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Unreliable engine made the T-28 Trojan the least used training aircraft at Vance

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Katie Krumm
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Vance Air Force Base has a strong history of leading the pack when it comes to new updates and advancements for pilot training. 

Just as Vance now serves as the spearhead for Undergraduate Pilot Training 2.5, back in the 1950s Vance was the first pilot training base to complete the transition from the T-6 Texan to the T-28 Trojan.

With a top speed of 343 mph and a two-bladed propeller driven by an 800 horsepower Wright R-1300-1 radial engine, the Trojan was the next level of pilot training. 

The arrival and use of the T-28 was highly publicized and praised. Instructors and students alike raved over the aircraft, turning the T-6 into a fond memory. Tribute articles were written about the mighty T-6 Texan, saying farewell, thanking the aircraft for its service.

Meanwhile, the fighting Trojan was making headlines as the future of pilot training. The Airscoop, Vance’s official newspaper at the time, wrote many stories about the excitement revolving around these new trainers. 

In an article published on Jan 26, 1951, titled “Instructors Voice Their Approval of T-28s,” one instructor stated, “I think it is a much better trainer. It's easy to fly, has good visibility, is safe during landings and seems to have been designed with the pilot in mind." 

Another instructor claimed the aircraft, "…with its many safety devices and warning mechanisms, make it one of the safest aircraft I have ever flown."

This instructor would undoubtedly come to regret this statement, as one T-28 after another were permanently grounded because of safety issues. The T-28’s engine led to the downfall of the aircraft’s future at Vance, and all other pilot training bases. 

The issues began as a minor part failure in several of the trainers in June of 1951. A few of the aircraft were on limited flying status while the problem was investigated. However, after four engine freezes, the decision was made to temporarily ground all T-28s and a safety inspection ensued. 

According to an Airscoop article, the first incident occurred on a student’s solo flight where he was forced into a dead-stick landing due to engine failure. This incident marked the beginning of the end as over the next few days other T-28s were showing similar symptoms and two more were forced into dead-stick landings. 

Because of the grounding of all T-28s, and the lack of other training aircraft to compensate for the sudden halt, Vance returned to the T-6 Texan.

Although training resumed with the T-28 in 1952, its days were numbered. Phase-out of the T-28 began in December 1954, in expectation of the shift toward jet-aircraft training. This made the T-28 the least used of any trainer aircraft at Vance.

Next stop – the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star.