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Fifty-three years ago this week, the U.S. Navy’s first production Martin P6M-2 SeaMaster flyingboat took-off from Chesapeake Bay on its maiden flight.  Martin chief test pilot George A. Rodney was at the controls of the 4-man, swept-wing naval bomber as it took to the skies on Tuesday, 17 February 1959.  Featuring a fuselage length of 134 feet, wingspan of 102 feet, and a wing leading edge sweep of 40 degrees, the P6M-2 had a GTOW of about 175,000 lbs.  Armament included an ordnance load of 30,000 lbs and twin 20 mm, tail-mounted cannon.  Power was provided by a quartet of Pratt and Whitney J75-P-2 turbojets; each delivering a maximum sea level thrust of 17,500 lbs.  The SeaMaster’s demonstrated top speed at sea level was in excess of Mach 0.90.  This on-the-deck performance is comparable to that of the USAF/Rockwell B-1B Lancer and USAF/Northrup B-2 Spirit and exceeds that of the USAF/Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.  P6M pilots reported that the aircraft handled well below 5,000 feet when flying at Mach numbers between 0.95 and 0.99.  While designed for low altitude bombing and mine-laying, the aircraft was flown as high as 52,000 feet.  As a result, the Navy even considered the SeaMaster as a nuclear weapons platform.  Despite the type’s impressive performance and capabilities, the SeaMaster Program was cancelled in August of 1959.  Budgetary issues and the emerging Fleet Ballistic Missile System (Polaris-Poseidon-Trident) led to this decision.  Loss of the P6M SeaMaster Program was devastating to the Glenn L. Martin Company and resulted in this notable aerospace business never again producing another aircraft.

Posted in Aerospace, History

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