USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- A venerable T-2C Buckeye has come full circle, in a way.
The T-2 landed recently aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), also known as HST, as part of a training squadron performing carrier qualifications. This particular T-2, side no. 948, is the same plane once used by HST's Commanding Officer, Capt. Michael Groothousen, when he made his first carrier landing as a student pilot March 9, 1976.
He totaled 336 flight hours in the T-2. His plane and others have stayed around and trained many student pilots throughout the decades.
The T-2s came aboard HST along with T-45 Goshawks for carrier qualifications (CQs), the first chance naval aviators get to operate with an aircraft carrier. Their first trap is quickly followed by their first catapult shot. The student pilots who came out this time will be the last ones to qualify in a T-2. All intermediate and advanced pilot and naval flight officer training will soon be conducted in the T-45.
Groothousen flew his plane on to USS Forrestal (CV 59) for his first landing aboard a carrier. "Just getting the tires on the deck is a huge sigh of relief," said Groothousen about making that first trap.
There is another connection between the two ships. The two anchors used by HST originally came from Forrestal.
The T-2 is now used by two squadrons: Training Squadron (VT) 9, based out of Meridian, Miss., and VT-86 in Pensacola, Fla. The two-seat aircraft has helped turn thousands of student pilots into naval aviators over the years, but the plane's days are numbered. This CQ period with HST is the last time T-2 Buckeyes were used to operate with a carrier. The last T-2 is scheduled to go out of service by July 2004.
The T-2C model entered naval service in 1968. It had straight wings (as opposed to swept back) which took their appearance from the FJ-1 Fury, one of the Navy's earliest jet fighters. The D-model, used by the Venezuelan air force, has six "hard points" under the wings to carry gun pods, bombs or rockets. Greece is the only other country to have used the T-2.
The most unusual aspect about the T-2 is that it requires a special "bridle" instead of a launch bar to be catapulted from the flight deck. The bridle is normally flung over the bow upon launch and can be retrieved by a Sailor (if it happens to have been caught in a net before going to the bottom of the ocean).
"It's a neat airplane," said Cmdr. Mike Horsefield, executive officer for VT-9. "It's got a solid track record ... a proven airplane. I like to be able to fly it 'departed from controlled flight.'"
By "departed from controlled flight," the pilot would deliberately send the aircraft out of control, most likely into a flat spin. The design of the plane makes it easy to regain control. According to Horsefield, he would show student-pilots just how to regain control ... he'd tell them to do nothing. All they have to do is let go of the joystick and the plane will return itself to normal flight.
Horsefield said he was going to miss the T-2s. "It's like an old pair of shoes. You don't want to get rid of them just because they're old. They feel very comfortable."
Venezuelan air force Lt. Col. Francesco Orlando, who was with VT-9 as part of the Personnel Exchange Program, flew the T-2 for his country and was aboard the day of the plane's last visit to HST. "It's a great trainer. Easy to fly, very forgiving."
"It really surprised me that an airframe we were slamming into the deck 27 years ago still had life left in it," said Groothousen after seeing his old plane on the flight deck of what is now his ship. "I'm a little sad. It was a great airplane but we needed to move on with technology."
After Groothousen's plane left his ship's flight deck for the last time, the ship's motto was temporarily changed, if only for a day to "The Buckeye stops here."
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.