report. The cost was going to be approximately $80 due to the time spent reproducing the entire document. The helpful individual suggested that I might want to request a "JAGMAN" report instead, from the Navy Judge Advocate General and provided a name and address for this request. They indicated that the JAGMAN report would contain the same info as the accident report (minus anything deemed to be of personal or sensitive nature) and could be provided free of charge. Given that $80 was too costly for my budget, I contacted the JAG and a very helpful individual from that office confirmed that they could provide this report (officially known as a JAG Manual Investigation). They even went so far as to scan in the relevant pictures onto a CD, instead of just photocopying them. Within a few weeks, I received a very large envelope with the full report, at zero cost.

The report had been redacted where necessary to remove all information deemed unsuitable for public release. This material included medical information, personal data on the pilots, etc. I had no interest in that material, my only focus was on the events of the crash itself. The information provided was very interesting and in my next few posts, I'll summarize the report's findings.

Edited by 11bee
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By 1978, the Tracker was a bit of an anachronism in the US Navy. Complex, hard to maintain radial piston-engined aircraft had pretty much vanished from the fleet, being replaced by more modern turbine powered aircraft. One of the few exceptions were the US-2 series aircraft. These were modified versions of the obsolete S-2 antisubmarine aircraft, converted for general transport and utility roles. This entailed the removal of all dedicated ASW equipment (radar, searchlight, MAD gear, etc) and, in the case of the US-2B version, the installation of 5 passenger seats. A very nice summary of the US-2B layout can be found here for those interested:


Most Naval air stations had a few of these aircraft (either US-2A or -2B versions) assigned as general "hacks", used for utility and pilot proficiency tasks. This included allowing pilots who were assigned in non-flying, administrative positions to maintain flight status. By '78 these planes had been in service for nearly 20 years and at one base, the US-2B was somewhat derisively referred to as the "Used To Be".

US-2B (Naval BuNo 133176, AKA "176") was a conversion of an S-2B aircraft, which in turn, was an S-2A updated with advanced ASW acoustic equipment.

From the JAG report's "Finding of Facts":

176 was assigned to NAS South Weymouth on April 25, 1978 and at the time of the accident, had a total of 8,342 flight hours.

On July 1 1978, the port engine was noted to have backfired while in flight at 6,000'.

On July 20, a Field Barometric Power Check was performed. This consisted of recording the RPM of each engine and comparing it to a prescribed standard, adjusted for temp and pressure. Results

for both engines were below allowable tolerances (70 RPM for the starboard engine and 80 RPM for the port unit).

The NAVAIR specification for this test states that low field barometric power check indicates at least one of the following conditions - one or more cylinders out, instrumentation errors, improper valve clearance, late magneto timing, low pitch stop set too high.

The aircraft was not "downed" at the time and was flow on five additional flights before any documented corrective action was taken. On August 5, the report's Finding of Facts indicates that the corrective action taken was to order a manifold gauge. Item 51 of the Finding of Facts, states "No written documentation is available to indicate why the decision was made to order a manifold gauge instead of compliance with" the NAVAIR specification referenced above.

On August 9th, it was noted that "Engines popped on takeoff at both Weymouth and Pensacola. Possible water". In response to this incident, it was recorded "Checked & set ignition timing. Also stack check-OK". The Finding of Fact noted that there was no other documentation ascertaining which engine was repaired or if both were repaired and to what extent they were repaired; i.e., what the ignition timing was set to".

After this maintenance was performed, 176 flew a total of 4.5 hours prior to it's final flight on August 24.

More to follow.

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On August 24, 1978, US-2B 176 was fueled with 500 gallons of AVGAS and prepared for a local training flight (FAM-2 profile which consists of an introduction of normal landing procedures and a review of all items demonstrated during the initial FAM-1 area check out and demonstration of flight characteristics flight).

LCDR Mariott was listed as the instructor pilot and CDR Bailey was listed as pilot under instruction. CDR Baily had flow this aircraft the previous day for 1.2 hours. It was his first flight in an S-2 type aircraft since 1973 and he was being re-qualified in the aircraft by LCDR Mariott. Although not having flow the Tracker in recent years, CDR Bailey was an experienced Naval Aviator with 3,679 total flight hours, of which 3,519 were in S-2 type aircraft. LCDR Mariott had a total of 2,178 flight hours of which 324 hours were in S-2 type aircraft.

Tracker 176 took off from NAS South Weymouth at 0937, under partly cloudy skies. Immediately after departure, 176 informed the tower that they had lost a generator and wished to make an immediate landing. Shortly thereafter, they radioed that the generator had come back on line. 176 then departed the local area, heading east over the ocean towards Cape Cod.

The next communication with the tower was at 1041 when 176 declared an emergency with an illuminated magnetic chip detector light. The chip detector is used to notify the flight crew in the event that metal particles are detected within the engine oil sump. Presence of these particles is often indicative of engine damage. Shortly afterwards, the pilot indicated that they were "two thirds of the way up the Cape", south of Provincetown, MA.

At 1044, 176 radioed that the port engine had a "chip detector light with accompanying high oil temperature" and they decided to "keep it on the line and keep an eye on it".

Item 91 of the report's "Finding of Facts" stated that the decision to keep the port engine "on the line and keep and eye on it" instead of immediately feathering the corresponding engine upon secondary indication of an abnormal engine (high oil temperature) was in violation of prescribed Naval Air Training Operating Procedure Standardization program (NATOPS)procedures. NATOPS is sort of the "bible" for operation of a naval aircraft / helo. Pilots are trained to follow the NATOPS procedures to the letter.

At 1052 176 reported they were over Plymouth harbor, with their port engine running rough, smoking and partially in the feathered position. Time elapsed from the first reported indication of an abnormal engine to attempt to feather was approximately 12 minutes. Eyewitnesses on the ground noted the port propeller to be slowing turning (a properly feathered propeller would be motionless, since it's blades are parallel to the airstream). This undoubtedly added a significant amount of drag.

During this time, an SH-3A Sea King helicopter on a routine post-maintenance check flight diverted south to assist. At 1055, 176 reported going "feet dry" over Plymouth, MA. Shortly afterwards, SH-3A NW443 joined the Tracker in formation and reported that it was trailing smoke.

More to follow.

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Final events:

At 1055, US-2B Tracker 176 was returning to NAS South Weymouth, MA with a failed port (left) engine. To make matters worse, the engine's propeller failed to fully feather, adding a significant amount of drag to the now single-engined aircraft. The Tracker was followed in close formation by an SH-3A Sea King helicopter. The stricken Tracker was now over Plymouth, MA, approximately 25 miles from it's base. It's altitude was approximately 1,000' but the SH-3A crew noted that it appeared to be decreasing at a steady rate.

At 1056, the SH-3A radioed the Tracker crew that it was trailing smoke. However, the Tracker crew was not informed that the yellow-ish brown smoke was actually coming from the operational starboard engine until over two minutes later. At 1101, the Tracker crew noted that they now had an illuminated starboard engine chip detector light. The time between the known engine commencing to malfunction (starboard engine) and the illumination of the chip detector light was 4 minutes, 16 seconds.

At 1101, the NAS South Weymouth control tower informed the Tracker that they were in sight. At 1102, the flight crew notified the tower that if their landing gear would not extend, the were going to land regardless.

27 seconds later, 176 radioed the tower - "we may have to ditch it" and asked them to stand-by.

At 1102:31, 176 made a final call to the tower, indicating that both engines had quit and they were going to "take it in".

At nearly the same time, the accompanying SH-3A informed the tower that 176 was attempting to land in a field, 4 miles southeast of the base.

15 seconds later, the SH-3A informed the tower that the Tracker had crashed and was burning.

The SH-3A crew reported that the Tracker appeared to be in position to crash land on the field (which was a baseball field complex) but then overflew the field and crashed into the woods immediately beyond it. The SH-3A immediately landed nearby and the co-pilot and a third crew-member ran to the crash site to assist. Despite their efforts and those of local residents and firefighters, one pilot was killed instantly, while the other pilot was removed from the wreckage but died a short time later.

From the reports of local residents who witnessed the crash, it appeared that the Tracker crew deliberately overflew the ball fields and went down in the woods. Aside from the area of woods where the aircraft went down, the rest of the immediate vicinity is heavily populated with single family homes and a large apartment complex.

Accident report summary and the start of the model build to follow. However, Item 25 of the accident report Opinions section is worth noting:

25. The decisions by the pilots of (the Tracker) to "take it in" the trees rather than trying to stretch their glide slope save the lives of innocent parties.

Edited by 11bee
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From the JAG report, "Cause of Accident"

- Port engine suffered power loss as a result of heavy scoring of crankshaft journal and mating master connecting rod bearing allowing clearances to develop which permitted pistons to contact valves, thereby causing a chain reaction type of deterioration of the internal mechanism of the engine.

- Cause of failure of port propeller governor to fully feather could not be determined.

- Starboard engine suffered power loss as a result of broken exhaust valve in number 3 cylinder. Engine valve seat came loose causing exhaust valve head to break, setting up a chain reaction type deterioration of the internal mechanism of the engine with resultant power loss.

- Due to altitude and airspeed at the time of power failure on the starboard engine of (US-2B), all options previously available to the pilots became nil forcing them to ditch the aircraft.

- At their posit/altitude/airspeed, no suitable field was available for ditching and a crash became inevitable.

Final report Opinions and Conclusions to follow.

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Also included within the JAG accident report were three "Endorsements" which are opinions and comments on the accident report findings which were posted above.

The First Endorsement (submitted by the commanding officer of NAS South Weymouth), took exception to the report findings that CDR Bailey was not properly prepared for the flight and that the flight crew allowed closer airfields to pass by, while they attempted to return to their home base. As noted previously, this decision was in violation of NATOPS procedures. The following paragraph from this endorsement is quoted in full, I have highlighted what I feel is a critical statement:

7. Since the accident, the operation of the S-2 program at this station has been completely reviewed and a competent NATOPS program is in effect. Maintenance procedures have been scrupulously overhauled and good quality assurance procedures have been instituted. In May 1979 the US-2 will be transferred and NAS DIFOPS pilots will fly more modern P-3A, SH-3D and TA-4J aircraft as appropriate. The retention of a relatively complex aircraft as a one-of-a-kind utility / proficiency trainer is questionable from many viewpoints. Under the conditions of austere manning found at many Naval Reserve air stations, it is not surprising that this old aircraft did not receive the detailed attention needed to maintain a thoroughly safe program.

The Second Endorsement, from the Chief of Naval Reserve concluded that due to the lack of documented refresher ground training, it was concluded that CDR Bailey was not properly prepared for the flight. It also concluded that decision by the flight crew to return to home field was contrary to NATOPS procedures that requires whenever an engine is stopped as a precaution on aircraft that has two engines, the pilot in command shall land at the nearest suitable airport at which a safe landing can be accomplished.

The Third and final Endorsement was submitted by the Commandant of the Fourth Naval District. It concluded that the pilot in command made errors by failing to follow prescribe NATOPS procedures with regard to the delay in feathering the port engine. It's final comment is quoted in full and highlighted as I feel that this is also a critical section.

4. This endorser does not concur with (paragraph 7 of the First Endorsement submitted by the commander of the South Weymouth Air Station and quoted above) that it is not surprising that the old aircraft did not receive the detailed attention needed to maintain a thoroughly safe program (for whatever reason) is alarming in its apparent implication that various degrees of safety (safe as opposed to thoroughly safe) exist within Naval Aviation. If as implied, austere manning or any other factor a Naval Air Stations results in a program in which the quality of maintenance is adversely affected or one in which "shortcuts" exist, then such a program should receive immediate review and revision. Only two degrees of safety (safe and unsafe) exist; of these, safe is the only acceptable standard.

In summation, it appears that the root cause of the accident was due to multiple maintenance errors made by NAS South Weymouth personnel. It was compounded by the failure of one of the pilots to "down" the aircraft due to unacceptable engine test results / performance on previous flights and by the violation of naval flight regulations during the Tracker's final flight (failure to immediately feather the port engine and failure to land at any of the 5 airfields that were passed during the return flight to NAS South Weymouth). It was also compounded by the failure of the accompanying helo to immediately make it clear to the Tracker pilots that their one functioning engine was actually trailing smoke. Like most accidents, any break in the chain above probably would have prevented the crash from happening.

The saddest part of this story is that 176 went down 4 miles from the base. If the starboard engine had held together for another 120 seconds, CDR Bailey and LCDR Marriott would have made the runway and this story would have been nothing more than a long forgotten footnote.

Edited by 11bee
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On to the model. As noted in other posts, the Kinetic kit has some issues. Foremost is that the fuselage length is too long for the S-2E (needs to be shortened aft of the wings) and much too long for an earlier version Tracker (needs to be shortened both before and after the wings). A great reference on what is required to accurately build a long and short fuselage tracker is here:


And here is some additional info on what is needed to build an earlier, short fuselage tracker:


In addition, the US-2B requires other modifications, including windows added to the starboard side, fairing on the ends of the engine nacelles (which are also re-contoured from the Kinetic kit), smaller span horizontal stabilizers, re-shaped wing tips and many other smaller details.

Here is a very useful picture of a US-2B sister ship to 176, it shows some of the modifications that will be required.


Much work to be done.....

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This project has been on the backburner for some time now. I'm still trying to wrap up my Mi-8 Hip helo and haven't had the time or desire to start another project. Today, I figured I'd at least get a small part underway. First of all, the obligatory shot of the various components.


Nothing over the top on this one (so far), just the Kinetic cockpit PE set, a very nice Wolfpack resin wingfold detail set and the all-important custom decals from Fireball Model works. I'll also be purchasing the Belcher conversion which will give me the short span horizontal stabs and some other bits and pieces.

I can't say enough about the decals, they look outstanding and the cost was very, very reasonable. If anyone out there is looking for custom decals (or some very nice helo decals), head over to: http://www.fireballmodels.info/

Anyway, I decided to start with the cockpit seats. The Kinetic kit is pretty decent but some of the detail parts are pretty rough. The worst are probably the seats. They are basically crude chunks of plastic. Also, they represent the seats found on the later version S-2E. The early version Trackers had bucket seats. I ended up using the kit seats, cutting away the seat cushion, thinning the plastic sides and adding some bits for the bucket and seat back. I also enlarged the head rest using plastic strips and putty. It still looks pretty basic but I will be adding additional details such as adjustment handles, the mounting frames and the PE seatbelts. Once I do all that and get some paint on them, I think they will look ok.

I want the seats to look nice since I plan on leaving the overhead escape hatches open and the seats will be very visible.

Here is my first seat, with the original kit seat next to it.



That's it for now, thanks for looking.

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The seats are pretty much complete. I still need to fabricate the bases, that will happen further on in the project. After modifying the kit chunks o' plastic to replicate the early version bucket seats, I added multiple adjusting handles out of scrap plastic and sprue. Knobs were made from dabs of superglue. I also scored a line to separate the bucket from the upper portion of the seatback. I then drilled a couple of holes in the headrest support. Lastly, I added the Kinetic PE seatbelts. They are pretty nice, each one is pre-painted. The only issue I saw was the PE seatbelts were a darker brown, I painted over that to replicate the weathered greyish, tan color of the real thing.

From a single piece on the original, each seat now consists of approx 14 pieces. I may still tweak these a bit, trying to find some good color pics of the real thing. The seatback cushion was painted a dingy orange, the seat itself was painted dark gull gray and the headrest a lighter gray. I added multiple paint chips to represent a seat that had seen 20 or so years of use before that last day in 1978. After looking at the pictures below, I will probably tone down a few of the scratches, I'm also not 100% happy with the color of the seatbelts. I think I'll repaint them with a lighter color. Anyway, that is it for now.






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My need to scratch-build that hinged center console has gone away. Thanks to "Tailspin Turtle" ARC's resident S-2 expert, I am told that when the S-2's were converted to the US-2 utility version, the instrumentation on the folding console was relocated to the smaller fixed center console that is mounted underneath the intrument panel. The only change to this console was the installation of a smaller box that contained the autopilot controls. Works for me, that makes my life a bit easier.

Anyway, my work on the cockpit continues at a slow pace. As mentioned, the kit parts are very basic. Here are some of them:


I need to take things a bit further since I plan on having the overhead escape hatches in the open position. I started with the rear bulkhead. The kit's part has a rectangular door way that is accurate for the later S-2E version but on earlier Trackers, it was oval shaped. I replicated this with some scrap plastic, putty and lots of sanding. I also added some reinforcing structure to the otherwise bare bulkhead. Next up were a couple of canvas bags that were used to store the pilot's headphones. These and a canteen were made from blobs of putty and scrap plastic, sanded to shape. A small bit of stretch sprue was used for the canteen cap. Lastly, I used thin strips of scrap PE brass to represent the circuit breaker panels on the aft bulkhead. These were painted a faded, flat black and I then went back with small dabs of gloss black and white to represent the breakers and their labels. The bulkhead itself was painted dark gull gray with a bit of white added for scale effect. Here are a few pictures, just note that I was loosing the light when I took them and my photography skills in general are pretty poor. The parts look better than they do in these pictures, trust me :) I'll take some better pictures in the next few days and re-post. I still plan on adding some smaller details and going over the CB panels with Tamiya smoke to blend in the white markings a bit.




I added a section of thick lead foil to the inner wall of the cockpit to represent the soundproofing material and onto that, I added a small bit of plastic to represent the pilot's ash trays (you really have to love aircraft from this time period). The blankets were painted a darker shade of gray than the rest of the interior and drybrushed with some other colors for weathering, the upper framework and area under the instrument panel shroud was painted aircraft black. Note that unlike other US aircraft, the blankets on the S-2 don't appear to be the "quilted" type.


I carved away the base of the instrument panel and sanded off the raised detailing on it's face. On the real thing, that fixed center console is suspended from the IP, it doesn't come in contact with the cockpit floor. I painted the entire panel aircraft black and will be adding the very nice Kinetic PE to this, as well as the scratchbuilt autopilot control panel and some other details. I still have to add some details to the cockpit floor, at this point I've just filled in the openings for the panel and pilot's seats, added a plate in front of each pilot (made from aluminum foil, with ridges pressed into it with the dull side of an x-acto knife. Still have work to do on this part. The rudder pedals should not be mounted to the floor but from the viewing angle of the model, it won't be noticeable. Same with the base of the instrument panel. It looks a bit rough but since none of it will be visible once the kit is built up, I have no need to waste any time on this section.



Lastly, here is a picture with the bulkhead and floor dry fitted into place.


On last note on colors - on the picture I posted within a previous post of the Tracker's center console, please note that these interior colors were specific to Canadian Trackers. USN versions were pretty much standard dark gull gray on the inside.

That's it for now, thanks for looking.

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Making a bit of progress on the instrument panel. I used the Kinetic PE set which is actually pretty nice. White glue between the panel halves, it will dry to a nice transparent gloss to represent glass over the individual instruments. I also fabricated the autopilot control console and the joystick controller from scrap plastic. Added a couple of strips of thinly cut sheet plastic for the supports and some stretched sprue under the console to represent wiring. Still have to add some additional PE details and a few knobs on the autopilot panel. I'll be adding a section of PE to cover over the opening for the radar screen in the center of the panel. This was done on the real aircraft when it was converted from a sub hunter to a utility transport. Here are a few preliminary pictures. Note that the white glue had not completely cured so the instrument openings are still a bit opaque. This will change in a short time.




I also added rudder pedal control rods from stretch sprue. The ends will be hidden behind instrument panel when everything is assembled. Lastly, the cockpit floor was weathered with some zinc chromate green and full silver.

The seats are still a work in progress. I've started to add the lower support structure to each seat. I also still need to add the tubing at the rear of each seat. It looks a bit crude but keep in mind that the cockpit of the S-2 (even with the upper escape hatches open) doesn't allow detailed inspection. I think it will look just fine when everything is buttoned up. It certainly (IMHO) will look better than the featureless lumps of plastic that came with the kit.


On a side note, I had to pick up a "slip and slide" for a family cookout this weekend. The rental place I booked it from screwed up and rented mine out. The only available one they had was at their Rockland location, on Spring Street. For some reason, I thought Spring St sounded familiar. As I got close to the rental store, I realized that it was located only a few hundred feet from the crash site. I drove right by the woods where 176 went in and could see an opening in the tree line that could very well have been the Tracker's crash path, immediately behind a baseball field. Quite a somber coincidence. It was a beautiful summer morning, probably pretty close to what it was like that day back in 1978. I plan on returning in the near future.

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Immediately after taking the pictures above, I dropped the cockpit assembly. After a few choice swears, I decided it gave the the chance to tweak a few details. I redid a couple of details on the rear bulkhead, relocated the cockpit "ash-trays" on the sidewalls (they were too far aft originally) and decided to re-do the alignment of the pilot's seats. Both seats are mounted on a section of plastic rod, which will remain hidden once the cockpit is buttoned up. I started on the first seat, also adding the missing seat mounting brackets from scrap plastic and sprue. I only made the inner set of brackets because once completed, the outer set will be invisible. Unlike some other modelers, I don't believe in doing extra work for no reason. If it won't be seen on the completed kit, I don't worry about building it!

Anyway, I still have a long ways to go but here is the first seat tacked in place. The parts count for the seat is now up to 27 and I think I am getting pretty close to finishing them.




The IP, floor and bulkhead are just pressed into place, still have to work on some of the alignments.



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Both seats are completed and mounted to the cockpit floor. As mentioned above, I didn't bother with the outboard supports, they won't be visible. I also added some PE bits to the instrument panel and a canteen to the bulkhead behind the pilot. Regarding the bulkhead, I can't figure out if I need to add another circuit breaker panel behind the pilot, similar to the existing one behind the co-pilot. Not many pics out there, a drawing from an old Navy manual shows the pilot's CB in place, but the few pictures I've seen show just a bare bulkhead. Unless I find something else, I'm going to leave that panel off. Maybe it was for all the ASW gear that was deleted when the Tracker was converted to a utility aircraft.

The last items regarding the cockpit will be adding some instruments to the autopilot unit and gluing a square PE cover over the unused instrument panel radar screen. The overhead control panel is still in the queue but that will be later in the build, I'll add that once I cut out the overhead escape hatches.





Next up will be hard part, cutting up the fuselage to represent the short-bodied early version tracker.

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Next up is going to be one of the more difficult aspects - shortening the fuselage to represent an earlier S-2A / B version. At first, the general consensus was that only a 0.29" section was required to be removed from the fuselage, just aft of the cockpit, since in reality, Grumman simply inserted a plug in this area to extend the fuselage when they built the -E model.

After more research and evaluation of the kit fuselage, it was determined that additional work was required. For whatever reason, the Kinetic fuselage was also approx 0.27" too long in the aft section as well. This error applies equally to both long and short fuselage Trackers. Another, more complicate bit of surgery is now required. If you want the specifics, this explains everything in detail:


So, I've marked up the fuselage and sharpened my knives. Wish me luck.....



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The surgery on the first fuselage half seems to have gone well. I still have a great deal of sanding and test fitting before I will have all 6 sections flying in close formation. I was a bit worried that the cross-sections of the two aft sections might be dissimilar but I think I will be ok.


I'm pondering how I am going to glue everthing together. Should I re-attach all three sections so that I am left with two fuselage halves or should I glue each left and right section together so I have three barrel sections for final assembly? Each method seems to have it's pros and cons.

Anyway, before I get to that point, I'll complete the second half tonight and then I need to start thinking about how I am going to replicate the two passenger windows that the utility version has on the starboard side, aft of the crew entry door. My initial thought was to cut out the window openings and then use clear plastic sheeting that extends just a bit past the edges of the cut. The windows on the actual aircraft were installed in a similar fashion when they went through the US-2 conversion program. They have prominent edges that extend past the clear portion. Here is a great picture from midwaysailors.com that illustrates these details:


Once I have the clear plastic sections affixed in place, I would then mask off the actual window and paint the rest along with the fuselage. I would just need to be very precise with my masking but I think it's a workable solution.

That's it for tonight, thanks for looking.

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I read through your background and the circumstances etc to this build, and how truly devastating to know that the crew were not far from their base when so many died, how horrible..

GOD BLESS THEM ALL :salute: :salute:

Anyway John, this is the MOST INTERESTING thread and build which I know will be quite a tribute...

The work so far looks pretty good to ME. :thumbsup:

Will be back to see how you progress.

Keep smiling ... :wave:

Edited by HOLMES
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  • 3 weeks later...

Progress has been pretty slow of late. Late nights at work, Daughter's soccer on Saturday and football on Sundays. I was able to make some progress on the nose landing gear well. The kit part is simply a box with some basic detail molded in. The real thing is open on the sides and in some areas, you can see the inside surface of the fuselage. I cut away most of the sidewalls and added some extra details. Painted everything gloss white. Still need to go back and add a wash, pick out some of the detail and run some wires throughout.


I mentioned at the beginning of this thread that the Tracker came down in Rockland, MA. Even though I often am passing through the general area, I never actually tried to locate the actual crash site. This weekend was a beautiful fall day and with a bit of time on my hands, I took my daughters and drove to the site. Based upon information contained in the USN crash report (which includes maps and various diagrams), I was able to come up with an approximate location by comparing these references to Google Earth. Although some of the area has been developed since 1978, it appears that the general vicinity is unchanged.

We started our walk at the Spring Street baseball field complex. According to the crash report, the pilots deliberately overshot these fields and impacted in the woods behind them.

This photo is taken from within the baseball field complex, facing the direction of flight. I believe the crash location is approximately 500' into the woods.


At the edge of the woodline is an overgrown trail. Once into the woods, it opens up and is easily traveled. The report mentions that personnel from the airstation cut an access road through the woods to the crash site to aid in the removal of the aircraft. Not sure if this was the road or not but it certainly is a possibility.

After proceeding approx 500' into the woods, I noted an open clearing. Only a few small diameter trees, as opposed to the large pines that were present everywhere else. It was approx 150' x 50', surrounded by large trees on every side except the base of the trail I was following. I'm fairly certain that this was the impact area.


As the accident report stated that all debris from the crash was removed, I didn't expect to see anything left. I was hoping that there may have been some simple memorial to the crew but this wasn't the case. The only debris present was some garbage left over from generations of kids playing / partying in the area. I took a few minutes to pay my respects, explained the story of the crash to my daughters and left.

After coming out of the woods, I wandered around the vacant baseball complex. Each of the ballfields had a plaque dedicated to a Rockland resident that was killed in the Vietnam war. At the center of the field was a flag pole and a stone marker listing each name.


Pretty nice touch, so many towns don't seem to care about their veterans. It was especially poignant since most of the fields were named after 18 and 19 year old kids who probably played on them prior to shipping out to Vietnam. I still walked away a bit disappointed that there was no mention of CMDR Bailey or LCD Marriott. They seem to be forgotten by pretty much everyone, just a distant memory on some archived newspapers at the local library.

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Hi Bee

Thank you for posting this history and I feel bad for not going through it earlier as you've posted so much information. It was really interesting to read through that fateful flight and their final heroic moments. It was shocking, (but understandable given the post-Vietnam era), to see just how mismanaged their maintenance was. It might be a testament to the Stoof that it lasted as long as it did.

Recently there was a crash a year ago at my local airport that was similar to this one; one engine showed abnormal behavior, they delayed turning back. Then they almost made it except that they lost control a few meters from the runway. Pilots died but the passengers survived. Had they diverted earlier the aircraft might have made it.

Oh and your build is fantastic... the cockpit looks amazing and your surgery is impressive. Thank you very much for sharing.

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Finished up the nose wheel well and cockpit (minus the overhead parts). Painted some details in the wheel well and added a wash to represent some grime.

I've been back and forth on how to re-assemble my 6-piece fuselage. My approach is to glue the forward sections together, then add each half to this section, rather than glue each half together first, resulting in three cylinders. I think it will make the final assembly process a bit less fiddly. The protruding cockpit bulkhead was a bit of good luck, it will add a bit of strength when I glue the next fuselage sections together.

I'm going to add a very small amount of detail aft of the cockpit bulkhead, pretty much just what you would be able to make out through the open crew door. Most of the interior was painted black so you really won't be able to see much. The only other detail I added was a small plastic rectangle mounted under the glare shield. This represents the engine chip detector warning lights that figure prominently in the crash. It doesn't show in the pics below. Indoor lighting is poor, I'll try to take some better pictures this weekend.

Not a great deal to show but at least I am making some progress. Once I am certain that the fuselage will be re-assembled with no issues, I'll pull the trigger on ordering the Vector resin engines and the Belcher backdating set.




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Looking good overall. I like the instrument panel and the seat belts are a nice touch; It looks just like I'd expect an aircraft from its period should look.

I'm going to add a very small amount of detail aft of the cockpit bulkhead, pretty much just what you would be able to make out through the open crew door. Most of the interior was painted black so you really won't be able to see much.

I always struggle with this. On the one hand the detail oriented side of me wants to make it all detailed and pretty. Then the practical side realizes it will never see the light of day...

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I always struggle with this. On the one hand the detail oriented side of me wants to make it all detailed and pretty. Then the practical side realizes it will never see the light of day...

LOL.... I'm used to building 1/35 helo's where everything is open and on display. It really goes against the grain to ignore interior items "just" because they will be invisible when the model is complete.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Still plodding along. For some reason, I decided to waste most of a morning scratchbuilding the interior aft of the cockpit. Pretty much everything was crude and in some cases, only 2 dimensional. I just wanted to add some items and color to make the inside look "busy" while viewed through the open crew door. I didn't bother with the aft passenger seat at the very rear. With the entry door open, it completely blocks any view in that direction.

The box shaped thing in front of that aft facing passenger seat is a folding seat. I can't find many pictures of this so it may be a bit inaccurate and for all I know, on the civil warbirds out there, this seat may be removed. When it is unfolded, it completely blocks the single entry door and even when it is folded, it still partially obstructs this door. Not a good feature if one has to perform an emergency evacuation of the aircraft!


After spending the time, I glued the mid-section fuselage halves together and have come to the conclusion that most of the basic interior I added will probably not be visible :)


I've already addressed the raised floor section that is above the threshold of the door in the pic above. On the real thing, the cabin floor is 6" or so below the threshold.

Anyway, I've got 2/3rds of the fuselage together. Still have to get the tail on and then have a great deal of sanding and re-scribing to do. At least I'm making a bit of progress.





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The fuselage is complete. In retrospect, it wasn't as bad as I had feared. As suggested by the kind gentleman from Belcher Bits, I added some sheet plastic tabs inside of each section to give the joint a bit more strength. After that, it just took some putty and sanding to get a nice smooth finish.

Although not required for the S-2E version, the Kinetic kit also includes a few extra bits that make life easier. These include a blanking plate for the under-fuselage radar (all ASW equipment was removed from the US-2 utility versions) and the earlier (S-2A) version nose piece. Both parts went on with no issues. Here are some pics of my progress. Note the black areas on the aft joint are just residual sharpie markings from when I cut the fuselage apart. The actual joint is nice and smooth (or so I think - we'll know for sure when I hit everything with primer).





Next up is to re-scribe the bomb bay doors and some panels that got lost during the sanding process.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Small updated, this concerns the back end of the Tracker. First off is the arrestor hook. The kit's hook is very basic and doesn't have the correct contour on the hook itself:


I added some scrap plastic and re-contoured the hook, also scribed out a channel on either side of the shaft.

Staying in this area, I drilled out a series of lightening holes on the interior of the hook housing enclosure. This was a bit difficult to do with fuselage glued together, I wish I had caught this earlier. The real holes are larger but in my case, it is what it is. I also drilled out two circular access ports (not sure what purposed they serve on the real thing) just forward of the arrestor hook housing. Note that the furthest forward opening is just a shallow indent that is already present on the fuselage. No idea why it is there, my guess is that it replicates a tie down point which is present on the real aircraft in this location. I'll touch this up a bit in the near future.

Next up was to replicate the aerodynamic cover over the opening for the MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detector) unit. As previously noted, during the US-2 conversion process, all ASW equipment was removed. The MAD unit was pulled and the opening replaced with a simple aerodynamic cover. I used the kit MAD head, re-profiled and faired in with some putty.

Final step was to hollow out the large rudder actuator housing on the port side of the tail. The kit's version is just a solid lump. I cut off the aft section, drilled out the housing which is completely hollow on the real thing and will be adding the actuator next.

While I had my x-acto knife handy, I re-scribed the rudder. On the kit, this is just a very faint line, looks the same as a regular panel line.

Anyway, here are a few pics to illustrate all of this, thanks for looking.



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