|On a sunny but cold morning (Oct 18th), before visiting the museum, I noticed these stored Neptune airtankers at the end of the Whipporwill Drive, stored in the most remote corner possible. The ramp here is a recent development.
These stored P-2 Neptune's represent the propeller-driven Lockheed tankers whose days are numbered.
The offices of Neptune Aviation Inc are on 'air side', requiring passing a fence. It was a saturday and I did not bother ringing the bell, expecting no result. Besides, the focus was on the visit to the museum and after that we had a considerable distance to cover. Glad with the results I was able to get.
The flag of Montana proudly displayed.
T12 = N96264 (c/n 426-5192), BuNo 128346. Reg'd 13Sep93 for Neptune Aviation Services.
I received the following information from Dan Snyder, Chief Operating Officer of Neptune Aviation Services:
"The original assignment of 'T12' was a B-17 years ago. The second assignment of that tail number was to N96264.
'264 has been retired due to the low life remaining on the airframe; as you can see she has been donating parts to keep other ships flying.
The tail number was moved to our company training/spare (N410NA) P-2 last year.
Since the USFS has given us a new block of tail numbers there has been some conversations about moving T12 to a BAe and assigning a new number to N410NA (became Tanker 14)."
Tanker 10 = N4235N (c/n 726-7158), ex/ BuNo 144681
Joe Baugher's website offers: Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune (redesignated P-2H in 1962).
BuNo. 144681 (c/n 726-7158) listed as P2V-7S from Jan 1960. Struck off charge (SOC) 29May1978 and
stored at Tucson's MASDC as 1P0372
28Aug1974. 08Jun1981 again reported as MASDC, this time as PA0001.
N-inquiry has: Registered 13Sep93 to Neptune Aviation Services, Missoula,MT.
Reported substantially damaged at
In april 2012 it was reported they found upon inspection a wingspar crack in Neptune's Tanker 10. End of story.
Well, not quite end of story.. The following was published (no name) on Yahoo's 'Airtankers' forum (june 2017)-
"Great news out of Missoula,MT on Tuesday (6-20) as Neptune Aviation has finished up restoring P2V Tanker #10 in prep for her final place to greet all passengers arriving at Missoula Airport!
On Tuesday she was towed to her final display spot, looking as good as ever.
Tanker #10 dropped during her career with Neptune 11 million gallons (!) of retardant before she was retired in 2012. After a 24 inch crack was found in a wing spar and skin, Neptune decided not to repair her and she has sat at Missoula's airport ever since.
Neptune is planning a retirement style appreciation of the P2V at the end of this season, which sadly is the last for the Neptune and very close to being the end for radial engined air tankers in the U.S."
And this is how Tanker 10 (N4235N) has been preserved at Missoula's airport; photo credit: Greg Lee (june 2017)
This is odd: another Tanker 12!
By deduction I considered Tanker #12 to be N410NA; Bill Bailey confirmed this (below).
was reg'd 15Feb2011 to Neptune Aviation Svcs Inc. Not many images to be found but one seems to have the same off-standard nose colours, but is missing the lightning flash seen on my photo above; compare: www.airport-data.com/aircraft/photo/000801445.html (aug.2013).
N410NA is former Evergreen N206EV T145, so now Neptune's new T12."
Bill Bailey wrote me:
"There are 2 Neptune tankers with the fleet number '12'. The one partially disassembled has been retired and is being parted out.
The other is used for training new pilots and is not used on actual fires. Its tailnumber is N410NA"
Dan Snyder, COO Neptune Aviation Svcs wrote me and confirmed the same, although 'T12' maybe considered for a BAe 146 Tanker (read elsewhere on this page).
From another source: 'N410NA operated as Evergreen Tanker #145 N206EV until the late 1980's. She was placed in storage at Evergreens Marana Air Park, where she remained until 2011; she was then purchased by Neptune Aviation, along with sister ship #142 N203EV.
She carried the number #410 under the cockpit Neptune Aviation logo during her time as a trainer.
In 2014 she became Tanker #12 for the later part of that season, before becoming current Tanker #14 in 2015. The fire retardant tank from the old Tanker 12, which retired after the 2012 season, was re-used to convert N410NA to a fully equipped firebomber. That particular conversion probably took place in late-2013 / early-2014'.
N410NA was operational in 2016 but it didn't have it's own fire fighting contract, instead acted as a spare. In Feb.2017 its role for the new season was as yet unclear; beyond 2017 the fate of all the P2V Neptunes are in the balance.
Another view of the duplicate Tanker 12, from the Neptune Inc gate.
Neptune still has 3 years left on a contract to fly P2V propeller-driven tankers and one BAe-146 jet-powered slurry bomber. A one-season contract for 3 of the company's jet tankers has expired.
Now it is fingers crossed for how many of Neptune's 6 total jet tankers will have work next year.
The piston airtankers are on the way out, so much is clear, and Neptune has invested heavily in these BAe-146 (a.k.a. Avro RJ85) jet-powered slurry bombers: will they be rewarded with contracts for their investments?
This was published in Jan.2017 on Firebombers (Yahoo) forum:
"This upcoming fire season (2017) will be the last year of the 'Legacy' contract which included the six remaining P2V's operated by Neptune Aviation.
Sadly the P2V's do not meet or qualify for the 'Next Generation' specifications and it does not look like the USFS will extend the 'Legacy' contract.
With the 747 coming on line, and two more BAE-146's from Neptune, the future looks very bleak for the P2V.
The P2V is currently the longest serving large airtanker in the history of aerial firefighting.
At the end of this season (2017) the P2V will have served for 48 years as a firebomber, since the first drop on an active fire by N126Z operated by Rosenbalm Aviation on 24Nov1969.
The only active large Tanker that may surpass the Neptune in time served will be the DC-7, which can equal the 48 years in service in 2020, if they survive that long."
This is what the future may look like: BAe 146 Srs 200A N474NA (c/n E2084), reg'd 14Jan2014
Feb.2017 UPDATE! Dark cloudes on the horzon for the P2V Neptune Firebomber!
This upcoming fire season (2017) will be the last year of the 'Legacy' contracts, which included the 6 remaining P2V's operated by Neptune Aviation. Sadly the P2V's do not meet or qualify for the Next Generation specifications and it does not look like the USFS will extend the Legacy contract.
With the 747 'Global Supertanker' coming on line, plus two more BAE-146's from Neptune, the future looks very bleak for the P2V...
The P2V is currently the longest serving large airtanker in the history of aerial firefighting. And at the end of the 2017 season the P2V will have served for 48 years as a firebomber since the first drop on an active fire by N126Z operated by Rosenbalm Aviation on 24Nov1969.
The only active large airtanker that may surpass the Neptune in time served will be the DC-7, which can equal the 48 years in service in 2020 if they survive that long.
Once again some special sounds of actively operated 'propliners' will disappear into history!
An unconfirmed count of P-2 Neptunes active in 2016 were 6: #05 (P2V-5) #06 (P2V-5) #07 (P2V-5)
#43 (P2V-7) #44 (P2V-5) #45 (P2V-7). See my page Airtanker Id's for tailnumbers belonging to these aircraft.
This is a Feb.2017 statement from Neptune Aviation: "Despite our best efforts, nothing has panned out with state contracts. I suppose that remains a possibility, but it's doubtful.
Our plan is to accommodate some of the many requests from a variety of non-profits (mostly aviation museums) and keep 2 operational for air shows."
The following was published on firstname.lastname@example.org (25May2017)-
"Neptune Aviation's latest BAe-146 Tanker #15 N477NA became operational and is reported at Cedar City,Ut tonight (5-25).
This makes it the 8th BAe-146 operated by Neptune; current fleet consists of the following aircraft:
Neptune should have at least one more aircraft converted soon, this should be Tanker #16 N478NA.
Sadly with this number of jets the company can finally retire their P2V Neptunes. The Jet Age is truly here and with the retirement of the remaining Neptune aircraft at the end of this season only the DC-7 will remain as the only large reciprocal Tanker... but whose days are numbered as well."
Short SH3109 N179Z, reg'd 26Mar91 to USDA Forest Service (mfr 1985)
In a corner of the airport sit a number of stored aircraft. A small road leads up to it, passing through what looke like a trailer park or semi-permanent housing (my mind was on the planes I was trying to get to, so I was less observant on the houses). But
that road leads to a fence with trees obscuring the view and there is no gate, so no need to go there. Instead, circle around, via
W Broadway Street and drive up to that building (an abandoned -it seemed- church) and ignore the 'No Tresspassing'-sign.
In the morning light I had the sun working against me, but the high fence gave me more problems for decent photography.
The Fairchild F-27F is an odd one here but those four SP-2H's must have been meant for parts, for Neptune's airtankers.
Those SP-2H's were all reregistered last year, details on this further below.
Fairchild F-27F N222DG (c/n 31), ex/ Empire Airlines Inc (of Coeur d'Alene,ID).
N222DG was donated to Museum of Mountain Flying in March 2003.
Lockheed SP-2H N63819 (c/n 726-7215) ex/ BuNo 147965
Joe Baugher: "to MASDC for storage -marked as 1P0389- 13Aug1975, officially struck off charge (SOC) 29May1978.
N63819 reg'd 15Jun99 to Neptune Aviation Services." And reg'd 16Apr2013 to Richard P. Nash (of Missoula,ID)
See above. Due to the high fence and the building in my back I could only shoot a front and an aft section of this one.
Lockheed SP-2H Neptune N949RR / 147949/PJ-3 (cn 726-7199) stored for many years here now, and
also reg'd 15Apr2013 to Richard P. Nash. Baugher: "remained with Lockheed until Apr 1962, probably for conversion
to P2V-7S, and listed as such from Jan. 1960. To MASDC as 1P0411 on 22Sep1976, SOC 01Apr82."
From my files:N949RR had been reg'd 05May98 to Neptune Aviation Services, ex/ Aviation Classics.
N714AU, details see below. Another one too close to the fence forcing me into a fore and aft shot.
Lockheed SP-2H Neptune N714AU ex/ BuNo 148339 - also reg'd 15Apr2013 to Richard P. Nash.
Joe Baugher: "Lockheed P2V-7S Neptune - Redesignated P-2H in 1962.
148339 (c/n 726-7224) to MASDC as 1P0384 on 20Jan1975, SOC 01Apr82.
To N339L Oct 1986. To Neptune Aviation Services, Missoula, MT as N714AU."
N714AU was a project two years ago for 'NAMBP', Barbers Point museum?
Service details: www.verslo.is/baldur/p2/bunos/148339.HTM
Lockheed SP-2H N362RR (c/n 726-7260) ex/ BuNo.148362
Joe Baugher: "(c/n 726-7260) to MASDC 14May1977, SOC 29May78." Reg'd 15Apr2013 to Richard P. Nash
From my own files I have a note that N362RR has (on other side?) titles 'University of Nevada Reno' & 'Fire Science Academy'.
Stan Cohen, former director of the museum wrote me these lines:
"Those 4 P2Vs on our boneyard were given to the museum by Neptune Aviation years ago. The museum was going to scrap them but Rick Nash, who also built our hangar, bought them from the museum and he moved them to the yard and built a security fence.
The 1979 F-27 was donated to the museum by Empire Aviation years ago. There are no plans to do anything with these aircraft at this time."
Dan Snyder, Chief Operating Officer of Neptune Aviation Services wrote me in Dec.2014:
"The 4 P-2s that are owned by Mr. Nash were Neptune aircraft 10 years ago or so.
Neptune elected to remove them from inventory donating them to the local museum here on the field. The museum could not do anything with them and were thinking of salvaging the aircraft.
Mr. Nash, being the aviation enthusiast he is, took over ownership.
If you use Google Maps and look back in history you will see those airframe on our ramp years ago."
MUSEUM OF MOUNTAIN FLYING, MISSOULA
To read my report on MY VISIT see HERE...