The Real Aircraft
The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, designed in 1943 and first flown on January 8, 1944, was not a terribly successful
fighter by anyone's standard. It did, however, achieve a number of "firsts" during its time in service; first USAF
aircraft type to exceed 500 mph in level flight, first jet to be manufactured in large quantities, first U.S. jet
type to be used in combat, etc. Probably its greatest claim to fame, however, came when a second seat was added to
a P-80C to convert it into a trainer, and one of the greatest aircraft of all time - the TP-80C, later renamed
T-33A - was born.
To accomdate an instructor aft of the pilot, Lockheed modified a P-80C fighter by reducing the size of the fuselage
fuel tank, inserting a 26.6" long plug in the fuselage forward of the wing leading edge and, to balance things, a
12" long plug in the fuselage aft of the wing trailing edge. To make up for the reduction in fuel capacity that
resulted from shrinking the fuselage fuel tank, wing tip tanks were added. To conserve weight, the built-in
armament of six 0.50" machineguns was reduced to two. The new trainer first flew on March 22, 1948. Initially
designated TP-80C, the aircraft was rechristened TF-80C on June 11, 1948, and finally T-33A on May 5, 1949.
American-built T-33s served in the air forces of more than twenty countries. Additional T-birds were built under
license in Japan and Canada.
Model and photos by Dave Askett.
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