The more time I spend at the Pima Air & Space Museum, the more I appreciate the thinking behind what they put on display there. Most air museums (and many municipal parks) will have an old Lockheed Shooting Star on display. PASM goes deep with examples of every Shooting Star/T-Bird variant, from the single-seat fighter to the two-seat trainer used to teach generations of pilots for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy, including the carrier-capable Seastar.
If you know what you're looking for, you can find a T-33 that played a Soviet fighter in a John Wayne movie, along with some subtle surprises few visitors notice, but which true aficionados savor: an Air Force T-Bird carrying a travel pod, the tail hook on the Navy Seastar, a belly-mounted speed brake in the deployed position, even a trainer with a sting in the form of nose-mounted guns.
Below the fold, photos of PASM's full gamut of Shooting Stars, from the original fighter to the Navy's carrier-capable trainer (all images, by the way, link to larger photos on Flickr):
P-80B Shooting Star (photo: Paul Woodford)
The P-80 (later the F-80) was developed during WWII and became operational in 1945. This one is a 1948 model. I wrote an earlier air-minded diary about the P-80, which you can read here.
P-80B armament (photo: Paul Woodford)
The P-80 fighter was armed with six 0.50-inch M3 Browning machine guns and underwing hard points for bombs or rocket pods.
T-33A trainer in USAF trim (photo: Paul Woodford)
The T-33 version of the Shooting Star had a longer fuselage to accommodate a two-seat tandem cockpit. It was a primary jet trainer during the 1950s and 60s; with the advent of newer trainers it was relegated to support roles and flew on into the early 1980s. The primary user was the US Air Force.
What's interesting about this aircraft, at least to a detail-oriented geek like me, is that it's carrying a small travel pod underneath the fuselage. Look close and you'll see it.
T-33A Shooting Star (photo: Eric van Gilder)
This T-33A, on display inside one of PASM's hangars, is painted to represent the fictional "Yak-19" Soviet fighter flown in the 1957 John Wayne/Janet Leigh movie Jet Pilot. Other than the paint job, it's a stock Air Force T-Bird.
T-33A cockpit (photo: Paul Woodford)
As I mentioned in my earlier diary on the P-80, the primary instrument flight reference in aircraft cockpits of this era was the turn & slip indicator. If you're looking for an attitude indicator, don't bother ... there isn't one!
TV-2 Shooting Star, USMC (photo: Paul Woodford)
This variant, though identical to the T-33, is the TV-2 Shooting Star, and was flown by the Navy and Marine Corps. It wasn't carrier compatible and its role as a jet trainer, at least for the Navy, was short-lived.
This display aircraft wears USMC trim. Two details that catch my eye are the speed brake, visible in the partially extended position just ahead of the main landing gear doors, and the gun ports in the nose. The TV-2s were armed (as were the AT-33 variants used by the Air Force) with two 0.50-inch M3 Browning machine guns and the same underwing hard points used by the P-80 fighter. Many of the T-33s we sold overseas were likewise armed and could be used for combat as well as training.
T-1A Seastar, USN (photo: Paul Woodford)
This is the last version of the Shooting Star, built for the Navy and designated the T2V (later the T-1A) Seastar. The Seastar was a stopgap Navy trainer meant to address the shortcomings of the earlier TV-2: it had a more powerful engine, a raised rear seat for the instructor pilot, extensive modifications to the tail section, and of course a tail hook (visible in the photo) and extendable nose wheel strut for carrier operations. Only about 150 Seastars were built. They entered Navy service in 1957 and were retired in the 1970s, replaced by a Navy-specific trainer, the T-2 Buckeye.
The American military's T-Birds are all long retired, but many countries around the world still fly them. They may not be glamorous or fast, but they played an important role in the early jet age, and I write this diary in tribute.