First Pictures, Report of Near Loss of US Navy P-3

(c) gps333@charter.net

The P-3C that almost went into Puget Sound waters a few days ago was from NAS Whidbey. It was a CPW-10 aircraft being operated by VP-1. Squadrons don't own aircraft any more. The P-3 fleet has so deteriorated because of under-funding and over-use that there are less than 100 still flyable*. The P-3s belong to the wing and are "lent to the squadrons on an as-needed" basis.

The mission was a NATOPS pilot check, with a CPW-10 pilot (LT) aboard, a VP-1 LT and LTJG, plus VP-1 aircrewmen that included two flight engineers. The word is that the crew finally recovered control of the aircraft about 100 feet above MSL by pulling 7 Gs. The bird was landed back at NASW. Max damage was sustained by the aircraft, including almost tearing off a wing. Aircraft BuNo 161331.

My first thought is that this was a Vmc incident:

At Whidbey, P-3C 161331 was doing a Functional Check Flight. They shut down #1 engine. With #1 off, #2 engine exhibited vibrations and was shutdown. With two engines off on the same side the aircraft stalled. 7 G's were reported to pull it out of the stall. 45 consecutive rivets were pulled out on the stbd wing during the 7 G pull out (rolling pull), after peaking at negative 2.4g's as well. They did five spin rotations from 5500 ft -- they bottomed out "between 50 and 200 ft." They could see the inside of the fuel tanks when they landed. They were at 160 KIAS, appr flaps during a prop fails to feather drill on #1 when #2 started surging. They bagged #2, but while doing so got to 122 KIAS. When they added power, they were way below VMC air, and departed. SDRS recorded the flaps being raised and the landing gear being cycled down and then back up. Aircraft released all the fuel in tank #3 when it appears that the seam between planks 3 and 4 split. Tank #4 also lost its fuel load when plank #1 separated from rest of the aircraft wing.

* The P-8 is supposed to begin replacing the P-3C in 2012. There are supposed to be 108 P-8s in total. Very unlikely to happen.

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