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The Navy’s last Marlin — Martin P5M walkaround

13 July 2011

The Navy’s last Marlin — Martin P5M walkaround

30º 21′  03″ N / 87º 18′ 13″ W

The Martin P5M-2 Marlin (later called SP-5B) at the National Naval Aviation Museum — photo by Joe May

Starboard side of the Marlin, note the large searchlight suspended from the wing’s tip — photo by Joe May

Martin’s last design in a long history of flying boats was the P5M Marlin, later redesignated to the SP-5 Marlin. She served for nearly two decades from 1951 through the 1960s, flying missions in the Vietnam War aiding in the detection and  tracking of military shipping from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. Carrying a crew of eleven the Marlin was equipped with a searchlight mounted on its starboard wing as well as radar and magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) equipment. Two radial engines gave her an impressive 6900 hp (5140kW) and they were set high off the water with the aid of the gull wing design feature. Weapons bays were incorporated into the engine nacelles while the nose and tail gun turrets were eliminated after the initial Marlin model. The T-tail is also unusual with its dihedral horizontal stabilizer.

The Marlin’s empennage, note the MAD extension from the vertical stabilizer as well as the dihedral of the port side horizontal stabilizer — photo by Joe May

The Marlin’s bows and gull wing design — photo by Joe May

The Marlin is a direct descendant of the Martin PBM Mariner. Frankly, the Mariner had a checkered reputation due to fuel vapor accumulating in the bilge spaces. Having high octane gasoline vapors hanging about with all the electrical equipment in a large military search aircraft is not a recipe for reaching retirement age. But the Marlin’s family tree reaches back to WW II and, what may seem incredible, Japan’s firm Kawanishi and what may have been WW II’s best flying boat, the Kawanishi H8K2 二式大型飛行艇 二式大艇 (Allied codename Emily). The influence can is seen in the aft portion of the fuselage rising gradually from the step instead of sharply. This feature is credited with significantly reducing the porpoising that could occur while on the waves.

The P5M’s radome, cockpit and handling line and note the four portholes — photo by Joe May

The rare example left to us, formerly a P5M-2 but renamed SP-5B, has been restored with a mint condition exterior and is on exhibit in at the National Naval Aviation Museum. This Marlin flew her last mission in 1967 and was repaired and restored after damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2007. Restoration was largely accomplished through the efforts of the Mariner/Marlin Association and what a restoration! This Marlin looks ready to take to the water and her way over the ocean waves.

Forward section of the P5M Marlin — photo by Joe May

Something that caught my eye were the tanks on the beaching gear. I assume these tanks aiding in attaching or detaching the beaching gear, as the Marlin is a flying boat and not amphibious, with their buoyancy. The detail to note is the port tank is red and the starboard side green, which mimics the navigation light colors for those respective sides.

Aviation historian Bruce D. Barth has an excellent website on the PBM Mariner and P5M Marlin and provided information for the post, as well as the above mentioned references.

The post of the museum, and others about its aircraft, can be found by entering the name into the search window (which will take you the blog’s WordPress site) and selecting ENTER.

Similarly, a post of the rare Kawanishi Emily can be found by pasting “Emily” into the search window and selecting ENTER.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. 13 July 2011 03:19

    thanks for sharing!

  2. shortfinals permalink
    13 July 2011 11:40

    Excellent photography! Given the fact that I enjoy all floatplanes and flying boats, I am delighted to see the state of preservation of this aircraft. Thank you so much.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      23 July 2011 17:07

      Thank you. This museum and the aircraft within it are both remarkable. Seaplanes, floatplanes, flying boats … what is not to like!

  3. Bud day AO1 AC permalink
    4 July 2014 15:11

    Great pics I flew in vp47 as a crewman was a fun time

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      4 July 2014 16:13

      Thanks so much. Since you know what they looked like back in the day your compliment means so much more. Joe

  4. Tom Giles permalink
    20 August 2014 13:42

    I flew with VP 56 in the early 50’s and transitioned from the PBM to the P5M. It was like transitioning from Ford to Lincoln. Ease in handling, excess power and lots of room.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      23 August 2014 17:12

      How many military aviators can say they had lots of power and plenty or room 😉

  5. Tom Giles permalink
    23 August 2014 22:24

    Did you fly this ship?

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      24 August 2014 14:18

      Wish that i had. I write and photograph about aviation but am not a pilot. Everyone is safer for that 😉

  6. Kenneth Heichlinger permalink
    3 May 2015 02:12

    I was Plane captain on crew six in 1967 up until our transition to P-3s. Although this was not ‘my’ aircraft I had flown in her when 6 boat was down. Great to see this icon of Naval Aviation so well cared for.

    • Tom Giles permalink
      3 May 2015 15:33

      I flew with VP-56, stationed at Norfolk. We took the boat off of Willoughby Bay adjacent to the Naval Station. I still recall landings over the brightly lit amusement park (no longer there) on Willoughby, and avoiding night fishermen while frantically searching for the landing lights on the bay. She was a beautiful ship with wonderful power for lifting to the step during the long take offs. Good memories.

      • travelforaircraft permalink*
        4 May 2015 17:54

        Thanks for the piloting insight — it’s exciting to hear from experience!

  7. jim hansen permalink
    28 December 2016 21:52

    This is on my bucket list. Yes, the P5M-2 was a neat aircraft. I was attached to VP56 from 1958-59 and flew with #2Boat as radio operator. Oh yeah…..NGU1 de 2sugar40 request customs and agriculture. Wow, that was 58 years ago!

  8. Glenn Neuerburg permalink
    10 May 2017 21:49

    I flew as a crewman (2nd mech) in VP47, 1958. Flew out of Iwakuni Japan. Patroled Korea. China and Russia. Very exiciting times. Enjoyed it very much.

  9. Steve B. permalink
    14 October 2017 08:36

    Sounds like some of you might have flown with my dad. I do believe his call sign was Roger Ram Jet. He flew the bird that is in the museum.

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