After 16 Years of Service, the Last S-3B Viking Will Fly Off Into the Sunset

Nicknamed the "War Hoover," the aircraft has played a key role in carrier-based anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare for the U.S. Navy for almost five decades. After being acquired by NASA in 2004 and flown for 16 years on a variety of research missions, it's time for the last S-3B Viking still flying to retire.
After more than a decade of service, NASA Glenn’s S-3B Viking is ready to fly off into the sunset 6 photos
Photo: NASA
NASA Glenn's S-3B Viking stops for fuel in Grand Junction, CONASA will retire the last S-3B VikingThe S-3B Viking in front of NASA Glenn’s Flight Research CenterThe S-3 aircraft takes to the skies from NASA's Glenn Research CenterNASA's Glenn Research Center
The twin-engine turbofan-powered jet aircraft has entered service in 1974 and served a long career with 18 Navy squadrons. After approximately 1.7 million flight hours, the U.S. Navy retired its S-3B fleet in 2009. But, not all of them were grounded.

One S-3B was flown almost daily as a research aircraft at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. To better suit its scientific purpose, the jet was completely reconfigured in 2006: its weapons systems were replaced with civilian avionics.

During its service at NASA, the aircraft played an essential role in determining safe operation in the U.S. airspace by helping aviation pioneers establish Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) communications standards for unmanned aircraft systems.

The old S-3B has flown in every type of terrain in the national airspace, from mountains, hills, over lakes, plains, and even deserts. These flights provided data to NASA and the FAA that contributed to the development of reliable command-and-control radios used for ground-to-air communication.

The S-3B also helped university scientists study and track the problem of algal overgrowth (which can release toxins that contaminate drinking water) from Lake Erie. For that mission, researchers mounted to the aircraft's underbelly hyperspectral imagers, which helped them identify the types of harmful algal blooms in the water.

Now, after a 16-year career as a research aircraft, the last S-3B flying is ready to retire. "It's been a workhorse for NASA, but we just can't source its unique parts anymore," says Jim Demers, Glenn's Flight Operations Manager.

Farewell "Hoover"! People will get the chance to see the jet at the San Diego Air and Space Museum in California from now, where it will be displayed to remind us of its important role in the U.S. Navy and at NASA.
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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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