Fair winds and following seas to the Navy’s P-3C

| June 9, 2020


A P-3C Orion from the Golden Eagles of VP-9 flies by Mt. Fuji.

End of an era, always bittersweet. From my first flight in one as a salty AW3 to my last as a civilian flying Project Specialist, a span of some 22 years and she always brought me home. Some flights were a bit of the white knuckle variety though, and we all knew people who didn’t make it back.
But it’s also the start of a new era as well; I’ve done my part to make that happen too. The P-8A Poesidon is a great aircraft with capabilities I could have only wished for back in the Cold War days. The crews flying in her have a bright and challenging future ahead.

MustangCryppie sends.

Article by: Geoff Ziezulewicz

The U.S. Navy’s P-3C Orion patrol aircraft fleet retired from active duty last month after nearly 60 years in service.

With the replacement P-8 Poseidon now taking on the mission for the Navy’s patrol squadrons, the Orion fleet are free to collect their shadow boxes and muse among themselves about how today’s land-based, long-range, anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft have it easier than they did back in the day.

This long-planned transition away from the P-3C was completed in mid-May, when Patrol Squadron 40 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, turned in its last Orion, according to a Navy release.

The last of the active-duty P-3Cs, aircraft 162776, was delivered to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, as well.

While technically a sub hunter, the old workhorse flew missions during the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as countless other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations over the decades.

In March 2019, the “Fighting Marlins” of Patrol Squadron 40 flew their P-3s from Whidbey and to Bahrain for the aircraft’s last active-duty deployment.

Squadrons began transitioning to the Poseidon in 2013.

Despite VP-40 closing the door on the Orion’s active-duty service, two Navy Reserve squadrons — NAS Jacksonville’s Patrol Squadron 62 and Whidbey Island’s Patrol Squadron 69 — will continue flying the plane.

The last P-3C Orion is expected to be phased out in 2023.

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 30 out of Point Mugu, California, will also continue to fly the old airframe.

The entire article may be viewed here: Navy Times

Thanks, MC.

Category: Guest Link, Navy

Comments (40)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. George V says:

    You have to hand it to the Lockheed engineers of the 1950’s. They gave us the P-3, and the C-130 which still has active variants in service.

    My one trip on a P-3 was in “hitch-hiking” from the Med back to the USofA. In Naples I was told it would be a 4 day wait for possibly getting a flight to Norfolk. Instead I bummer a ride on a C-1 COD down to Signonella because there was a P-3 due to head to Rota the next day. Indeed there was and the co-pilot was an ROTC classmate. So, the next leg westbound was complete. From Rota there was… well, let’s leave that for another day. Suffice to say, maybe I shoulda stayed in Naples.

    • AW1Ed says:

      What about three engines? We would as a matter of routine feather #1 when on-station to conserve fuel.

        • MustangCryppie says:

          Ah! The Trimotor! I flew on N8407 when it was in Frederick, MD. LOUD, but fun.

          Also flew on the B17 that EAA has. Much cooler.

        • Berliner says:

          Rode in a Ford Trimotor, serial number 74, at the annual Stearman Biplane fly-in back in 1965 at Monmouth, IL. #74 was built in 1929 and originally owned by Ford as a demonstration aircraft.

          I remember it had wicker seats under cloth covers and was loud. It got sold and then flew tourists around the Grand Canyon. It is now in California and listed for sale for $1.4 million.

      • FuzeVT says:

        And that’s interesting about feathering one prop to save fuel. Makes sense.

        • MustangCryppie says:

          Yeah. We feathered the prop routinely also.

          One time we squeezed out a little over a thirteen hour flight.
          That was a looong evolution.

          And it’s been proven that time slows down in a P3… Okay, it doesn’t. It just feels that way.

          • MustangCryppie says:

            Ah, the memories! I used to love to do observer duties when the pilots did DFW (aka Dedicated Fuel Waste). I would stand in the cockpit and as we descended, I felt like I was riding a surfboard. It was an awesome experience.

            And speaking of feathering engines, a shipmate of mine was getting to the end of his flying career and he started getting the heebie jeebies when he flew. He figured that it was only a matter of time before…well, you know.

            We just kind of put up with his goofiness.

            Anyway, he got to the point where he convinced himself that he HAD TO be the last guy on the aircraft before the main cabin door was closed. So, he would stand at the bottom of the ladder waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

            Sheesh!

            And when we were on station and the FE feathered the engine, he would ALWAYS look up with fear in his eyes and go, “WHAT WAS THAT?!”

            It was hilarious the first 100 times.

            The really funny thing is that a few years later he got commissioned as a CWO and his first tour of duty was…a FLIGHT TOUR! And it was with VQ-2…during the Bosnian War…and one time he got off one EP-3, walked across the tarmac and got on another EP-3 for another 10.0 (or we won’t go!). I think he knocked out something like 2K hours during that tour. BWAHAHAHA!

          • rgr769 says:

            AW, you will likely enjoy this factoid, my father was an Aviation Machinist Mate First Class in WWII. He was the plane captain on a PV-1 Ventura crew. His squadron patrolled the Atlantic from Puerto Rico and Dutch Guyana, searching for German subs. He had some great stories, like the time his ship lost an engine on a night patrol. The pilot ordered him to jump. He informed the pilot that this was his bird and he would jump into the sea at night right after the pilot jumped. Needless to say they made it back to base on one engine, and with the full crew.

            • AW1Ed says:

              Damn! Good choice, obviously.
              An emergency bailout was never executed from a P-3, at least that I heard about. Ditching was preferred, and that had mixed results.

      • 26Limabeans says:

        I used to watch them practice touch and go
        at Bangor on windy days. They would come in
        crabwise, trailing brown smoke.
        Did not look all that fuel efficient.

    • Slow Joe says:

      Oh that’s the new one?

      At least is a jet.

  2. 5th/77th FA says:

    Wow, just think, if they’d put the danged ol’ wings and motors on right, that bird mighta could, woulda, had oughta made another 60 years. AND been able to land on a carrier. (Dodges a thrown flight helmet, grabs a jug of bug juice, and beats feet out of the ready room.)

    BZ to all of the P3 crews. Had to be difficult to fly a plane that was put together wrong! (giggle snort) Here’s a BZ to the P8 Troops. Kick the tires and light the fires. ps…P8 won’t land on a carrier either.

  3. Mick says:

    My only question is:

    Did they take the old “P-3 Navy” TAD Per Diem ATMs out of the P-3s and reinstall them in the P-8s, or did the P-8s get upgraded ATMs to go along with the new airframes?

    Heh heh heh…

    • MustangCryppie says:

      There was a guy in one of the squadrons who was a per diem monster.

      Let’s say his last name was Zackerly (it was similar). His shipmates invented the term ZAKNON.

      A zaknon is the amount of time from when the wheels touch the tarmac to when this guy had figured out the per diem rate.

      I am pretty sure it is one of the shortest time measurements in existence.

      Heh.

      • FuzeVT says:

        I have a nephew who is interested in becoming an NFO (eyesight to bad to be a front seater). He was talking to his recruiter (OSO, whatever) about the life of a P-8 crew and apparently came away with the knowledge that if you want kick ass per diem in the Navy, those are the way to go. It’s just funny to hear independent verification only days after my conversation with him!

        • Mick says:

          Way back in the day, I had a couple of Navy flight school classmates who selected the Maritime (multi-engine prop) training pipeline upon completion of primary flight training with the blatant/specific intent of getting into the “P-3 Navy” so that they could rake in the big TAD bucks while on deployment.

          Not to mention also bagging a few thousand hours of multi-engine time in order to set themselves up for the airlines after they’d worked off their post-flight school active duty obligations.

          TINS.

  4. Sea Dragon says:

    My father flew P-3s for much of his career, both coasts. Doesn’t think much of the P-8.

    I actually got some stick time on one on the beer-barrel run from Iceland to Norway back in 1977.

  5. Prior Service says:

    Ahh, the Orion–you’ll be missed. I grew up under the soothing sounds of those four propellers turning overhead as they flew into/out of Whidbey. Much quieter than the Prowlers and Intruders that also constantly flew in and out of the base. One pattern literally took them right over my house making hearing the TV problematic.

  6. AW1Ed says:

    Right on cue with the Top Gun and per diem jokes- imagine my surprise.

    Crew motto, “Sic Semper Per Diem.”
    *grin*

    There was a lot of that, Sea Dragon. Change comes hard, and some of the P-8’s mission systems, mine included, had a rocky start. That’s what they pay me to do- find the problems and make sure they get fixed. Or I can, and have, stopped test. Want to get a Flag’s attention? I know how, and also know I had better have my shit together when I do. I’m still here and the Admiral got another star and moved on.

    • MustangCryppie says:

      It’s not Top GUN, AW1. It’s Top BUNK.

      Ha!

      • AW1Ed says:

        Yep- that Broadside cartoon was an instant classic.
        *grin*
        The bunks were reserved for the off-duty Pilot and F/E to use. As SS-1 I claimed under the Acoustic Sensor Station as my rack when in transient. When I wasn’t driving the bus, that is.

        • MustangCryppie says:

          I love Broadside.

          Jeff Bacon was at my CPO initiation. He was CLASSIC.

          He came in wearing a suit and as the “trial” went on, he suddenly tore off the suit revealing his Superman costume.

          Hilarious!

        • MustangCryppie says:

          One thing I loved about the P-3 was that you could rack out anywhere. I am now useless for commercial air travel cause I want to lay on the deck to get some ZZZs.

          One time a friend of mine decided to take a bunch of the exposure suits and make himself a comfy mattress. It was so comfy that he soon fell into a deep sleep. Then the PPC decided he wanted to do a bail out drill, but my friend didn’t know that when a crewmate woke him up screaming “BAIL OUT!”

          He almost shit his pants he was so scared…until he was so pissed when he realized it was a drill!

    • Mick says:

      Stopped in at NAS Sigonella a few times over the years, and we’d always head over to the Fly Trap bar in the BOQ to hunt down any P-3 guys that we knew so that they could be “encouraged” to buy us poor Jarheads some drinks with all of their per diem bucks.

      Good times; good memories.

      • MustangCryppie says:

        My buddy who flew with VQ-2 told me that the ATCs at Sig always said the same thing as they came in to the runway on final.

        “On a course! On a glide path! No toucha NUTHIN’!”

        That always cracks me up for some reason.

      • AW1Ed says:

        After an all-night burner, post flight and debrief, our O’s would open up the Fly Trap for Crew Debrief/DRUNK-EX, usually as the sun was just coming up. That or I would host the crew at the First Class Mess for the same.
        Good times were had, indeed.

  7. MustangCryppie says:

    I’m sure all here have heard of the Vomit Comet.

    Well, on one mission I got to accidentally experience the same thing.

    We were en route to a mission and I got up from my sensor station by the cockpit and went aft to talk to a guy who was working for me by the galley.

    As I was talking to him, the autopilot decided that it didn’t want to be at 30,000 feet and immediately took a dive.

    Before I knew it, I was floating in mid-air, as was another guy on the crew back in the galley. And the 100 pound or so equipment he had been working on was floating along with him.

    The crew Senior Chief was right next to me and I can still see his look of wonder as he gawked at me.

    I remember thinking to myself, “Hmmm. Any second the plane is gonna come to an abrupt stop and I’m going to keep going at 300 knots.” No fear. Just…oh, well.

    But luckily we had the best damn pilot in the Navy on board. Most pilots would have jerked the yoke and I would have come crashing down, but this guy (who we called the Grease Man for his smooth landings) slowly pulled back on the yoke and I gently landed on the deck. And for some fucking reason, THEN I got scared. Go figure.

  8. MustangCryppie says:

    Obviously, I (and other P-3 crew) could go on and on and on…with a severe risk of continuing to bore the fuck out of everyone.

    So, I will depart with a “Fair Winds and Following Seas” P-3. You were a GREAT shipmate and one of the highlights of my 25 year career.

    • AW1Ed says:

      Pearls before swine, MustangCryppie. Good call, though.

      “There I wuz at 20,000 feet…”
      *grin*

  9. martinjmpr says:

    So often we hear about “military waste” and expensive, high-tech weapons and gear that barely have the paint dry before they’re replaced by something newer, but when it comes to aircraft, it seems like Uncle Sam has been getting his money’s worth, and more.

    P3: in service since 1961
    C-130: in service since 1956
    B-52: in service since 1955
    CH-47: in service since 1962

  10. The Other Whitey says:

    If it’s any consolation, P-3s are still flying every season as airtankers. They’re pretty good at it, too, damn sight better than that goddamn DC-10. Sub hunters tend to make good airtankers, because a tanker needs to have good low-&-slow flight characteristics, and low-&-slow is a sub hunter’s happy place.