On August 29, 1969, the US Navy accepted Lockheed P-3C BuNo 156515 and five days later, the aircraft began its service with Patrol Squadron 30. This is one of the original seven “Charlie” update aircraft, two are on display, four have been scrapped, and one is still flying!
156515 would fly in numerous squadrons for the next 48 years until it was retired in 2017. It was flown into Hickory Regional Airport in September 2017, extensively cleaned and prepared, and finally opened up to the public in May 2018. Since then, tens of thousands of visitors have toured the interior and learned about Maritime Patrol Aviation and the people, aircraft, and missions that they conducted and are still conducting today since the P-3A original variant started flying in 1962.
There were 650 P-3 Orion’s manufactured by Lockheed as well as 107 by Kawasaki Aerospace Company in Japan under license. There are several countries that are still flying their Orion aircraft and Aurora aircraft in Canada. The Orion was based on the Lockheed L-188 Electra passenger/cargo plane of the 1950s. The nose was reshaped, “stinger” tail for the Magnetic Anomaly Detecting system added, fuselage shortened just forward of the engines, and a bomb-bay was added.
The Orion is on loan to HAM from National Naval Aviation Museum located at NAS Pensacola, Florida. It is open to tour six days a week during museum hours, weather permitting.