by nathan oster
Nearly 1,400 people have passed through the gates of the Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting since it opened for the season five weeks ago at the Greybull airport, including a season-high daily total of 75 on Saturday, July 1.
“It’s not too common to find places like this, where you can go right up the planes,” said museum employee Vanessa Simoneau while helping a tourist who was perusing T-shirt and book offerings. “Everybody seems to enjoy it.”
The museum has been a work in progress since it opened in 2014. The Greybull Area Chamber of Commerce played a key role in that, but the most significant contributors since day one have been Bob and Becky Hawkins.
For them, it’s a labor of love. So it was with great excitement earlier this season that they rolled out the newest addition to the museum’s fleet of aircraft. No museum of aerial firefighting can be complete without a Neptune P-2V. Now it has one, thanks to a donation from Richard Camp of Lewes, Del.
“We had two (P-2Vs) that we used for firefighting, but when H&P went away, those two went in the sale to Neptune Aviation in Montana,” said Hawkins.
The P-2V that is now at the museum was never used for firefighting by H&P. When Camp bought it, his intent was to restore the craft and make it air-worthy, but that didn’t work out. So, after talking with John Olin about it, Camp decided to donate it to the museum.
The history of the P-2V is outlined in a brochure distributed out at the museum. It was “a maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft” that was developed for the United States Navy by Lockheed.
“The concept began early in World War II, but was considered a low priority compared to other aircraft. The first Neptune aircraft was accepted into military service in 1947. The Neptune was designed to be land-based and never made a carrier landing. The military retired the P-2V in 1984.
“The P-2V has been used by several civilian firefighting operators and is used today as an air tanker. This year, 2017, is to be the last year the United States Forest Service will use the Neptune for firefighting.”
Hawkins said that with the Forest Service making the switch to turbine- or jet-propelled craft this year, it’s a good time to celebrate old planes like the P-2V. “This type of aircraft has played a big role in the history of firefighting.”
Hawkins said that even though the museum now has one, he will continue to search for a P-2V that was actually used for firefighting. “We might have an opportunity to do that within the next year,” he hinted.