So whatever happened to the Lowry Park plane?
Special thanks to Kimi Lau-Costanzo, Kermit Nelson, and Dennis Cole for their assistance in answering this question.

First read about it and see photos from when it was at Lowry Park, until the day it was moved in 1984.


Photo by Bill Z at Trip Advisor

The plane was moved in 1984 to the Yesterday's Air Force Museum, which was located next to the now long-gone
"94th Aero Squadron" restaurant.  It later became the "Florida Military Aviation Museum."


Photo provided by Dennis Cole

Dennis Cole giving a "thumbs up."
 

The information in italics below is by Dennis Cole, USAF ret. and former president of the Yesterday's Air Force Museum.

The P2V Navy aircraft was on loan to the City of Tampa as early as the mid-1950s, it is believed. The City was responsible for its display in accordance with Navy directives; the aircraft was NAVY property, not the property of the city, the park or any other entity.

When the city decided to remove the plane from the park, they and the Navy both agreed that the aircraft be moved to the Yesterday's Air Force Museum (YAFM) at the St Pete/Clearwater airport. The expense of removal from the park, transport to YAFM, and refurbishment to meet the Navy display criteria was to be paid for by the YAFM. Transfer of responsibility from the City to YAFM took place in 1984 (estimated) and the Navy continued to retain ownership of the aircraft.

 

 

Museum members first began removing 4 layers of house paint from the fuselage and wings. They tried many methods but found that using a propane torch and a putty knife was the most effective and cost effective way to remove the thick paint. The paint was removed out in the hot Florida sun, day after day, week after week, year after year. I helped and watched this process myself, assisting with the effort.
1987-Oct-17    Source: Airliners.net USA - Navy Lockheed P2V-3 Neptune Reg.: 122944 MSN: 326-1120

 
1987-Nov-10   Source: Airport-Data.com   122944, Lockheed P2V-3 Neptune

 


Circa Nov. 1987
Photo courtesy of Dennis Cole, Yesterday's Air Force/Florida Military Aviation Museum on Facebook
 


After removal of the paint, exposing the bare aluminum, the surface was prepped and sprayed with the appropriate yellowish aluminum primer. One section at a time was completed until finally the wings were reattached.



Left wing reattachment, circa 1987-88.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Cole, former president of the Yesterday's Air Force Museum.

 


A dedicated WW2 veteran helping to reattach the left wing.
Circa 1987-88 photo courtesy of Dennis Cole, former president of the Yesterday's Air Force Museum.

 



The old Lowry Park Navy plane at the Yesterday's Air Force Museum.
Circa 1987-88 photo courtesy of Dennis Cole, former president of the Yesterday's Air Force Museum
 

 


The old Lowry Park Navy plane undergoing restoration at the Yesterday's Air Force Museum.
Circa 1987-88 photo courtesy of Dennis Cole, former president of the Yesterday's Air Force Museum
 


The old Lowry Park Navy plane undergoing restoration at the Yesterday's Air Force Museum.
Circa 1987-88 photo courtesy of Dennis Cole, former president of the Yesterday's Air Force Museum
 

In April of 1988, a St Petersburg Movie Company "Imaginators" used the aircraft to to film part of a movie, They shot footage inside the aircraft with me searching for the crew. I never did see the movie, not sure what ever became of the effort.

 

1989-Feb  Source: Aerial Visuals.ca Photographer: Tom Tessier Date Photographed: In February 1989 Notes: At Clearwater Airport, FL Constructed as a P2V-3. Taken on Strength/Charge with the United States Navy with BuNo 122944.


The plane has undergone extensive restoration by Feb. 1989
 

1989  Source: Review posted 2016 at TripAdvisor.com

Bill Z Photo below.

Date estimated based on appearance in comparison with previous photo.

After 4 years of incredible effort, the aircraft was painted. By February of 1989 the vertical stabilizer was the last major component to be installed. The aircraft was wearing the correct Navy Blue paint.


By mid-1989 the aircraft was done, rockets fabricated by museum members, appropriate lettering details added. The aircraft finally met the Navy requirements for public display to reflect positively on the Navy.  I was active duty Air Force and in 1990, I was sent to near Detroit Michigan to assist setting up an F-16 training school for the Air national Guard, this ended my first hand experience with the aircraft.


Circa 1990
Photo by "Mr. Ed"

 

   

1991-Jan - Photos by Glenn Kleiber at Yesterday's Air Force Museum/Florida Military Aviation Museum Facebook group.
P-2 Neptune: with a shot of my mother, and an Inert Genie parked in the bomb bay. Those who might ask: the P-2 is NOT rated to carry the Genie. Just staying out of the sun!

1991-Apr-13

Source: Air Britain Pic Photo Library

Photographer: Don Hewins Date Taken: 13/04/1991 Registration: 122944 Construction Number: 1120 Code Number: LL Model Lockheed P2V-3 Neptune


"Ace of Spades" near the nose was decorative, not for any historic markings.

Each year, up to that point, as president of the museum, I was required to sign documents confirming the status of this plane and all the other aircraft that were being maintained and displayed with Navy, Air Force and Army criteria.

 

Florida Military Aviation Museum, St Pete Airport, Clearwater, FL - Apr 1993 - VIDEO

This video gives a little history of the plane while it was in use with the Navy, and reveals that most of the restoration was done by MacDill AFB personnel. 

This plane is featured at the 3:31 mark of the video.

YouTube video posted by "thirdshore."
Published on Nov 6, 2015

We talked to Henry Marois, director of the Florida Military Aviation Museum, once located at St Pete airport, who takes us on a personal tour of his favorite aircraft. The segment is hosted by Ray Bromberg, a regular Access contributor.

Does not state where the plane was before the museum.

 
This was filmed as part of "videotropic No. 13" community access television in Apr 1993.

The Truculent Turtle
Photo from Naval Aviation Museum

"This aircraft is a Neptune patrol bomber.  This particular airplane had flown out of Jacksonville Naval Air Station in the early '50s and this aircraft was used to attack enemy surface ships and submarines.  You can see in the nose of the aircraft we have 20-mm cannon barrels protruding and it also carried 5-inch rockets under the wings, along with bombs. A similar aircraft to this called the "Truculent Turtle" made the world's nonstop non-reciprocating engine unrefueled distance record many years ago when it flew from Perth, Ohio [sic] to the United States unrefueled.**  This wasn't beat until Rattan's aircraft just a few years ago when it circled the world unrefueled.  It's a very interesting aircraft, and believe it or not, most of the restoration on this was done by some military people from MacDill Air Force Base, of all places.  **It flew from Perth, Australia to Columbus, Ohio.

1995-Mar

Source: Aerial Visuals.ca

Serial number markings applied

 


Circa 1995, Photo by JRQIII, courtesy of Dennis Cole, Yesterday's Air Force Museum


The Closure of the Museum

The museum was owned by Mr David Tallechet and was forced to move based on the sale of the land it was on.  The property that the museum occupied belonged to the Boatyard Village, we leased it from them. They ended their lease when the Boatyard Village and 94th Aero Squadron restaurant closed.

The city of Wimauma agreed they would like to have the museum there so that process began. The P-2V was too big a project for them to move so the Navy was notified that the aircraft was excess and needed and responsibility for the disposition of the aircraft would revert back to the Navy.

The Navy sought a new home for the aircraft, unfortunately, no entity had the will, manpower and/or financial resources to take possession of the aircraft. As with other aircraft considered excess, the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office was tasked with disposition of the aircraft.

The choice was, sell for scrap metal or use it as an artificial reef. Between the two options, I preferred it become a reef. It was tough for me to know what was going to happen to it, the unbelievable effort put out by so many people, the passion put into it, 60+ year old men working for years in the hot sun to save that aircraft. They truly touched me and I will never forget their passion for history.

 

Several of the aircraft did eventually make their way to the MAPS museum in Ohio where they have been painstakingly restored and are on display to the public indoors, protecting them from the environment. Thanks to the volunteers at Yesterday's Air Force/ Florida Military Aviation Museum, many aircraft were saved from the scrap heap. Most of those volunteers were World War II veterans in their 60s and labored for hours in the hot Florida sun to do what they could to save those planes and preserve this one. The aircraft belonged to the Navy from when new until they decided to dispose of it into the Gulf of Mexico. Their passion for their work earned them great respect from everyone involved. 

The fact that these events are still being discussed to me serves as a recognition of their efforts. Thank you all for getting the story out there for future generations.

Photo and comments by Dennis Cole, who became President of the museum around 1988.

TampaPix thanks Dennis Cole for sharing his memories of the old Lowry Park P2V Navy bomber's time at the museum.

 

 

By Jane Meinhardt, St. Pete Times - June 25, 2000

DUNEDIN -- Fish that rocket through the depths of the Gulf of Mexico off Dunedin might pause when they see this stranger in their domain.  If all goes as planned, kingfish, amberjack and other species will hang around the fuselage of a sleek World War II Navy bomber on the gulf bottom, a fitting final site for a long-range aircraft designed to hunt submarines.

This Navy P2V Neptune bomber from the old Florida Military Aviation Museum at St Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport will be barged out and sunk at the Veterans Reef being constructed off Hurricane Pass to form Veterans Reef.
Times Photo by Jim Damaske

 

Minus its wings, engines and part of its tail, the Lockheed P2V Neptune will be the first piece of a new artificial reef named Military Park about 12 miles west of Hurricane Pass.  "This reef has been three years in the making," said Jim Pochurek, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and chairman of Hurricane Pass Anglers Club. "It will not just be a place for fishing and diving, but someplace where veterans' families can go and put ashes or have memorial services."

Military Park is the second phase of the Veterans Reef project. The reef was completed in September, and the military artifacts will be located just to its north.  Working with Pinellas County, Pochurek plans to go to the military and other sources to find obsolete equipment such as tanks, vessels and artillery pieces to create Military Park.

The gray, rusting Navy bomber was donated to the county by Phil and Bud Brouchard, owners of the Florida Military Aviation Museum. The museum is moving to Wauchula from a site next to the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.  The aircraft is gutted, with anything environmentally hazardous removed. But gun barrels still poke out the nose. The belly of the plane has a bulge where radar was located. The propeller blades almost touch the ground.

If all goes as scheduled this week, a crane will load the vintage bomber onto a donated barge for its last trip. The airplane will be chained to the barge, its wheels fitted into holes cut into the deck. A county workboat will tow the barge out of Tampa Bay, under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and up the coast to the reef site.  On Saturday, the Hillsborough County Bomb Squad will place and detonate small, explosive charges on the barge. The explosions will be designed to perforate airtight chambers, but not damage the barge's main structure.  Serving as a permanent underwater platform, the 150-foot-long barge with its historic load is expected to sink upright to the bottom, 43 feet below.

Pochurek, of Palm Harbor, got the idea for Military Park during his campaign to create Veterans Reef. Many of the thousands of petition signatures he gathered in support of the project were those of veterans.  "I just thought it would be a good idea because we have so many veterans here," he said. "It's going to be a special place for them and their families."

Dr. Heyward Mathews, a marine biologist and an artificial reef advisor for the county, is helping oversee the project. He said the bomber's wings had to be removed to get the barge through bridges on its way to the reef site.  The wings provide lift, so they will not be reattached to the fuselage. Mathews said the aircraft would tear itself to pieces from the torque of the wings underwater. The wings and other removed parts eventually will be placed on the gulf bottom near the bomber.

He expects the aircraft to be as successful at attracting and holding fish as adjacent Veterans Reef, which is home now to gray snapper, small grouper and a jewfish.  "There was fish on Veterans Reef within weeks," Mathews said. "It's already covered with algae, and the whole reef population builds up from that. As time goes on, there'll be barnacles channeling plankton, then some coral and then sponges."

Veterans Reef cost $270,000, which came from the county's Boating Improvement Fund, and is the first in the county designed with five types of structure for a study of what attracts fish, he said.   The reef is composed of chunks of limestone; three steel barges with large holes; two trolling alleys built of 100 hollow pyramids 6 feet tall; large concrete pipes; and a pile of tetrahedrons. Different buoys will be placed on the structures to let anglers know what's on the bottom.

"We're going to be counting fish to determine the attraction of each type of structure," Mathews said. "We'll find out which gives us the highest angler attraction for future reefs and gives us information to work out a management plan."
 

THAR SHE BLOWS!

.July 2, 2000 - Forty pounds of TNT are put to good use Sunday afternoon in the Gulf of Mexico. The TNT was put onto the sides of this barge and after it detonated the Cold War-era Navy Neptune P2V bomber and 150-foot barge sank in 11 minutes and 10 seconds. The bomber was towed from Sand Key about 11.5 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. - Times Photo by:.Jill Sagers

Oct. 20, 2000 - The Plane is Gone!

From the St. Augustine Record

 

Plane sunk as a reef disappears

Published Friday, October 20, 2000
DUNEDIN (AP) -- A 20,000-pound Navy bomber sunk in the Gulf of Mexico months ago as an offshore reef is missing.

The Navy P-2V Neptune was stripped, then attached to a barge and sunk to the bottom of the Gulf on July 2. It came to rest 45 feet deep, about 11 miles west of Dunedin's Hurricane Pass.

This month, divers went down to check on it after Pinellas County officials heard rumors that the artificial reef was gone.

Divers found the barge, but not the plane. It apparently had broken loose from the barge -- perhaps battered by the current from Hurricane Gordon last month.

''You are looking at Mother Nature and her forces,'' said Norman Roche, spokesman for Pinellas County utilities. ''You can only assume the current worked on it and tore it away.''

The plane may have broken apart. Divers found a 4-foot-square piece of tail section at the site and the landing gear was still embedded in the barge.

The Florida Military Aviation Museum donated the aircraft to be part of an artificial reef called Military Park.

''We hoped it would last forever,'' said Roche.

Back to the plane at Lowry Park/Fairyland History