NAS Patuxent River June 23, 2014 - It’s not often you see history in the making, but that was the case May 9 when one of the Navy’s E-2C Hawkeyes retired from Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 120 and reported for duty at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
The E-2 is an important addition to the National Naval Aviation Museum’s collection, said Phil Goodspeed, National Naval Aviation Museum spokesperson. Other museums with E-2s on display include the Air Victory Museum in Lumberton, New Jersey; the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York; and the USS Midway Museum at San Diego, California.
“Pensacola is where all naval flight officers are trained. They get their wings here, so it’s fitting for us to have a platform that’s very NFO-intensive for the crew onboard,” Goodspeed said. “The E-2 is a very familiar platform, since it’s been flying and a very visible part of naval aviation for half a century. That makes it a platform that the public is very aware of since it’s so long serving. Plus, they are unique with the large radome and draw attention whenever you see them.”
Modern aircraft, such as the E-2C that recently arrived at Pensacola, are an easy addition to the museum’s display. Since the aircraft are in working condition when they land — and typically have been in active use by the fleet — there is little lag time before they go on display for visitors.
“In the case of the E-2, it’s just pretty much as long as it takes to demilitarize and defuel [the aircraft] — a very short period of time. I anticipate sometime this summer it will be available for people to see,” Goodspeed said. “Modern planes like the Hawkeye arrive in excellent condition. Squadrons make it a point of pride to make sure they look like show pieces when they get here.”
Patuxent River Naval Air Museum (PRNAM), a St. Mary’s County-run museum in Lexington Park, Maryland, has had an E-2B on static display since the early 1980s as part of a long-term loan arrangement with the Navy. That aircraft, originally an E-2A modified by the Navy to meet E-2B specifications, arrived from Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia — home of the VAW-120 Greyhawks, VAW-121 Bluetails, VAW-123 Screwtops, VAW-124 Bear Aces, VAW-125 Tigertails and VAW-126 Seahawks squadrons.
Dave Seeman, PRNAM volunteer and former engineer/experimental pilot for the E-2 program, said that the “tremendous design changes” made to the E-2 Hawkeye over the past 50 years make it a great candidate for displaying all the variants as a group. “I’d love to have an A, B, C and D [model] on display together,” Seeman said.
Though most of those changes have focused on the systems inside the plane, external alterations have included a shift from four-blade, turboprop engines to eight-blade propellers in 2004, an advancement that enabled easier and less-expensive repairs to individual propeller blades.
“The E-2C [also] had a better engine [than the E-2B], with the [T-56-A] 427s,” Seeman said, referring to the Rolls Royce Allison engine.
“Entities that want to display an aircraft must meet standards to receive government property, including the presence of a full-time staff member and the ability to care for the aircraft,” Goodspeed said. “The rest are on military bases, as static display gate guards at various military locations.”
Once aircraft are on display, the receiving entity is responsible for maintenance of the aircraft. PRNAM liaison and Aviation Machinist’s Mate Chief Petty Officer Charles Damian said volunteer crews focus on cleaning and painting the planes’ exterior. The static displays are only intended to showcase the exterior of the aircraft, although curious visitors may wish for a peek at the plane’s interior.
For many, the E-2C is more than just an educational reference for those who have never flown an E-2. It is also important for those who have worked on or in an E-2 Hawkeye, from design and test through fleet service and maintenance.
“Getting the bird to the museum is a big shot in the arm to both our active-duty and retired Hawkeye/Greyhound folks,” said Commodore, Airborne Command, Control and Logistics Wing Capt. Todd Watkins. “Making it happen during our recognition of 50 years in the fleet is pretty cool.”
As the Navy approaches the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th year of delivering airborne early warning, command and control support to aircraft carrier strike groups, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye nears its Initial Operational Capability in October. The E-2C Hawkeye is operational in 11 fleet squadrons stationed in Norfolk, Virginia; Pt. Mugu, California; and Atsugi, Japan, as well as a reserve squadron based in New Orleans, Louisiana.