As reported by Fire Aviation, Neptune Aviation and the National Museum of Forest Service History in Missoula have announced a partnership to provide Lockheed Martin P2V “Tanker 12” a new home after its retirement in September 2017. This closes the final chapter on the world’s last active fleet of former maritime patrol aircraft, dating back to the Cold War era, which served for years as national aerial firefighting assets.
The Lockheed P2V Neptune is largely a forgotten aircraft, since it arrived too late for World War II and was eventually overshadowed by its replacement, the Lockheed P-3 Orion. However, through the 1950s and into the 1960s, the Neptune served in large numbers as the aerial backbone of the West’s defense of the seas. A somewhat similar and competing aircraft, the Martin “Mercator”, was only built in small numbers but served with distinction in Cold War secret spy flights.
On a statement on their Facebook page, Neptune Aviation said: “Neptune Aviation’s T12 is moving to Missoula’s National Museum of Forest Service History on May 17th. Both Neptune & the Museum have been working hard to prepare the P2V for the move – Neptune has been getting the aircraft ready for the static display and the Museum has been doing prep work on their grounds. T12’s final “flight” isn’t too far, she will be towed across the Missoula International Airport to the Museum’s Forest Discovery Trail.”
NewsTalk KGVO reported that from 1993 Neptune operated a fleet of Lockheed Martin P2V aircraft, and its ships put in about 47,000 firefighting missions, dropping a total of 97 million gallons of retardant.
The National Museum of Forest Service History is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission of sharing the history of America’s conservation legacy. Neptune Aviation Services is based in Missoula, Montana.