T-33 Shooting Star

Oddly enough, there was not an immediate move by the USAAF/USAF to procure trainer versions of its early jet fighters, a lack of foresight that would result in a high loss rate during the early postwar years. However, even with no official requirement, Lockheed embarked on a private venture trainer program, using as a basis the P-80C version of the Shooting Star. First flown in March 1948, the TP-80C had a slightly stretched fuselage to accommodate a second seat, and would soon be coming off the Lockheed lines in numbers that would end up being greater than those of its single-seat counterpart.

Redesignated first as the TF-80C and then as the T-33, the two-seat Shooting Star would be phased out of its original role in the 1960s as T-37s and T-38s became available, but would persist in service as a utility aircraft for much longer, in particular serving as a hack and aggressor aircraft for interceptor units into the late 1980s.

T-33 Shooting Star

T-33 displayed suspended above the NMUSAF’s Cold War Gallery

T-33 photo

Finally retired in 1997 as the USAF’s last active Shooting Star, the NT-33 was used since the late 1950s as an in-flight simulator, being capable of mimicking the handling of a wide variety of aircraft types, including such later Lockheed types as the F-117 and F-22.

NT-33 Shooting Star

NT-33 Shooting Star

F-94 style nose for housing mission electronics

Magazine Articles and Photos:

Photos: “T-33s Snake Down the Line”   Aviation Week  June 8, 1953  p.44

“Wing Tank Contains Missile Guidance” Aviation Week November 19, 1956 p.63-64 3 photos

Robert Stanfield “Cornell’s T-33 Simulates Any Jet Plane” Aviation Week August 12, 1957 Includes photos showing systems in nose exposed.

Photo: “T-33 Zero Level Ejection System Tested” Aviation Week & Space Technology January 28, 1963 p.79

Photo: “Variable Stability T-33 Simulates Lifting Body” Aviation Week & Space Technology May 31, 1965 p.64  Fitted with drag surfaces on aft ends of wingtip tanks.

T-33A camo/marking drawings, including aircraft from the 10th TRW, 20th TFW, 48th TFW, 81st FBG, 81st TFW, 406th FIW   Scale Aircraft Modelling  August 1984

Michael O’Leary “FANG T-Bird Phase Out” Air Classics August 1988 p.40-45 3 photos

Rene J. Francillon “T-bird at fifty” Air Forces Monthly July 1998 p.28-35 14 photos

Newspaper Articles and Photos:

“12 Dead, 21 Injured In Ft. Dix Jet Crash” New York Times August 21, 1951 p.1+ 3 photos

“Don Gentile Killed in Jet Crash; U.S. Ace in Europe Shot down 19” New York Times January 29, 1951 p.1+


T-33 at Amazon:

Tiger Wings 1:48 ROCAF T-33 A T-bird Shooting Star 35 SQ – Decal Sheet

Academy 1/48 T-33 kit

Jay Miller  Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works: The Official History Includes several photos of the TP-80C prototype

Nicholas Williams  Aircraft of the United States’ Military Air Transport Service  Includes a page of photos of T-33s serving as support aircraft with MATS.

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