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What was that white Navy plane landing at ILM?

Gareth McGrath
U.S. Navy photo

U.S. Navy photo

Q. I see a white U.S. Navy plane attempting to land at ILM. What plane was it, it did not look like a fighter. It looked similar to the search planes being used to find the missing plane.

A. It’s not unusual to see military aircraft at Wilmington International Aircraft. Sometimes they are participating in training exercises there.

The plane is a Navy P-3 Orion anti-submarine warfare plane. Most of the Navy’s East Coast P-3 squadrons are based in Jacksonville, Fla.

Based on the Lockheed Electra airliner, the four-engine prop plane has very long endurance – which also makes it good as a search-and-rescue asset, which is how it’s being used in the search for the missing Malaysian airliner.

Although still effective, the 1960s-era plane is getting a bit long in the tooth and is progressively being replaced by the P-8 Poseidon, which is a sub-hunter aircraft based on the Boeing 737 airframe.

Along with the U.S., P-3s also are being used by Australia, New Zealand and Japan to search for the missing plane.


Where is the best place for “plane spotting” at ILM? Is there a park or road where locals watch landings and takeoffs?

What are the big Xs at the end of the runway at ILM airport?


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