Possibly the most sophisticated flying boat
ever created, the P6M first flew in 1955
. Designed to operate in small numbers and be refuled and rearmed from submarine
s, the P6M was in essence a seagoing B-52
. Powered by 4 Pratt & Whitney
s and capable of carrying up to 4,000 lbs
, the Navy
boasted about how well it could mine
the Black Sea
The P6M sported a watertight rotary bomb bay which could be flipped over in flight to expose whatever nasty surprises were nestled inside.
On December 7, 1955, one of the two XP6M-1 prototypes crashed when the horizontal stabilizer actuator ran to full travel. The aircraft broke apart, killing all 3 crew members. The second prototype would also crash, though the crew managed to escape safely.
Although the initial order was for 24 Sea Masters, delays caused by redesign work in response to the crashes and the associated increase in cost brought this number down to 18. By the time the first production YP6M-1 was delivered in 1959, that number had dwindled to 8. The growing expense of the project finally reduced that tally to 3 P6M-2s before the project was terminated in the fall of 1959.