USAF Training Aircraft
USAF Training Aircraft
This is the Beech T-34A "Mentor" (Ted Tweet photo). It was designated as Model 45, derived from the famous Beechcraft Bonanza. Trainees were introduced to the basics of flight in this aircraft, soloing after 9-10 hours of dual time. For some in the class, this was the first aiplane they had ever flown in. We received about 30 hours of instruction in the T-34. It weighed about as much as a Chevrolet (2900 #) and was capable of 190 miles per hour. It was a very stable and forgiving aircraft (fortunately for us). Many of these birds are still in service with aero clubs. The U.S. Navy also used a turbo-prop version for its' trainer.
Pictured on the right is the Cessna T-37A, (Ted Tweet photo). We flew the early variant T-37A. This was Primary Flight Training for the next six months. We were among the first classes to use jets for Primary. The T-37 was nicknamed the "Tweety Bird", because of the high-pitched noise of its two engines. It was a twin-engined aircraft capable of 400 miles per hour. It was designed by Cessna specifically as a military training aircraft. No civilian counterpart was ever produced. It was introduced into service in the late 1950's. Pilots who flew this aircraft were particularly impressed with its' spin capabilities. In fact, the prototype crashed during spin trials. We flew the T-37 approximately 110 hours during Primary. Starting in 1959, more than 78,000 Air Force pilots have flown the T-37. It began its extraordinary flight into history in 1956 when it became an active aircraft in the inventory. It became operational in 1959. This true workhorse flew it's last training mission June 17, 2009. 50 years of being a great trainer and a fun aircraft to fly.
Well, not all of our class went jet at this time. During the USAF phase in to the "all jet" era, the venerable North American T-28A "Trojan" was still being used at some primary bases. Designed to replace the famous T-6, it was the last of the non-jet primary trainers.(Ted Tweet photo)
It was noisy, powered by an 800 hp engine, but capable of 340 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 37,000 feet. Later, 200 T-28D's modified with 1400 hp engines, saw servive in the Vietnam War.
Many of all variants are restored and in private owners hands today. Some later versions have a three bladed prop. T-28's can be seen flying at the annual Reno Air Races, Osh Kosh, and numerous other events.
Upon completion of Primary, we went to Basic Flight Training where we progressed to the Lockheed T-33A "Shooting Star". We just called it the "T-Bird" (61-Delta Yearbook photo)
Its' cockpit was our home for the final six months of training. The innovative Clarence "Kelly" Johnson designed this aircraft and Lockheed built it by the thousands.
To accommodate a second pilot, it was a slightly lengthened (3 feet) version of the F-80, the first operational USAF jet fighter. (PS; they also took the two .50-cal machine guns out!.) This aircraft was capable of 580 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 45,000 feet. It weighed in at 15,000 pounds and was powered by an Allison J-33 engine producing 5,400 pounds of thrust. For comparison, the F-86A weighed 13,800 pounds with 5,200 pounds of thrust
We got a total of 115 hours logged in the T-33. Although it has long since been removed from the USAF inventory, many are still in use by other air forces around the world. There is even one highly polished T-33 (Gil Unangst photo) on display at the Smithsonian Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center.
In fact, all four of these trainers are now there!
Upon successful completion of this training, we were awarded the aeronautical rating of, and the Silver Wings of a United States Air Force Pilot. The aviation cadet graduates were also commissioned as Second Lieutenants.