Jet aircraft began replacing propeller-powered planes in the late 1940s. Differences in handling resulted in a high accident rate among pilots unused to the new aircraft. Lockheed developed this plane, the T-33 Shooting Star, to help pilots make the transition to jet aircraft.
The Lockheed T-Bird
Called the T-Bird, the T-33 Shooting Star is a slightly longer
version of America's first jet fighter plane, the F-80. The T-33
made its first flight in March 1948. Powered by Allison
J33-A-23 turbojet engines, the original T-Birds reached a
speed of 600 miles per hour.
60+ and Still Flying
Lockheed manufactured this
popular airplane until August
1959. Over 5,690 T-Birds rolled off
their assembly lines. The aircraft's
clean lines and solid performance
made it a favorite of pilots around
the world. Many remain in service
today, more than sixty years after
their first flight.
Shooting Star No. 51-8965
This airplane, No. 51-8965, entered service in March 1953 as
part of the 3520th Pilot Training Wing at Wichita Air Force
Base, Kansas. The following year, the plane served the 3555th
Combat Crew Training Wing at Perrin Air Force Base, Texas.
In the fall of 1955, the Air Force moved this T-Bird to the
3615th Flying Training Wing at Craig Air Force Base,
Early that November, pilot William Pettit Boyd had
a landing accident. Soon afterward, the plane was transferred
to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
The T-Bird Comes to Helena
No. 51-8965 remained in Oklahoma until early 1964, when
the Air Force assigned it museum status. Richard L. Kitchens
Post No. 41 acquired the plane on loan from the U.S. Air
Force in the mid-1960s.