"In the Shade of the Wing"
All Photographs and Text are graciously provided by Ron Wheeler, assigned to VP-23 from 1955 to September 1958. Ron's words and pictures document a very personal chapter in the saga of the Neptune, but one that is sure to be familiar to many.
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nose_11.jpg (46070 bytes) LJ11 engine and nose area. Note that the cockpit hatches have been "popped" slightly to allow some circulation of air. I think I had done this since I took the cockpit picture below and it gets hot in there in the sun. This shot offers some detail on the cowling, cowl flaps, props, etc.
cockpit.jpg (92348 bytes) The cockpit. Center console was loaded with radio equipment control units. Actual radios were located in the after station and at the radioman's position (It was an Aviation Electronics Tech. who operated these radios and had to know Morse Code). The radar repeater scope can be seen in upper center position. They could see what ever we had on the large radar scopes just behind the cockpit, once again AT's were responsible for the repair and operation of these.
astrohatch.jpg (50710 bytes) Astrohatch: This shot is on top of the fuselage looking forward, you can see the cockpit hatches still cracked. The individual who appears to have no legs, and as if he were moving along with the use of his arms, is really going down into the aircraft at about the radar station area. The walk way has a gritty substance on it to assist in keeping your footing. The astrohatch could be easily removed by pulling down on a handle provided for that purpose. It came out quick. Good thing, too, since this is one route of escape in case of ditching. It was my job, when working radar, to remove it and thrown it down into the catwalk area which leads to the nose. Of course we had to wait for the observer to get out of there so that we didn't brain him. In a real life emergency, that guy had better move, otherwise he was eating an astrohatch.
turret.jpg (55149 bytes)
This photo shows the  20mm turret on Buno. 141232. This was taken in 1957 on Crete in the Med while we deployed from Malta. I remember thinking, at the time, that if I could climb over the turret, I could get a good shot of the gun barrels. However, the turret was quite large and there is no "gritty" walk area back in there and I knew if I fell from that height, I would wind up in the hospital at best. Not that there was any hospital around. We were being supplied by a ship, a former LST. There was nothing at this base. I mean nothing, we lived in tents. We had to fly to Athens, Greece to get our beer. I went on one such trip and we had the P2V loaded with cases of beer from an Air Force base.
fuelcell.jpg (54932 bytes) Fuel cell: The two guys working on the wing are opening up the area over the fuel tank. You can see the open fuel cap cover. You have to reach down into that area and remove a rather large fuel cap to refuel. This is just one of the fuel cells. There must have been a leak or some kind of directive which had these guys working in the hot sun in Crete.

In the same area, on the left wing there is a stored a 12 man life raft. The raft could be activated from its storage place under a hinged wing panel either from inside or by a water soluble bulb on the outside of the nose area. At time these things would take it in their own mind to pop out and inflate in flight. My friend Bill Igoe, on the way to Aviano, Italy,( in response to the crash of MA11) had the raft pop out and inflate. They saw it slowly floating down over some green area of Italy. One week later the local police showed up with it and they said they found it being sold on the black market.  My own crew had one do almost the same thing, except it didn't inflate. It flew back and wrapped itself around the horizontal stabilizer for quite some time. Things got a little dicey before it came off with some jinking by the pilot.
leaving.jpg (53264 bytes) Leaving (or arriving): Bruce Weidner has his mae west vest on. So we either just got there, or we are getting ready to leave. If you look in the back ground, you can see a rectangular object with a suitcase in it. This "carry all" would be loaded with our personal gear and attached into the bombay with bomb shackles. Also note how everyone tends to congregate under the wing. As a crewmember, you learn early on that the wing can offer some protection from the hot sun as well as a drenching rain. This was important when you had to work around outside the aircraft. If the rain got too bad, we would hide out in the airplane until it was over. Sometimes, if we were on the ramp too long in a heavy rain, I would try to get into the bunk which is located over the wing spar. Before long, the rain, which sounded like it was pounding down on a tin roof, would have me dozing off.
wing.jpg (61710 bytes)
Just another picture which shows how we would congregate in the shadow of the wing on hot days. This was taken at NAS Roosevelt Roads (Rosey Roads) PR around early 1958.
wheelwell.jpg (50461 bytes) My friend Robert Wood, at the time Aviation Ordinance man, first class, retired as a Chief Petty Officer. Woody would help out by cleaning the wheel wells as he is doing here. Yes, that is raw avgas dripping down off the landing gear door. There is a sump drain within the wheel well, and he would hook up a rubber hose with a small pipe, as pictured and clean out all the grease and oil from the wheel wells. You can get an idea of the size of these things by his size. Woody stood about 6 ft and went about 190 lbs. In order to access the generators and the back of the engine, one could put a step ladder in there and get up behind the engine to check the accessories, this part of the preflight as well as draining the sumps. There was also a large tank which would hold alcohol which could be injected into the engine to boost horsepower on a critical takeoff. Never used when I was on the crew. It wasn't good for the engine to the best of my knowledge. This shot shows some good landing gear detail.
drone.jpg (59093 bytes) This photo was also taken at Rosey Roads. If you look behind the large yellow "cherry picker" you will see a Regulus I, an early Navy cruise missle, which was just landed by a pilot in a Navy chase plane. It had been fired off of a submarine a little earlier. The chase  plane electronically guided the drone to the field. We knew something was coming in because all of the crash trucks rolled out and we heard about the drone. It was really "new" at that time according to what we heard through the scuttlebutt.

Well, it all went fine... except for the landing. This thing landed a little hard and ran off the side of the runway with some damage to the landing gear as I recall. I do not recall runway directions, but the best thing is that it went off on the side away from our aircraft. I waited in the opening of the astrohatch with my camera during the approach and landing. Guess what, I was so amazed at the thing veering off the runway that I never took a picture.  In the background are several P2V-5Fs from VP-10.