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Fire at Naval Air Station

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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 5, 1976 NO. 276/76


A fire at the Naval Air Station at Nowra on the

NSW south coast last night destroyed seven S2E Tracker anti­

submarine aircraft and damaged five others. Six aircraft were

pushed from the blazing hangar by Navy personnel.

No-one was injured in the fire.

The fire broke out shortly before midnight in the

Tracker squadron hangar where all 12 aircraft were parked. All

aircraft had their tanks topped up with high octane aviation

gasoline. This is in accordance with normal aviation practice

and is a precaution against volatile petrol fumes building up

in partially filled tanks.

When the fire spread to the aircraft the petrol

burned fiercely and the fire spread quickly. The Naval Air

Station's fire fighting crews saved thre& Trackers when they

pushed them out of the hangar before the flames reached them.

Three other burning aircraft were also pushed from the blaze.

Two HS748 twin turbo prop training aircraft parked

outside the hangar were emergency started and taxied to safety.

With the aid of the Nowra town fire brigade the fire was brought

under control about 1.30 a.m.

Six aircraft were totally destroyed when the roof

of the hangar collapsed on them. A seventh aircraft, one of

those pushed burning from the hangar, was also damaged beyond

repair. — Engineering teams—are- now- assessing the condition-of--


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the other five aircraft.

Before the fire the RAN had 13 Trackers purchased

from the US in 1969. The 13th aircraft was in Sydney for

servicing at the time of the fire.

The Trackers are a twin piston-engined aircraft.

Their primary role is to fly long patrols, up to 10 hours,

from the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne searching for submarines

They carry sophisticated detection equipment, and are armed with

homing torpedoes, and depth charges. In addition the RAN has

eight Sea King Mk 50 anti-submarine helicopters.

An order of a further six Trackers from the US at

a cost of $lm was announced recently in the Defence White Paper.

These aircraft are due for delivery in the second half of 1977.


Further Enquiries; Mr Reg MacDonald 65 2999 (office hours) 31-8192 (after hours)