AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015 - 60

Once aboard, a
general aviation
pilot instantly begins
to feel like a
fighter pilot.

SHOOTING STAR DESIGNER Clarence "Kelly" Johnson suggested
that a jet trainer could easily be made available by stretching the
Shooting Star by 41 inches to accommodate a second cockpit in
tandem with the first. Both would be covered by a distinctive, single-piece, seven-foot-long clamshell canopy. The result was the
Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star, a dedicated trainer that first flew
on March 22, 1948, and became affectionately known as the T-Bird.
Although only 1,718 of the fighters were built, Lockheed produced 5,691 T-Birds between 1948 and 1959. Production quality
was reportedly so high that only one out of four (selected at random) was flight-tested before delivery. Canadair and Kawasaki of
Japan built an additional 866 T-Birds under license. The aircraft
featured here, N33HW, was built in 1953 by Canadair. Technically,
it is a CT133 Mk3 Silver Star but is otherwise identical to the T-33A.
Beyond my enthusiasm to fly almost anything with wings was
an additional motivation-to compare what it was like flying early
jets with flying modern, turbofan airplanes. As you might expect, the
T-Bird's instrumentation and systems are old, little improved from
World War II aircraft. The most significant difference between the
T-33 and modern jet aircraft, however, is its engine.
When air enters the inlet of a modern engine, it flows through
the engine's core and follows a path more or less parallel to the
engine's longitudinal axis, which is why such an arrangement is
called an axial-flow engine.
The T-Bird's Allison J33-A-35 turbojet engine is different, a
direct descendant of the original turbojet engine invented by Sir
Frank Whittle. It incorporates a single-stage compressor that centrifugally whirls and flings the air outward, much like the centrifugal
compressor of a turbocharger, explaining why such a design is called
a centrifugal-flow engine. The compressed induction air then enters
a ring of diffusers and is channeled into nine combustion chambers.
(The engine in the Canadian-built T-33 is the Rolls-Royce Nene
Mk.10, which is essentially the same as the Allison.)
The centrifugal-flow engine is remarkably inefficient; 75
percent of its power is needed just to drive the compressor and
only 25 percent is translated into thrust. Interestingly, the Soviet
Union reverse-engineered (copied) the T-33's engine and used it
to power the MiG-15.
There is only one place to go if you want to fly a T-Bird, and
that is the Jet Warbird Training Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico,
60 | AOPA PILOT January 2015

which is owned and operated by the affable Larry Salganek (see
"P&E: Flying the MiG-15," June 2014 AOPA Pilot). In addition to
the T-33, his school offers training in an Aero L-29, an Aero L-39,
a V-tailed Fouga CM.170 Magister, and a MiG-15.
Salganek says that young corporate pilots who see the T-Bird on
the ramp usually don't recognize it. Instead of asking what it is, they
more often ask about its avionics. And with the canopy raised and a
ladder tacitly inviting them to climb up and take a look, they seldom
do. Once aboard, though, a general aviation pilot instantly begins to
feel like a fighter pilot. The Walter Mitty experience begins.
You look forward through a three-panel windshield. The center panel is bulletproof to protect against a bird strike. The canopy
is operated electrically but can be cranked by hand when power
is unavailable. It may not be opened in flight but can be jettisoned
in an emergency. (The rocket-powered ejection seats in this aircraft thankfully are not operational.)
Unlike modern turbine aircraft, the fuel totalizer indicates
quantity in gallons instead of pounds. This helps a T-Bird pilot to
easily estimate remaining range, because at altitude the airplane
gets about 1 mile per gallon.
You start the engine using the aircraft battery or a groundpower unit. Be careful about starting with a tailwind blowing up
your tailpipe, however. Unburned fuel in the exhaust can result in
spectacular torching.
Differential braking is needed to turn the nosewheel while taxiing. This is done in most airplanes without nosewheel steering by
applying light pedal pressure to one brake or the other. But in a
T-Bird, you need to tap the brake hard enough to make the nose of
the airplane dip slightly. But don't be too aggressive-if you cause
the nosewheel to cock to its 45-degree maximum, the remainder of your taxi will be embarrassingly circular and might require
calling for someone to straighten the nosewheel from outside the
airplane. There are no magnetos to check. Just lower the split flaps
(like those on a Cessna 310) to
32 degrees, run up the engine
to 90-percent rpm to check oil THE FORWARD INSTRUMENT
pressure, and you're ready.
panel is little improved from
Do not advance the throt- World War II aircraft, but
instructor Larry Salganek
tle too rapidly at the beginning (center right) cannot see it
of takeoff. This can destroy the from the rear seat.



AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015 - 4
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - January 2015 - Cover4
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