A venerable war bird in the yearly battle against wildfires will receive its swan song on Sunday, taking one final flight to the Crater Lake — Klamath Regional Airport to become a permanent static display at a memorial dedicated to air tanker crews who have lost their lives in service.
The aircraft model, Lockheed P2V Neptune, is a twin-engine prop aircraft that was first designed for maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare in the latter stages of World War II. It was modified for a variety of military services, including covert operations and even a carrier-launched nuclear bomber, but was retired from military service in 1984. Neptune aircraft have since found new life as fire-bombers, capable of carrying over 2,000 gallons of fire retardant per load.
The Neptune bomber designated as T-06 will be making its final flight Sunday afternoon, landing around 2 p.m. and taxied to the Tanker 61 memorial site on the northeast end of the Crater Lake — Klamath Regional Airport. There it will become a permanent display, added to an existing memorial site dedicated to air tanker crews who have died in the ongoing fight against catastrophic wildfires.
The memorial is named after Tanker 61, in recognition of the Klamath Falls-based air tanker crew of Chuck Sheridan and Leonard Martin, who crashed in Pollock Pines, Calif. in 1992 while battling the Cleveland Fire on the Eldorado National Forest. In recognition of the sacrifice of Sheridan, Martin, and many other flight crews who have given their lives to fight fires, an observation building was built as a memorial in 1994.
The Tanker 61 memorial was relocated in 2001 to the north-east end of the airport following construction of a new air tanker base. It includes an observation deck for the public to watch air tankers refuel and take off. Inside is memorabilia related to Tanker 61 and other crews dedicated to aerial firefighting.
The public is encouraged to attend the T-06 arrival at the Tanker 61 Memorial and Museum, located at the Klamath Falls Interagency Fire Center at the end of Summers Lane at the Crater Lake — Klamath Regional Airport fence.