Naval Aviation Museum's

P5M-2 Marlin - QE-10 - Buno 135533

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 These shots were taken in October 2004, shortly after Hurricane Ivan tore through the area. I was in Pensacola for VP-40's 2004 Reunion, more than a little surprised that the locals were still wanted us so soon after Ivan had damaged nearly every building in the city. We found a city of "blue roofs" - blue plastic tarps covering damaged roof areas on a majority of area homes and buildings - and innumerable heaps of uprooted trees, broken branches, fence panels and other unrecognizeable building parts piled along the streetsides, awaiting pickup.

 Our fears about the Museum and it's sole surviving Marlin proved to be needless. The nearly hurricane-proof structure of the museum building was scarcely damaged at all, and sturdy old 5533 came through fine, showing, once again, why she survived all those rough water operations and full-stall landings (not all of which were intentional). Her only apparent damage was a jammed rudder, one loose fairing and loss of the aft section of her MAD boom - which was recovered, battered but probably salvageable. It appears that Pensacola's day-to-day environment is far more damaging to this grand old bird than some puny little Category 3/4 hurricane.....

After seeing some of the serious damage to other birds on the ramp, I was relieved to see old 5533 sitting calmly against the blast fence, apparently undamaged . In fact, sporting the "new" paint job and more accurate markings that had been applied since I'd seen her last, the old girl was looking pretty spiffy.

From closer, she looked even better. Aside from the ugly wire "mini-fence" tacked on the bird-friendly roosting spots to discourage such activity, she looked almost ready to fire up and taxi down the ramp. Even the beaching gear looked brand new. No actual damage was visable. I had to move around to the side to see the truncated MAD boom and what appears to be a small fairing pulled loose at the top of the rudder. This is the only external damage I was able to spot. A closer look revealed that the tip of the rudder itself was slightly bent. If/when the museum finally gets around to restoring 5533, this should be a fairly simple fix. In the meantime, I suspect they'll reattached the loose fairing and, hopefully, straighten and re-attach the end of the MAD boom.


  Although the damage looks minor from the outside, there's no way to tell what's happened internally. It's unlikely, however, that any internal damage would be repaired even during serious refurbishment since, at present, the Museum is only concerned with external cosmetics. Given that this tough old bird has just "cocked a snoot" at sustained winds around 130 mph, I'd guess her primary threat remains the daily environment.  

 These shots were taken in October, 2000. The bird was still displayed on the grassy area immediately behind the museum building and showed considerable deterioration as compared to my first visit, the result of a decade or so of continuous exposure to the harsh Gulf Coast environment -- and to its low priority on the museum's restoration and maintenance schedule. Happily, it was scheduled for a new coat of paint in the immediate future, although this was to be be primarily for preservation purposes, not restoration.

Port Beam
The dark splotches are primer, in preparation for the bird's upcoming paint job. Each splotch appears to cover an area of serious corrosion, none of which is slated for further attention. Hopefully, the paint job will include more standard alpha-numerics.


Port After Quarter
All the plexiglass is discolored to about the same degree as this at the tail observer's station. The doppler dome is loose, held in place by just a few fasteners. The tires and beaching gear seem to be in surprisingly good condition.


Stbd Forward Quarter
Although barely visible in this shot, anti-bird strips on the props give them an unattractive "hairy" look - I think I'd prefer bird droppings. The faded gray paint covering areas normally painted black - such as bomb bay doors, vertical tail, etc. - give the plane a ghostly look.


Starboard Cockpit
Although it looks broken out in this photo, the cockpit plexiglas is intact - merely discolored. A small skin puncture and other minor damage is visible but, in general, the skin, paint and hardware appears sound.


 Climbing through the waist hatch and into this grand old bird - as I had done so often some 35 years ago - was a strange experience. Saddened by its deterioration and neglect, I felt like I was visiting an elderly, failing friend. After taking my photos, I stalled inside long enough to spend some "quality time" simply roaming through compartments.


Tail Observer
Aside from gear adrift, discolored and peeling paint on the deck and the opaque observer's dome, this area appears to be in pretty good condition - although I didn't crawl down into the tail beaching gear area.


Waist Observer
Again, lots of gear adrift and peeling paint and grime on the deck. Otherwise, aside from deteriorating seat cushions this area appears to be in satisfactory condition.


Ditto gear adrift and peeling paint. This station looked strangely empty without a load of sonobuoys, PDCs, smokes and survival gear. All the racks, launchers and "critical white hardware" are in their normal locations.


Electronics Bay
Major chaos! Although many of the black boxes are still secured in their racks, this space is being used to store loose gear and debris of all sorts. Still, the area seems generally intact and, with a bit of cleaning, would look pretty normal.


Bow/Radar Compartment
Same condition as the Electronics Bay. Much of the gear stashed in here appears to have come from other kinds of aircraft, supporting the rumor that the roomy bird is doubling as a general storage space.


Flight Deck

Aside from the usual gear adrift, deteriorating seat cushions, missing parachutes, loose wires and grubby looking black boxes, this area looked pretty much ready to fire up and find subs. I didn't remember that it was quite so crowded, however. Climbing the ladder from below reminded me of the "dangerous" hatch on the deck next to the AC Control Panel. It was "dangerous" in that it would cost you a case of beer if you let it slam shut in-flight - to the guys in the cockpit, it sounded exactly like an engine backfire! Just for old-times sake, I slammed it once on my way out - I guess I owe myself a case of beer...


All the instruments are gone but I was assured by museum staff that they had been removed and stored for safekeeping. There is considerable sun damage, due to the exposed location but, hopefully, the nearly opaque plexiglass will provide a bit of protection.


Comments or Feedback
T. L. Bigley, CDR USNR-TAR (Retired)

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 These shots were taken when I first visited the Naval Aviation Museum around 1990. QE-10 was just beginning it's long ordeal in Pensacola's Gulf Coast waterfront environment.

Museum P5 Museum P5
This is QE-10, the "last Marlin". It left San Diego in 1968, originally bound for the Smithsonian's projected Dulles Airport branch of the National Air and Space Museum. After sitting in storage at NAS Pax River for a few years, it was transferred to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. It's difficult to visualize the true size of P5's from most photos. Here's one that provides a better sense of scale. I'm standing under the bow hatch, where a crewmember would handle the mooring lines. To my left is the port (that's why it's red) beaching gear and its access hatch where a crewman helped attach or release the gear. I'm standing next to the port hydro-flap, a "speed brake" like device used on the water for steering and control. The hydro-flaps worked independently, controlled by the pilots' toe pedals just like land-based aircraft brakes. The bulbous dome behind me covers the doppler antenna. The array at the top of the tail is the MAD gear.