The prototype of the Neptune, the XP2V-1, made its maiden flight on May 17, 1945.
Prior to World War II, flying boats were mainstays of Navy patrol squadrons, but that changed as the Navy procured aircraft like the Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator (designating it PB4Y-1) to outfit landbased squadrons in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. The P2V-1 had a top speed of 303 M.P.H. compared to the 198 M.P.H. speed of a contemporary flying boat, the PBM Mariner.
The P2V appeared in a number of different versions during its operational service, the defensive gun turrets on the early models eventually eliminated. The installation of advanced radar equipment resulted in a bulbous radome on the underside of the fuselage and the P2V-7 (later designated SP-2H) featured two underwing jet pods to increase performance. The P2V-3C was a version designed to operate as the first carrier-based aircraft capable of carrying atomic bombs.
The Neptune entered operational service in 1947 and not until 1978 was the last one retired from the Naval Air Reserve.
The Museum’s Aircraft:
The aircraft on display is a modified P2V-1 nicknamed the “Truculent Turtle,” which on September 29, 1946, took off from Perth, Australia, on a planned flight to Washington D.C., with a four-man crew.
As the hours passed, the crew alternated time at the controls with periods to eat and rest. Approaching the United States, the airplane ran into storms, which buffeted the airplane. The aircraft commander, CDR Tom Davies, would later estimate that the storm also burdened the aircraft with some 1,000 lb. of ice on the wings. Having been out of radio contact for a lengthy period of time, the crew had pause to laugh when California-based air controller from which they were requesting instrument clearance had trouble believing the point of origin of their flight was Australia!
Owing to unexpected headwinds over parts of the Pacific and the western United States, it was apparent to the crew that trying to reach Washington D.C. would be challenging, leaving no reserve fuel in the event of an emergency. They eventually settled on Columbus, Ohio, landing at 11:28 AM on October 1st, having completed an 11,235.6 mile flight in 55 hours and 17 minutes.
In addition to the crew, also making the record flight was “Joe,” a 325-lb. baby kangaroo intended for donation to the National Zoo in Washington.