VP40 SEAPLANE ERA squadron site
At our last reunion 10/2014, We had a presentation by Bruce Barth concerning the problems VP sailors have had with VA claims for Agent Orange.
We had representatives from the Florida congressional offices attend as well as other VP squadrons.
I have added a PDF file created by Bruce Barth on the latest status of our Agent Orange struggle with the VA.
You can find it under the Welcome Shipmates/Agent Orange TAB It is in PDF format
We have NOT given up on this project but it is not coming to an end soon. So hang in there for awhile longer,
(or move to a more VP friendly state).
The Seamaster Remembered
Posted: 02 Apr 2015 01:28 PM PDT
By Commander William L. Murphy, USN (Ret.) From Naval Aviation News December 1981
“Comes now into the Domain of Poseidon a new winged Navy vehicle with unsurpassed dash, elusiveness and lethal power…”
So read the certificate presented to those naval aviators who have qualified in the P6M Seamaster, the world’s first multijet flying boat. I was the fifteenth to have done so. With Bob Turner, chief experimental test pilot of the Martin Company, as pilot I had flown copilot on four test flights in this rather spectacular aircraft.
That was back in 1959 but my recollections of the Seamaster are still vivid. Powered by four J71 Allison turbojet engines equipped with afterburners, the 166,000-pound, 134-foot –long P6M was one of the largest seaplanes ever built. With wings swept back at a 40-degree angle, wing tip floats and high “T” tail, the Seamaster was a trim-looking airplane. The long slim fuselage was a new departure in seaplane hulls, designed to give the P6M better rougher water handling characteristics than previous seaplanes.
Conceived as a high-speed mine-layer, the Seamaster carried 30,000 pounds of droppable stores which were dispensed through a special rotating mine door. The weapons delivery capability had been of more than just academic interest to me at the time, for I had just been assigned to help Lieutenant Jim Campbell (Armament Test P6M Project Officer) on the P6M project when the Seamaster arrived at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, MD., for Navy acceptance trials. Jim’s job was to determine whether the P6M was capable of doing its job: whether the elaborate navigation equipment was accurate; whether all of the various mines and bombs could be carried and successfully dropped from the rotating mine door. In short, he was to determine that all of the armament was suitable for fleet use.
In order to be better prepared for the P6M on its scheduled arrival at the Naval Air Test Center later that year, several Navy test pilots participated in the Martin Company’s test program. As Jim’s assistant on the project at Armament Test, I went to Martin’s Strawberry Point test facility near Baltimore for a week to fly the Seamaster.
Walking out to the airplane for my first flight, I was impressed by the size of the bird. The Seamaster sat on its specially designed breaching vehicle, its tail 37 feet high, its cockpit about 16 feet above the ground. Since I had just spent several weeks flying the Navy’s smallest operational jet, the Douglas A4D Skyhawk, the 102–foot-wingspan Seamaster loomed monstrous by comparison. Entering the hatch on the port side of the fuselage, I noticed the folding anchor secured to the bulkhead, something I had not seen in an airplane for quite a while. Immediately aft were two crew stations, and forward was the cockpit.
Back in my patrol squadron day, I had thought that the PB4Y-2 Privateer was a big airplane at 65,000 pounds, but this Seamaster was bigger in every respect. Well, almost. The crew of the Seamaster was made up of only four men—normally a pilot, a copilot, a radio operator, and navigator—while tin Privateers we had a crew of 10. The navigator performed double duty as navigator–bombardier. For test work, however, a flight test engineer rode the navigator’s position. The airplane was highly instrumented and telemetering equipment would transmit information to the ground station for immediate evaluation as we flew.
After starting the J71s we left the parking line and taxied toward the seaplane ramp. For ground operation the P6M employed a unique beaching cradle which made taxiing very similar to that experienced in an airplane with conventional landing gear. Hydraulic hoses connected the brakes of the beaching vehicle to the aircraft controls. After power was added to start rolling , idle RPM was sufficient to keep the big plane moving.
Once over the ramp and into the water of Middle River, the beaching vehicle was released, and the Seamaster became a true seaplane. The combination speed brakes used in flight and hydro flaps for use at slow speeds in water made directional control while waterborne much simpler than in seaplanes I had flown before. The hydro flaps could be used simultaneously to slow the airplane or individually for directional control.
In contrast to the high position of the cockpit when on the ramp, I felt like we were submerged when we were on the water, although the cockpit was still about six feet above the surface.
The crash boats had swept the area and we cleared for takeoff. The afterburner circuits were armed, the airplane turned into the wind, and Bob pushed on all four throttles. My job was to monitor the power and put the flaps down at about 80 knots.
As power was applied, the P6M was an impressive sight to see. The jet blast threw up a cloud of spray that completely hid the hug “T” Tail, the nose of the airplane rose, and the wing tip floats cut through the water. However, none of this was visible from the cockpit—it happened about 65 feet behind us. As “hump” speed was reached, about 80 knots, the nose came back over, and I put the flaps down. At 145 knots, we broke free of the water.
Although I later had several opportunities to control the airplane on the water at these speeds, I never ceased to be impressed. Doing 145 knots on a nice smooth concrete runway is one thing—145 knots on choppy water is another.
As we headed out towards the test area, the Atlantic off Assateague Island, I had an opportunity to get the feel of the Seamaster. The hydraulically powered controls, while not as light as a fighter, were not unduly heavy. Control response was remarkably quick for such a big airplane.
The instrument panel was conveniently laid out, with engine instruments grouped together between the pilot’s and copilot’s flight instruments. On the overhead, the fuel control panel switches were so arranged that white lines showed the path of fuel from the tanks to the engines. Lights, radios, air conditioning, and similar switches were distributed between the pilot’s and copilot’s console panels. The ejection seat was comfortable, and there was plenty of leg room for even a tall person like me.
The one big discrepancy that I noticed was the poor visibility during turns. Although better than most transport airplanes, the P6M-1 Seamaster was a little shy on windshield area for a tactical airplane. This discrepancy was recognized by the Martin company and the P6M-2 version of the Seamaster had large plexiglass areas overhead, giving visibility similar to jet fighters.
Once in the test area, a Martin test pilot in a Grumman F11 chase plane joined on us. His job would be to observe the rotation of the mine bay door, and watch the dropping of the 30,000 pounds of mines. Contact was made with “Adrift Base,” Armament Test Base Radio, and clearance to drop the stores was received.
A high-speed, low-level pass over the area showed that it was clear to drop the mines. Actually they were inert stores, but with the exact weight, shape, size, and center of gravity of the actual weapons that they simulated. At a speed of about 500 miles per hour the mine bay door was rotated. A slight vibration could be felt throughout the airplane but not anymore than expected.
The door rotated shut. It was a good drop. All of the mines fell cleanly away just as they were supposed to fall. High airspeeds at low levels can give disturbing airflow patterns around airplanes, which cause trouble in the separation of droppable stores. This successful drop was quite a milestone.
Another successful flight, which checked an important data off the long list that any new airplane must complete, started out very unpretentiously, and ended very undramatically.
Although the sky was clear, the surface visibility as we taxied out was about three miles. When we arrived in the seaplane area it was obvious that we would have to wait for an increase in visibility to comply with the stringent weather restrictions that the test operations were under. In order to conserve fuel, Bob Turner secured the engines. An auxiliary power unit in the after end of the airplane was remotely turned on to provide power for the radios. As we sat, weather cocked into the wind, gently bobbing up and down, one of Martin’s crash boats came alongside to offer us some coffee and doughnuts. A coffee break in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. I could learn to like it.
The visibility finally came up to the necessary five miles. Bob fired up the J71s and within minutes we were airborne. A quick turnaround and we were in a position for an approach for an overload high-gross-weight landing at 165,000 pounds. This could put a lot of strain on important structural members. Seconds later, we were coming to a stop on the water as uneventfully as a duck returning to a mill pond.
The visibility had gone back down and Bob decided to return to the hangar. After almost four hours in the airplane we taxied back up the ramp at Strawberry Point.
On another flight, while on a high-speed taxi run, to get the feel of the water-handling characteristics, I suddenly realized that looming up almost directly ahead of me were two large poles. We had been in the same area of the bay only a few days before and it had been clear.
Some fisherman had apparently stuck two poles into the bottom, about 50 feet apart, to mark his traps. Extending about 10 feet out of the water, they were probably a little too high to go under the wings. I shoved in on the rudder to try to turn but, at 130 knots on the water, we veered only a few degrees. To cut back on the power would have been unwise, because we could not have stopped before reaching the poles and we would have only settled lower in the water and hit both poles for sure.
Right between the poles! Apparently we had missed them—or so I thought at the time. Later on the ramp, the evidence was plain. A long scratch from the leading to the trailing edge of the right wing about 30 feet outboard of the fuselage. There was a small hole in the leading edge of the wing.
I remembered other days in other seaplanes—hours spent circling or tied to a buoy, waiting to be pulled up the ramp by a beaching crew with their heavy equipment. By comparison, the process of getting the Seamaster out of the water onto the parking apron when a flight was over was simple. Although the Seamaster was designed to “live” on the water, and not require beaching for long periods, the test airplanes were normally taken out of the water each day. As the ramp area was approached, the pilot spotted his beaching vehicle, moored nearby so he could taxi right into it. A hook on the underside of the airplane trapped a cable, and the vehicle clamped onto the airplane. A flight crew member attached the hydraulic lines and the Seamaster taxied up the ramp under its own power.
Although it was the latest and best of a long line of Navy seaplanes, the P6M Seamaster lost out to the advancing technology—Polaris missiles and nuclear-powered submarines, A3J Vigilantes and F4H Phandtom IIs—and to budgetary constraints. Modern weapons are expensive and the funding level demanded hard decisions. Something had to go. There are a lot of people who are sorry that it was the P6M Seamaster.
LETTER ON WHETHER TO BECOME AN ARMY OR NAVAL AVIATOR, OR AN AIR FORCE PILOT.
The piece is written by Bob Norris, a former Naval aviator who also did a 3 year exchange tour flying the F-15 Eagle. He is now an accomplished author of entertaining books about U.S. Naval Aviation including “Check Six” and “Fly-Off”.
In response to a letter from an aspiring fighter pilot on which military academy to attend, Bob replied with the following:
Congratulations on your selection to the Army, Naval and Air Force Academies. Your goal of becoming a pilot is impressive and a fine way to serve your country. As you requested, I’d be happy to share some insight into which service would be the best choice. Each service has a distinctly different culture. You need to ask yourself “Which one am I more likely to thrive in?”
USAF Snapshot: The USAF is exceptionally well organized and well run. Their training programs are terrific. All pilots are groomed to meet high standards for knowledge and professionalism. Their aircraft are top-notch and extremely well maintained. Their facilities are excellent. Their enlisted personnel are the brightest and the best trained. The USAF is homogenous and macro. No matter where you go, you’ll know what to expect, what is expected of you, and you’ll be given the training & tools you need to meet those expectations. You will never be put in a situation over your head. Over a 20-year career you will be home for most important family events. Your Mom would want you to be an Air Force pilot…so would your wife. Your Dad would want your sister to marry one.
Navy Snapshot: Aviators are part of the Navy, but so are Black Shoes (surface warfare) and Bubble Heads (submariners). Furthermore, the Navy is split into two distinctly different Fleets (West and East Coast). The Navy is heterogeneous and micro. Your squadron is your home; it may be great, average, or awful. A squadron can go from one extreme to the other before you know it. You will spend months preparing for cruise and months on cruise. The quality of the aircraft varies directly with the availability of parts. Senior Navy enlisted are salt of the earth; you’ll be proud if you earn their respect. Junior enlisted vary from terrific to the troubled kid the judge made join the service. You will be given the opportunity to lead these people during your career; you will be humbled and get your hands dirty. The quality of your training will vary and sometimes you will be over your head. You will miss many important family events. There will be long stretches of tedious duty aboard ship. You will fly in very bad weather and/or at night and you will be scared many times. You will fly with legends in the Navy and they will kick your ass until you become a lethal force. And some days – when the scheduling Gods have smiled upon you – your jet will catapult into a glorious morning over a far-away sea and you will be drop-jawed that someone would pay you to do it. The hottest girl in the bar wants to meet the Naval Aviator. That bar is in Singapore.
Bottom line, son, if you gotta ask…pack warm & good luck in Colorado.
P.S.: Air Force pilots wear scarves and iron their flight suits.
P.S.S. And oh, yes, the Army helicopter pilot program? Don’t even think about it unless you got a pair bigger than basketballs. Those guys are completely crazy.
[Guy Fisk] GO NAVY
I wish you all a Happy Easter.
You will be able pull up every airplane that was built in every country in the world and every aircraft company. Old, new, military, civilian? You will be amazed at what has been done in airplane design. The amount of info available is unbelievable.
Virtual Airplane Museum:
Impressive Jets Landing in Formation
This is the Spanish Acrobatic Team Patrulla Aguila performing this exceptional landing formation. Very cool!
It has been voted on and decided the 2016 VP40 reunion will be held in San Diego, CA.
The dates are:
END Sunday -10/9/2016
HOLIDAY INN SAN DIEGO BAYSIDE
4875 North Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA 92106
Tel (619) 224-3621 or (800) 650-6660
There is now a 2016 Reunion page on this web site (under the REUNIONS TAB) where all info concerning this reunion will be posted.
I will be posting the rates and sign up info soon.
I will also be posting the menu and agenda.
We voted at the last reunion to now include ALL former and current VP40 folks, not just seaplane era. This means that P3V and soon P8A people may join oujr group. We welcome you and I am sure you will enjoy our reunions and our company…..We do know a few sea stories also.
I am sorry to report that Mike Crownover passed away in October 2014. I do not have the date and I cannot find a Obit for him as I just received this info from Jim Staes. His widow (Willie) has moved and I do not have any current contact data for his family. Mike was a LCDR in VP40 from 1962-1964. I last saw him at the San Diego reunon in 2012 with his family. I talked to him in 9/2014 and he regretted that they could not attend the 2014 reunon in Pensacola. He will be missed.
Navy Careers Impacted by P-3 Transition
Week of January 19, 2015
The U.S. Navy recently announced career guidance for Naval Aircrewmen (Mechanical) (AWF) and Naval Aircrewmen (Avionics) (AWV) affected by the shift from P-3C Orion to P-8 Poseidon aircraft. Active duty P-3 AWF/AWV Sailors in Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) Codes of 8251 and 9402 should contact their rating detailer either one year from their Projected Rotation Date or their squadron’s transition conference, whichever happens first. Sailors will work with their detailer to determine open jobs among aircraft type and aircrew positions, along with lateral conversion choices to other ratings and options for separation from the service. Details on the conversion process can be found on the Navy Personnel Command website at www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/career/enlistedcareeradmin/Pages/AcduConv.aspx. Sailors may also contact Capt. Bruce “Des” Deshotel, Head Enlisted Community Manager (ECM) at email@example.com, and Cmdr. Donald Gaines, Deputy ECM at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more Navy news updates, visit the Military.com News Center.
It was voted on at our last reunion and I am pleased to announce that our VP40 (seaplane era) group is now accepting members from the P3 era also. It is about time as us seaplane sailors are geting a little old and haggard. (well some of us).
So if you are a former member or a current member of VP40 (PATRON 40) , you are welcome to join our group. With that you will receive our roster and access to our web site member pages, along with the newsletters and will be welcome to attend our reunions. Our current dues are $20 for 2 years.
here is the form to apply for membership
VP-40 Application 2015