The aircraft, then attached to VAQ-133 “helpers”, was involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft attached to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 at NAS Fallon during a training event on September 14, 2017 Both the plane landed safely and the crew was uninjured. The Growler remained at NAS Fallon for several years, as a renovation of this nature had never been done before and there was no process or procedure for exactly how repairs could be done.
Upon initial inspection, there was little hope that the aircraft would be airworthy due to the complexity of the repairs needed following the accident, as well as weather damage after years. in a desert environment. However, after extensive analysis and ongoing coordination, the Growler’s road to recovery began when repair authorization was granted in 2021. In February of that year, the aircraft was loaded onto a flatbed truck and transferred to Fleet Replacement Squadron, VAQ-129, at NAS Whidbey Island.
Classified as a “Special Overhaul,” funding has been approved and long-term hangar space has been identified for this unprecedented project. For more than a year, engineers, maintainers and craftsmen from facilities across the United States collaborated to develop processes, perform repairs and thoroughly inspect the recovered aircraft – more than 2,000 hours of work in total.
“This was a team effort between the staff at Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) Southeast, FRC Southwest Engineering and my team at FRC Northwest,” said Tommy Moore, depot manager for FRC Northwest. “We reassembled the aircraft replacing all major components and handed the aircraft over to VAQ-129 as a ‘Special Rework’ completed on April 24, 2022.”
The Growler will soon be transferred to an operational squadron to deploy worldwide and be ready to conduct aerial operations for decades to come. Capt. David Harris, commodore, Electronic Attack Wing Pacific, commended the efforts of the entire Naval Aviation enterprise in accomplishing this unique mission.
“It was truly amazing to see the entire Naval Aviation Enterprise team come together to return this much-needed asset to flight status,” said Harris. “From the engineers who developed the necessary repair designs, to the craftsmen who performed the intricate repairs, to the VAQ-129 sailors who ultimately rebuilt the aircraft to flying status; it was real teamwork.