Saturday, March 31, 2012

Aging Grumman on track to fly again

The Ippolito brothers. Joel Ippolito, left, and his brother David, right, donated money for the flying restoration of the Canadian Warplane Heritqage's Grumman Tracker because they say the museum embodies their own passions: airplanes, history education. 
Canadian Warplane Heritage museum

The last time the Royal Canadian Navy’s Grumman Tracker 1577 flew, its engines seized and its civilian owner was lucky to get it back on the ground in one piece.

And that’s how it has sat since the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum acquired the veteran, twin-engine sub hunter in 1997: one piece of its collection that languished in the hangar and looked great but couldn’t fly.

All that is going to change, thanks to two brothers with shared passions for aircraft, history and education.

Joel and David Ippolito, who grew up in Hamilton, are going to help get the plane back on track in the sky.

If all goes as planned, the Tracker will fly again in about two years, says museum spokesperson Al Mickeloff.

Although the museum was able to get the Tracker whole, all systems and controls are being rebuilt or replaced, including the engines — the most costly single items.

The museum has acquired two overhauled, but in excellent condition, replacement Wright Cyclone radial engines for the plane with a lot of help from the Ippolito boys — probably better known around Hamilton, California and Florida for their family firm, the Ippolito Group of Burlington. The produce and transport company was founded in the 1930s by their parents, Carmelo and Filomena.

Joel, 54, president and chair of the company, says he and David, 49, have been involved in community projects and were casting about for something more to do. They decided the CWH was a good fit because it suited their passion for aviation and their keen interest in Canadian military history, and it provides educational opportunities for the community.

So they kicked in “a couple hundred thousand” because “it’s really nice to be able to do something that involves one’s passions,” says Joel.

David, who has been flying fixed wing aircraft for 25 years and recently got his helicopter licence, is looking forward to getting certified on the Tracker and being able to fly it.

“He’s a very good pilot,” says Joel.

The Tracker design dates to 1952, when leading U.S. manufacturer Grumman produced the first one.

Canada bought 100 of them, built by de Havilland Canada under licence in Downsview, Ont.

Canada planned to use the planes on the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure and even had them built 18 inches shorter than their American counterparts so they would fit the ‘Bonnie’s’ hangar below decks.

When the Bonaventure was retired in 1969, the Trackers flew ashore and took up coastal surveillance and fisheries patrol missions in the early 1970s. The last Tracker was retired from duty in 1991.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage’s Tracker is navy serial number 1577, the 76th one built by de Havilland. It entered service on Dec. 10, 1959.

After Bonaventure was paid off (decommissioned) and sold for scrap, the Tracker was sent to the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology & Engineering (CTSATE) at Canadian Forces Base Borden in 1970 for instructional purposes and eventually sold into the civil aviation market.

Its engines seized and its new owner decided to sell it.

“It’s a gorgeous plane and we’re thrilled to have Joel and David aboard with the museum,” says Mickeloff.

When it flies, the Tracker will carry the paint scheme appropriate for its service aboard HMCS Bonaventure.



Purpose: Carrier-borne, folding wing, anti-submarine search and attack aircraft.

Manufacturer: de Havilland Canada under licence
Crew, passengers: two pilots and two crewmen
Power: Two 1525 hp Wright R-1820-82 engines
Performance: Maximum speed of 287 knots (532 km/h); cruising speed 130 knots (240.9 km/h)
Service ceiling: 10,000 ft (305 m)
Range: 1,200 nautical miles (2,228 km)
Weights: Empty: 17,357 lb (7,945 kg); loaded: 24,500 lb (10,984 kg)
Dimensions: Wingspan 69 ft 8 in (21.23 m); length 42 ft, 3 in (12.88 m)
Height: 16 ft 3½ in (4.96 m)
Wing area: 485 sq. ft (45.1 sq. m)
Armament: Provision for six Mk 43 torpedoes and/or CRV7 rockets in bomb bays or under wing pylons.

Canadian Wings

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.