Tuesday, July 20, 2010

P-8's, P3's, P5's and others

Hat tip to Dave T for the pic.

Nice shot of the Navy's new patrol plane, the P8 Poseidon. The aircraft following is the P3C Orion, which the P8 is replacing. That's the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in the background. Lovingly called Pax River it has an advantage of being close enough to D.C. for easy visits to the cultural attractions of our nation's capital not to mention some nice local bars.

Pax River is a long time test and training center and gateway for young men moving forward to more fun and adventure in some truly crappy places that happen to be located in places that facilitate the mission. Dave T remembers hunting rabbits in the fields and woods around the base. I'd bet you that no airman has his own shotgun on base now days.

The P8 is the military version of the Boeing 737 just as the P3 was the Lockheed Electra commercial airliner flown mostly by American, Eastern and Braniff Airlines. The P3 had, early on, the nasty habit of blowing up while on approach. If I remember correctly the problem was harmonic vibrations in the wing at certain aircraft speeds and nose attitude. Wing cracks would appear and fuel would leak into the prop jet and then "bang."

The fix was installing those little vertical slats/spoilers on the wings you can also see on other aircraft and adjusting the "tilt" of the engines. Breaks up the air flow just enough to stop the harmonic vibrations from building up. I think it only took two or three aircraft and 40-50 men to figure that out. And to be fair at least three commercial airliners blew up in mid air.

All of that is pretty much on memory. It may be that the commercial Electra first had its engine mounts strengthened/changed and then the vertical slats were installed later, driven by the military experience.

Aviation advances have their costs.

Patrol aircraft have always had conflicting requirements. The first is to be able to get on station quickly. The second is to be able to fly slow enough and have fuel enough to do the sub chasing maneuvers.

The P8 obviously has enough speed to get there quickly but I have no idea as to how it can handle the "low-slow and stay on station" requirements. The P3 use all four engines to go fast and then shut down two when on station to save fuel.

The above is Lockheed's P2V-7 Neptune, aka SP2H. It was replaced by the P3 starting in the early-mid 60's time frame. Yes, the Navy likes to get full value for its money.

The P2V-7 had two 3350's and two jets giving rise to the saying, "I got two turning and two burning and request clearance to land."

With two a turning and two a burning it could get along pretty fast but typically the jets were used only for take off and landing and the nose cone was a wonderful place to get a tan. Otherwise it was a cramped, noisy and uncomfortable aircraft stuffed full of electronics, fuel and weapons.

If you like the picture you can purchase one suitable for framing here.

The P5M came along in the late 40's early 50's. It was a pure seaplane and could stay on station a long time. It was originally equipped with 30 caliber machine gun's in the tail turret and side mounts. With 5 inch rockets and depth charges it could deal a pretty good lick. It also could handle a nuclear depth charge. The "We had to destroy the harbor to save it" never became a "saying."

And no one ever explained how a P5M could out run the shock wave after dropping one.

The machine guns were removed and the P5M-2 had a T tail. Prior to the late 50's it also featured WWII electronics. Under powered, it required Jato assist for take offs when fully loaded and loss of one engine was a real problem. Upgrades in the late 50's finally made it an effective ASW platform and removal of the armour surrounding the flight deck helped it to stay in the air on one engine.

Unlike the P2V it was fairly comfortable for the crew and had a galley where a crew member could actually cook meals on a two burner stove. Since all of the cooking was done away from the consumer it was understood that only a fool would anger the cook.

The P5M replaced the PBM, but like all of the replacements it was more of a merger rather than a serial approach. During the late 60's it served as patrol aircraft off the coast of Vietnam. At least one was shot down.

Nice video of a P5M-1 tooling around. Note the tail difference between the P5M-1 and the 2's T tail.

One good thing about a sea plane is that you have lots of places to land. In 1959 VP44 put one down at sea and then taxied 500 miles to Key West. During landing the ocean spray put out the engine fire before the wing fell off.

Lots of good folks spent lots of time in these aircraft looking for Soviet subs and ships. Some died in the attempt but everyone was united in the effort.

The peaceniks and traitors came later. I often wonder how today's military fights and dies knowing that some idiots despise them.

We need a "reset" in this country.

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“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.” - William Pitt

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