“Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”

Friday, February 13, 2015

T-28 Trojan

From 1973 through 1995,  I did a good bit of flying. Some of it was military, some of it was civilian. Some of it was a lot of fun, and some, not so much so.  After I left the Marine Corps in 1986, I kept my civilian pilots license until I failed the physical for the medical certificate it required.  By then, the CAP squadron I was flying with had lost their T-141 due to Air Force budget cuts, and I couldn't afford to pay the price of a rental aircraft, so it seemed like it was time to wrap that part of life up and put it on the shelf.

I flew a lot of different aircraft, from the UH-1 Huey to the little Piper Tomahawk along the way. I think my favorite aircraft was the T-28, which I flew in the mid 1970's in VT-6 out of NAS Whiting, down in Florida.


The T-28 was the closest thing you could find to a world war II radial engined fighter in those days. It was a great aircraft, and a joy to fly.  This particular Trojan is displayed in the Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola, Florida today.  I flew 8326 on a number of occasions during my time with VT-6, and it's strange to think that now most of the Trojans are gone, burned in crash crew training, and this old aircraft is a museum piece.


This is a friend of mine , John Cowan, who later went on to fly the CH-46 medium lift helicopter. When I took this picture, he and I had just come back from a surreptitious encounter over the pine forests, which we arranged to do a little unauthorized dog fighting.  Neither of us was Eric Hartman, but it was fun and had the added savour of risk since we'd have received a severe dressing down had anyone seen and reported us.  Ah, to be young again.


My youngest brother came down to Whiting while he was on leave.  He was a combat engineer officer. I showed him around the base and later on visited him when he was stationed at Camp Geiger . Overall, I preferred the Wing Wiper lifestyle to that of the ground guys.







This picture was taken just after I got back from a hop over the Gulf of Mexico.  The Florida pan handle is hot in summer, and the T-28 had some vent air but no air conditioning. When you pulled yourself out of the aircraft after a couple of hours in that, you were completely soaked in sweat. Encumbered with all the equipment for flying over water, sometimes it was difficult to get yourself out of the cockpit , especially after an aerobatic hop, and the Navy ground crew would have to help pull you out.  They were a good bunch, and it was there at VT-6 where I learned the ground crews really determined how strong a squadron was. The best pilots in the world are useless if the aircraft are not ready to fly.


VT-6 rarely flew on weekends.  That was a good time to find someone who wanted to go on a short cross country.  One of the favorites was Homestead Air Force Base down towards southern Florida. One guy in the front, one in the back, gear in the baggage compartment, and you were off for a great weekend, no transportation costs!


This was a flight where two of us went up.  I can tell because while I am checking the magneto switch is off, someone else is going around taking off the chains.  Pre-flights went faster when there were two of you, and sometimes, if you knew the guy you were flying with, it was fun.  I liked the solo hops the best though.


The T-28 soldiered on for a few years after they were replaced in U.S. Navy service by the newer, turboprop Mentor.  Lots of them were lost in Southeast Asia during the Viet Nam war, as the Air Force deployed them with host nations like South Vietnam and Cambodia. There's a great book about flying the T-28 in Laos by an Air Force pilot, it's called "My Secret War." Hard to find these days.




The French used them in Algeria against Islamic terrorists, and they were popular in the Third World because they were easy to fly and easy to maintain.  I think they are all long gone now, except for a few in museums and a very few in private hands that you may glimpse at air shows. I look at flying the T-28 the same way I look at being on the U.S.S. New Jersey off Lebanon in 1983.  I did something no one else will ever be able to do again, and my life was richer for it.  For the most part, if you want to see a T-28 now, you have to look in a book.



14 comments:

  1. Oh if only I could have - if only I would have. You certainly flew some neat equipment and to do so on Uncle Sam's dime is even better. My first exposure to aviation was as a ten year old in Caracas when we had a neighbor who every Sunday would fly by in his Bonanza at eye level with our house while buzzing his house lower on the hillside. I was so envious of his kid, the same age as me who got to fly with his dad. I remember reading a National Geographic article on the Jordanian royal family how then prince Abdulah at 12, and only a year older than me was already taking flying lessons. Mother did everything to squash the interest.1982 I got out of boarding school and I took a couple more years to get my bearings and get my head screwed on right. Liberal mindset being what it is in north east prep-schools no one really had any use for military, so guidance the counselor did his best to avoid the topic unless you truly were a West Point candidate and he could put another notch on his belt. I wish someone had pointed me in the direction of military aviation and the ancillary fields. My bad eyesight would have precluded me from flying in the military but if only I could have got my toe in the door. Instead I wound up paying for my flying through my IFR ticket hammering one nail at a time. Today I can't justify 150$ an hour for a C-172 and only get to fly as baggage when it is offered.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Navy paid for me to get my single engine land ticket while I was still in the USMCR at UNM. I really enjoyed flying, and when I was in the Marines I flew both civil and military aircraft. When I flew with the CAP here, the T-141, which was an upengined Cessna 172 was absolutely free of cost on official CAP missions and only fifteen dollars an hour wet if you just wanted to go up on your own. We had only three pilots so you never had to worry about getting the plane. Then the Air Force took the plane about the time I failed the physical and that was that, but I still have some great memories.

      Delete
  2. Have you ever considered flying ultralights so you wouldn't need to pass the physical?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm afraid of heights, strange as that may seem. It never bothered me in an aircraft but those ultralight things are a different kettle of fish.

      Delete
    2. Harry, you are not the only one. Last summer I made the mistake of taking up an offer to ride in a Powered Parachute and I did not care for it one bit. It was like sitting in a lawn chair at 1500 ft with your feet dangling off the side of a building. It just gave me the willies and a bad case of vertigo. Take off, cruise, top speed and landing was 33mph. It just felt like we were motionless. Don't really care for something quite that exposed. To me the LSA category makes a lot more sense though they should have rounded off the cut off weight to 1500 lbs to include a few of the older spam cans. The key to the LSA is you just let your medical lapse and so long as you haven't failed it you don't need a medical to fly. If you fail the med, then you have to do what ever you have to to get it back and then just let it lapse and you are good to go. AOPA and EAA are lobbying to do away with the 3rd class medical for private pilots and let you "self certify".

      Delete
    3. Just as well then that I don't want to fly in one of those little things, because I couldn't get my medical back. My flying days are past, but there's a time for everything. I'm not very adventurous at my age.

      Delete
  3. Harry - it's fascinating to learn more about your military service, the different places you went and the different things you experienced - i salute you, Sir!

    but i know someone who is going to love this post and that's Rob! he's going to love to see all of the pics - he's aircraft crazy and knows a lot about different aircraft.

    me, i just flew a Herc on autopilot on an R&R from Alert to Thule! it was on autopilot but i still felt some kind of crazy pilot! for the 20 mins that they let me fly.

    i love these posts about your background...and hope you do more of them! much love to you and yours always! your friend,
    kymber

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kymber, things are so dull here, that going through old photos is about all I have to keep me busy, and there's nothing interesting much to write about. I have a lot of good memories and the pictures are unpublished so I thought the aviation enthusiasts might enjoy them. I have some good photos of VT-5 at NAS Saufley, neither of which exist anymore, I should dig them out.

      I had two good friends who flew the C-130 in the Marine Corps. Technically, the USMC was not allowed to have C-130's in the transport configuration as that aggravated the Air Force, but they could take the tankers and get them ready to haul people or gear on the sly. I remember the III Marine Air Wing sent a C-130 from Okinawa to Korea and back about once a month to pick up people on liberty up there, and all the junk they bought to bring back.

      Delete
    2. Harry - most of us canadian forces and vets call the C-130's, Hercs, and they were the most god-awful things to fly in! the insides were empty, just a few sling seats and the bellies were full of pallets of food to be brought to Alert, machines (like caterpillars and tractors) and gas bellies. no toilet just a bucket behind a shower curtain. and did i mention no heat? we wore our full arctic gear on the flights up and back - normally a 19hr flight with a very short stop in Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit). when we did R&R it was about a 7-8hr flight from Alert to Thule.

      i am glad that you are digging through some old stuff as i am sure many people are as interested as i am in you putting up some posts about some of the stuff you have done. yes, dig out the photos of the VT-5, a pile of us won't know anything about it but will still enjoy to read about it, but a pile of the aviation enthusiasts will love it - like Rob!

      always much love my dear friend!

      Delete
  4. Harry, thanks for sharing! I blew my physical in the early '90's, and have missed flying ever since. When I was younger I would fly anything that had wings, then I got older, and less bold! The only rule I had with taking someone with me was...if you barf, you clean it up! It seemed to work! I'm sure we both have a lot of good memories of time spent at the controls.
    The weather guessers are saying 2 to 3 inches of snow coming to Mid-Tn over the week end!!! Might be coming your way. Their predictions are questionable at best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scooney, I knew you were a pilot, I think I saw a picture of you in front of a Cessna once, but you know how memory is when you get our age. I do miss flying but I couldn't afford it now anyway so I suppose it's just as well I'm too old.

      I am dreading the weather you mentioned. We are expecting to get really slammed here in the next five days. I had to cut a tree out of the trail up the mountain, blown down in all that wind yesterday. I am expecting more of it.

      Delete
  5. Fantastic. I do envy you that T-28 time. Courtesy Aircraft Sales actually has a number of them on their site now, and some at reasonable prices, but I can't handle the fuel burn and other operating costs.

    http://www.courtesyaircraft.com/all-inventory

    A big radial-engined bird that's fully aerobatic and has room for two dogs in the back seat--hard to beat.

    Want, want, want...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a sweet aircraft. I always had trouble with the plane trying to climb on the downwind leg of the pattern when I dropped the airbrake. That was just a quirk I had, seems like it didn't happen to others. I loved that aircraft. I always felt I should have been flying in 1942 instead of the mid seventies. The T-28 was the closest I could ever come to it.

      Delete
  6. Harry, thanks for sharing your story. memories are made to last a life time, and then some if we leave a record for our kids.

    ReplyDelete