Recycled Viking

by Steve on February 15, 2009


There’s still one S-3B in active flight status.

…one S-3B is still flying in hostile conditions. Its next mission? Venture into hazardous weather to study a phenomenon that has caused more than 100 commercial aircraft engines to fail, stall or temporarily lose power.Engineers from NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Boeing and the Navy have combined forces to transform the S-3B into a state-of-the-art NASA research aircraft. Last month, NASA Glenn unveiled the modified plane in Cleveland.

I don’t remember making too many ventures into known icing conditions but I vividly remember meeting the top of a thunderstorm at 29,000 feet over Albuquerque, NM.  We were on a weekend cross-country from VS-41 in San Diego to Atlanta. Never made it. Hail the size of baseballs hammered the plane and shattered the multi-layered canopy over the pilot. Explosive decompression at FL290 was not fun.  The pilot (instructor) passed out from the shock of the blast, the student NFO recovered the aircraft and made an emergency decent.  Meanwhile in the back, without any communication from up front and forward visibility partially blocked by loose panels and debris, myself and the NFO instructor were preparing to eject unaware that anyone up front was alive and in control.  Thankfully the IP started coming to, the SNFO yelled above the wind blast and we aborted the ejection.  Upon landing we discovered that in addition to the missing pilot’s canopy, the nose and the radar behind it were gone, all leading edges caved in, and the right side canopy had delaminated shedding the outer layer.

Flying into an embedded thunderstorm is probably not in the program for “ice crystal research” but still, deliberately flying a Hoover into icing conditions sounds only a tad more attractive than flying into the eye of a hurricane.  It is comforting to know that the Viking platform will be conducting research that will help avoid future disasters.  Plus if NASA needs spares there’s plenty out at Davis-Monthan.

That sporty paint job has me wondering if some of the other airframes might be demilitarized and made available for civilian purchase.  It really was a great cross-country bird – just needed a weather radar!

H/T to B2 over at chez Lex


B2 sends more!

Two S-3B Viking aircraft from recently deactivated VS-22 took off from NAS Jacksonville Feb. 5 and flew to their new home with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 30 at Naval Air Weapons Station, Point Mugu, Calif.

The aircraft will be used to confirm that the Pacific Missile Test Range is clear prior to launches among other duties perfectly suited to the platform. Nice to see parts of our government still function in a fiscally responsible manner.


b2 February 16, 2009 at 10:06

More than that. The test Navy is still going to operate them…:

More opportunities to come to come….This jet ain’t done flying.


Kath February 16, 2009 at 10:08

Good for them for using the plane.

And as for your experience in the hail storm — well, — HOLY MUD MOLEY!!!! I mean, yeah, cool to talk about now, but at the time — grrrr.

Bet you still have some thoughts about THAT from time to time.
Glad everyone survived.

Kath February 16, 2009 at 21:22

Not that he’s the least bit competitive, but all I did was mention that you had a story up and where was his — you guys!

Steve February 16, 2009 at 22:20

Pinch is fun to spool up. Ask him why he needed to go through all that math/physics stuff when all he needed to do was cut straight to the heavy breathing.

I’ll have to give you “the rest of the story” on my mishap. I really thought I’d already posted that one but my search came up empty. It was one of a couple of times when I was lucky to walk away from the jet. I’ll get the full version up soon.

Steeljaw Scribe February 17, 2009 at 10:41


Didn’t that one make Approach? Thought for sure I’d seen a pic of an S-3 similarly disassembled in flight (might check their archives). My “fun” wasn’t so much with ice as it was with fire – either the inflight electrical kind or the St. Elmos/ball lightning kind encountered down in Panama…
Heh — navair/fire & ice, go figure 🙂

Steve February 17, 2009 at 15:18

SJS, it did indeed. Written by my fellow student up front a few years after the dust settled and we were all exonerated. I think it appeared in Apr ’93 but their on-line library doesn’t go back that far.

Bob Geis March 10, 2009 at 19:27


I saw Dave Boyd at the Community disestablishment. He looks the same. He is a Navy Doc now, at NAS Jax. I remember your event as vividly as a close call I had with a G-LOC’d pilot at Fallon a few years ago. My pilot G-Loc’d during the G-warm, prior to a large force strike I was leading. It isn’t good when you are used to having a stick if needed, but you don’t in the back of the Super Hornet. A started a mantra of Roll left, pull up, roll left, pull up until he finally came back just seconds before I was going to eject us. It took him about 30 minutes before he could fly the jet back to NAS Fallon. The pilot is now an instructor pilot at Top Gun!

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