The Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star or “T-Bird” (introduced into service in 1948) was developed as a two-seat jet trainer from one of Americas earliest jet fighters, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star (introduced into service in 1945). The T-33 went on to become one of the most successful jet trainers for pilots transitioning to larger combat aircraft and was operated by the air arms of 41 countries. Over 6,500 T-33 aircraft were produced and many variants were developed for use as not only trainers but also for roles such as reconnaissance, communications, target towing, electronic warfare, ground attack and experimental test work.
After a very long career, by the late 1990’s all military operators had ceased using the T-33 with one exception, the Bolivian Air Force (the US ceased using the last variants in the 1980’s). Amazingly the Bolivians continue to operate the T-33 as an attack trainer (AT-33)! They operate a modernised Canadian built Canadair CT-133 Silver Star which has a Rolls Royce Nene turbojet engine as opposed to the Allison J33 or A-35 of the Lockheed model (Canada also still had some in use in the 2000’s but they are all now retired from service).
Today the easiest way to see a T-33 is in an aviation museum, but a number survive in private hands that are maintained in flying condition. In 2012 I have seen a T-33 fly at the Tacoma Freedom Fair, Joint Base Lewis McChord Air Expo and the Reno Air Races (the latter was used as a pace aircraft for the racers, the other shows featured the same T-33 “Ace Maker“). It is always great to see a significant part of aviation history take to the skies.