Estrella Warbirds gets its P2V

Retired plane arrives in Paso Robles on Wednesday

Retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. Gary Corripo has been promising for years he would get the Estrella Warbirds Museum a P2V.

Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 8, he delivered. Well, actually two pilots flew a Lockheed P2V-5 into Paso Robles Airport from Alamogordo, N.M. It’s one of only a couple in the entire state.

“I got the call last week,” Corripo said.

Bringing the P2V to Paso Robles started four years ago, when Corripo, who is the acquisitions manager at the museum, learned six P2V planes were going to be retired by Neptune Aviation Service.

“All old airplanes like this have a limitation on flight hours,”Corripo explained. “When they reach their limit they are retired.”

Neptune is an aerial firefighting service based in Missoula, Mont., and was using the planes to fight wildfires.

“I called the president of Neptune and said I’d like to get one of these,” Corripo said. “And then I sent him a letter. A couple of months later, he said ‘Gary you are the only museum that sent us a letter to request one, so you are going to get one.’”

San Diego Air and Space Museum also received a retired Neptune P2V.

Originally the P2V Neptune was developed by the U.S. Navy toward the end of World War II and then had a long life as a fire bomber. In 1947, the first P2V was used in the maritime patrol and anti-submarine role. It had a crew of seven to 11 depending on the model and carried rockets and bombs, including free-fall bombs, depth charges and torpedos.

The P2V is unique because it has two 18-cylinder radial or prop engines and two small jet engines, which help it maneuver when fighting fires.The radial engines and the jets use the same low lead fuel. Usually jet engines require a kerosene-based fuel.

The P2V began aerial firefighting services during the 1970’s, when the U.S. Navy began to phase the aircraft out of service. Neptune Aviation Services has used the P2V since 1993. Neptune was the largest remaining civil or military operator of the aircraft, with as many as 10 under U.S. Forest Service (USFS) contracts in a single year.

The P2V is a favorite among pilots and warbird fans, who say they enjoy flying, seeing, or hearing the aircraft and the throaty roar of its two radial engines. When extra power is needed during takeoff or after a 2,000-gallon fire retardant drop to climb out of a canyon it can enlist the help of two small jet engines farther out on the wings.

The Estrella Warbirds’ new plane — dubbed High Roller — was built by Lockheed in 1954. It is in great condition and instantly becomes its biggest attraction at a height of nearly 30 feet, a length of nearly 80 feet and a wingspan of 100 feet.

Over the coming months, the engines will be made inoperable and it will receive a fresh coat of paint.

“It’s impressive,” Corripo said.

The Estrella Warbirds Museum is open Thursday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on the museum, visit


© 2019-Paso Robles Press

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