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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-80 Shooting Star (view # 2)
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.

Originally posted to Kossack Air Force on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 02:41 PM PDT.

Also republished by Shutterbugs, Baja Arizona Kossacks, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Two people in my UPT class got T-33s (13+ / 0-)

    This was in 1984/85 and they were still using the T-33s down at Tyndall to train the air weapons controllers.

    The controller trainees would practice vectoring the T-33s.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 02:58:27 PM PDT

    •  Yes, we had a squadron at Elmendorf (7+ / 0-)

      when I was there, 82-85. That was when I got to fly in one, from King Salmon to Elmendorf, a memorable experience.

      •  I just missed a T-Bird assignment to Iceland (10+ / 0-)

        in 1979. One of my friends suddenly got a T-Bird to Elmendorf in the fall of 1978 exactly one week after ATC said they wanted me at Reese in the Tweet. Pete had arrived at Plattsburgh about four months behind me and we shared the disappointment of having done well enough in UPT to get fighters but sent to tankers instead. Pete raised hell about it the whole three years he was at Plattsburgh and never stopped trying to escape SAC hell. His reward was the T-Bird. It was also his escape. He had the fortune of being fairly new to Elmendorf when the conversion to the F-15 came down and most of the pilot there were near the end of their F-4 rotation and due to leave. That opened the door to him converting to the F-15. Lucky bugger. Being the squeaky wheel and talented sometimes works out. Me? That one week gap meant ATC owned me and they wouldn't let me take the Iceland assignment no mattered how hard I begged or how bad they needed someone. It's all good. Wasn't then but it is now.

        Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

        by VTCC73 on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 04:42:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I probably knew Pete. (6+ / 0-)

          I came to Elmendorf in 1982 as part of the F-15 conversion cadre. During my 3 1/2 years there we did pick up one or two pilots from the T-Bird squadron downstairs.

        •  ATC was like that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Once they got your hooks in you they didn't easily let go.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 07:01:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In this case (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            it is more professional courtesy at AFMPC. One office does not plunder people from another unless they happen to have a higher priority requirement like the U-2 and SR-71. ATC had their hooks in me first in 1978 that the guy looking for T-33 drivers wouldn't contest. But when SAC wanted me back in 1984 not even selection for career trainer and AFIT could stop them. When the U-2 offered me an interview, something I'd been trying to line up for four years, everything was suddenly cool. I have been grateful every day since that I refused to snap at that worm. Don't get me wrong, I had several friends in the 99th and would have loved the mission and airplane but getting out was the best thing for my family and me.

            Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

            by VTCC73 on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 10:05:22 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  In the 70s and 80s, (8+ / 0-)

      almost every air base had a few T-33s on hand for proficiency training, back in the days when all rated pilots had to fly a certain amount of time every month to get their flight pay. I also remember that the ADC interceptor squadrons used them for intercept training and also for proficiency flights. When I flew with a Canadian F-104 pilot in NATO once, I marveled at what a great instrument check platform the Zipper must be, rock solid in any kind of air, a plane you could point to 303.5 degrees on the heading indicator, trim it up, take your hands off the stick, and watch it hold that heading until you ran out of gas ... and he said "that's why they make us take our instrument checks in the T-bird."

  •  Ah, the T-Bird—first stealth aircraft (10+ / 0-)

    Of course by the time I hired in, the vast majority of high performance aircraft were transponder equipped, so skin paint didn't matter. But every once in a while, one would lose a transponder, and we high altitude controllers had to turn up the primary to track them—generally no big deal, as airliners and bombers provide a pretty good return.

    But the T-Bird—that was a different story. They were famously and notoriously hard to see with primary radar. Nothing like an F-117 or F-22, but all of your controls better be peaked or you had your work cut out for you. If your radar was on CP or if you needed the MTI on—fuhgeddaboutit.

    Another fond rememberance was the last three or four days of every month when our T-Bird count went up by about 50%. We had a dozen military bases in our area (Jacksonville ARTCC), and all the desk flying officers wanting to retain their flight pay would roll out a T-Bird for the metaphorical bug smashing needed in their log book.

    It was a pain, because in those days of 500 knot air carriers, the 400 knot (optimistically) T-Bird was in the way a lot. We learned to live with Guppies, Slo-Tations, and even
     Herky Perks, but having a glut of T-Birds for three or four days at the end of every month got old.

    Good times.

    LRod—UID 238035
    ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired
    My ATC site
    My Norm's Tools site

    by exatc on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 04:15:29 PM PDT

  •  Thanks again, PW. (7+ / 0-)

    Nice to see the old birds. The Boeing company may still have two T-33's in the Seattle area. They used them in the past as photo/chase planes for those perfect company shots of each new bird delivered. I'll have to ask a friend of mine who works there if they're still around. Last I knew for sure (the late 90's), they were, and there were no plans to retire them: there was nothing as good to replace them with.

    Saw one myself in the early 90's, and it was a beautifully maintained bird.

    And yeah, I know tarantulas don't really act like that at all, so no snarking, this is the internet damnit!

    by itzadryheat on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 05:27:40 PM PDT

  •  I always just liked the look of it (8+ / 0-)

    Just the smooth, uncluttered and simple design is still attractive to me. It brings me back to days of the past, looking forward to the jet and rocket age future.

    "When does the greed stop, we ask the other side? That's the question and that's the issue." - Senator Ted Kennedy

    by Fordmandalay on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 05:27:44 PM PDT

  •  My brother was involved with various simulators (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, tarkangi, RiveroftheWest, hazey

    throughout much of of his USAF career, and this was 1st of elementary ones.  He quickly progressed into far more involved stuff, until he couldn't tell anyone anymore ...  then had rewarding 2nd career with Link, IBM, & etc. in cutting edge area he still couldn't talk about even after retiring.  He passed last year, apologetic to the end unable to let me know all the amazing shit he was a part of.  It was frustrating us both, but will see him someday for rest of story.  :-)

    Punxsutawney Phil has been unfriended.

    by jwinIL14 on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 06:42:13 PM PDT

  •  Totally Off Topic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But staring down the throat of those six fifty calibre machine guns, I feel a sudden pity for the pilots in the Battle of Britain who flew off to war armed with thirty calibre pea shooters.

    Great Diary, Thanks.

    o caminho d'ouro, uma pinga de mel: Parati

    by tarkangi on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 09:02:40 PM PDT

  •  We Had One At The Recreation Center (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, Simplify

    It wasn't meant to be a jungle gym, but we climbed all over it.  We slipped in the tiny service hatch on the left side of the fuselage (which was a hollow shell) and would slither out the air intakes. It still had that military smell of cosmoline, solvents, and dry rotting rubber.

    Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

    by bernardpliers on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 10:45:10 PM PDT

  •  My dad flew T-Birds in the 50s (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, VTCC73, Major Kong

    as an instructor pilot at Greenville AFB in the early 50s.  In WWII, he flew the P-38L in the MTO and after Greenville, flew armed F-86s in Hokkaido Japan, then back to T-33 training. After a stint running a maintenance squadron, he finished his career flying C-130s in Europe and Viet Nam. Major Norman W. Crawford USAF.  B. 1920 D. 2006. He was my troop and I took care of him in his final years of disability. Enjoyed the diary and will try to visit that museum.

    ....the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. FDR 1933

    by Tailspinterry on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 01:32:23 PM PDT

  •  Air-Minded Article Index (0+ / 0-)

    I don't want to post link spam to my diary, so I'll put it down here in the comments instead: at the suggestion of colleagues at the museum I added an index of Air-Minded posts to my personal blog, where all my posts reside. There are many more aviation-related posts there than there are here at dKos, if any of you are interested in reading them.

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