This Date in Aviation History: September 22 - September 24
ttyymmnn last edited by
Photo: Tim Shaffer
September 24, 1949 – The first flight of the North American T-28 Trojan. The career of any military pilot begins with primary flight training carried out in a two-seat trainer, with one seat for the student and one for the instructor. Since before WWII, most American pilots flew the North American T-6 Texan, one of aviation history’s truly great airplanes. The Texan became the primary trainer for no less than 61 nations and ultimately served for 60 years. But even a great plane like the Texan would need to be replaced one day. When that time came, though, the US military didn’t look for just a trainer. They hoped to adopt an aircraft that would also work well in the close air support (CAS) and ground attack roles.
A US Navy T-28B Trojan of Training Squadron VT-2 over Florida in 1973 | Photo: US Navy
Based on the success of the T-6, the US Navy and Air Force once again turned to North American Aviation, and the aircraft that the storied company came up with proved to be every bit as effective as the one it was meant to replace. Like the Texan, the Trojan was a simple, rugged, straight-wing aircraft. It was powered by a Wright R-1820 Cyclone nine-cylinder supercharged radial engine, the same one that powered many of the great warplanes of WWII such as the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, and a host of other military aircraft and helicopters. The Cyclone provided a top speed of 343 mph with a climb rate of 4,000 feet per minute. The two pilots were housed under a frameless canopy that afforded excellent visibility for both instructor and student.
A pair of South Vietnamese Air Force T-28C Trojans over the Vietnamese coastline in 1962 | Photo: US Air Force
The T-28A first entered service with the US Air Force, and was quickly adopted by the US Navy and US Marine Corps in two variants: the T-28B, which was similar to the Air Force version but with a more powerful engine, and the T-28C, which was designed for carrier operations with a smaller propeller and added arrester hook. In the ground attack role, units of the South Vietnamese Air Force flew an armed variant of the Trojan known as the T-28D Nomad in the counterinsurgency (COIN) role, as well as reconnaissance, search and rescue, and forward air control. For dedicated ground attack missions, the AT-28D provided a sturdy, flexible platform with six underwing hardpoints that could carry bombs, rockets, or napalm for ground attack missions, and was also fitted with an ejection seat. Trojans also served as an armed escort for attacks by Douglas A-26 Invaders or attack helicopters.
T-28A warbird performing at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth | Photo: Tim Shaffer
While the Air Force phased the Trojan out of service by the 1960s, it continued to serve the Navy and Marines as a trainer well into the 1980s before being replaced by the turboprop-powered Beechcraft T-34 Mentor. And, like its predecessor, the Trojan was widely exported, serving a total of twenty-eight international customers, with nearly 2,000 produced from 1950-1957. The last T-28 was retired by the US Navy in 1984, but the aircraft served for another ten years with the Philippine Air Force, and privately-owned Trojans remain popular performers on the air show circuit.
Photo: US Navy
September 22, 2006 – The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is retired by the US Navy. Developed after the the US Navy’s rejection of the General Dynamics F-111B carrier-based interceptor, the F-14 became the Navy’s primary fighter, though it retained the engines, weapons system and variable geometry wing of its unsuccessful predecessor. The Tomcat entered service with the US Navy in 1974 as a replacement for the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, and served as the Navy’s principal air superiority fighter while also performing fleet defense and reconnaissance missions. With the introduction of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in 1999, the Tomcat was phased out, and its official retirement took place in 2006 after 32 years of service. Many Tomcats reside in museums, but retired operational F-14s were scrapped by the US government to prevent their parts being obtained by Iran, the sole export customer for the Tomcat before the Iranian Revolution toppled the Shah of Iran.
Photo: Imperial War Museum
September 23, 1938 – The first flight of the Supermarine Sea Otter, an amphibian aircraft developed for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force before WWII and the last biplane to be flown by either service. The Sea Otter was a development of the earlier Supermarine Walrus, with the principal difference being the placement of a single Bristol Mercury radial engine in the center of the upper wing in a puller configuration rather than between the wings as a pusher. The Sea Otter entered service in 1942 and carried out air-sea rescue missions and maritime reconnaissance, while postwar aircraft flew small numbers of passengers and cargo. Just under 300 were built before the end of the war halted production.
Doolittle sits in the rear cockpit of the NY-2. The hood that enclosed the cockpit is retracted. | Photo: Smithsonian
September 24, 1929 – Lieutenant James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle makes the first blind flight using only instruments. Flying a Consolidated NY-2 Husky with instruments that included a sensitive altimeter, a directional gyro developed by the Sperry company, and a radio range finder, Doolittle, along with safety officer Lt. Benjamin Kelsey in the front cockpit, took off from Mitchel Field in New York and flew a prescribed course which covered 20 miles and lasted 15 minutes. From takeoff to landing, Doolittle was underneath a hood in the rear cockpit and was flying completely blind. The flight proved the capabilities of the new instruments, and opened a new era of flight safety where pilots could rely on instruments rather than instinctive “seat of the pants” flying.
Photo: US Navy, UK Government
September 24, 1918 – US Navy Lt. David Ingalls becomes the first US Navy fighter ace. Ingalls enlisted in March 1917 as Naval Aviator No. 85 and was sent to Europe six months later attached to RAF No. 213 Squadron, where he flew a Sopwith Camel from a base in Dunkirk in northern France. With six credited victories by the end of the war, Ingalls was the first fighter ace in US Navy history and the Navy’s only ace of WWI. For his service, Ingalls received the US Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the British Distinguished Flying Cross, and the French Legion of Honour. Following the war, Ingalls became a director of Pan Am World Airways and assisted Charles Lindbergh with charting eastern air routes for Pan Am.
If you enjoyed today's installment of This Date in Aviation History, please let me know in the comments. To see more articles about aviation and aviation history, head over to Wingspan.
facw last edited by
@ttyymmnn I think I've posted this before, but here's the last Navy Tomcat to fly, on the site of the former Grumman Field on Long Island (though the Tomcat was built on the east end of the Island, rather than at Grumman Field, IIRC. Think the Greyhound was the last plane built at Grumman Field) :
ttyymmnn last edited by
You have, but it's always worth posting again. I grew up watching the Tomcats flying out of NAS Oceana. You could sit on the beach and listen to the sonic booms. I kind of miss the late Cold War. It was an arguably simpler time.
Demon Xanth last edited by
@ttyymmnn The Tomcat was always a fantastic looking plane. Especially when embellished.
facw last edited by
SmugAardvark last edited by
Tangentially related (sort of), Here's what I found on my runway inspection today.
Great big barn owl. Oddly enough, our ATC folks had received no reports of a bird strike all day. And humorously enough, things like this only happen when I'm driving the Explorer, and never one of the pickups. So my new friend got to ride inside with me.
For a size reference, I keep a 5 gallon bucket in the truck for FOD and other such things I pick up. Plopped the owl in the bucket, and his razor sharp talons were sticking out of the top.
nowhere last edited by
@ttyymmnn I know someone that owns a T-28 (former boss of a friend so I'm not willing to try and bum a ride unfortunately). Last time I talked to him he had only flown it four hours in the previous year. The fuel burn is terrifying. Heck, it's got a bigger engine than a Mustang! A mechanic friend of mine who gets to fly all sorts or planes owned by people he works for has some time in one too. Says it handles beautifully belying the tank-like looks.