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LOCKHEED T-33A Shooting Star 18627

The T-33 was created as a trainer for P-80 pilots. It has served in the air forces of more than 30 countries for almost 40 years becoming one of the most widely used trainers in history. A Lockheed vice-president initially suggested this trainer, but the Air Force did not authorize work until the P-80 accident rate was seen to be too high.

The T-33 was developed by modifying the United States first operational jet fighter, the P-80 (later the F-80) Shooting Star -- one of the many successful designs produced by Kelly Johnson’s team at the Lockheed “Skunk Works.” Originally called the TP-80C, the T-33 made its first flight in March 1948 piloted by Tony LeVier. This plane was intended for pilots experienced with flying propeller driven aircraft. The design for the trainer was accomplished by lengthening the fuselage of the P-80, adding a second seat, and using a larger engine to increase the thrust from 4,000 to 5,200 lbs.

The first production plane was delivered to the Air Force in August 1948. The TP-80C designation was changed to T-33A in May 1949. The U.S. Navy had a version, designated the TV-2, that was the first trainer used for both carrier and land based operations. Interestingly, the trainer flew better than the original P-80. Later versions were powered by an Allison J33-A-35 single-shaft, turbojet engine, so that the trainer climbed faster, cruised better and was slightly faster than the fighter version.

A total of 5,691 T-33s were built by Lockheed between 1948 and 1959. In the 1950s, Canada satisfied their need for a trainer by initially using the Lockheed T-33A. In 1955, the RCAF began using a version built by Canadair under license from Lockheed. Canadair built 656 planes. Japan also had the need for a two place jet trainer and Kawasaki was licensed to build its own version eventually manufacturing 210 aircraft.

The T-33 in the EAA collection is serial number 51-8627 and its registration number is 18627. It is on loan to the EAA AirVenture Museum from the USAF.

This aircraft researched by volunteer George Arnold.

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