American postwar aircraft
Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star
Few airplanes in the history of aeronautics have been as successful as the Lockheed
Shooting Star. It was the first operational jet fighter in the United States when it went
into service in 1945. It emerged as victor in the world's first all-jet combat, and it won
the distinction of remaining in production for a full 15 years after the experimental
model was first flown.
The airplane had its origin in June 1943, when Lockheed was requested to design a
fighter around the De Havilland turbojet engine developed in England in response to
Germany's twin-engine jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262. The XP-80 was designed and
built in the amazing period of only 143 days--37 days less than the original schedule. It
was flown for the first time on January 8, 1944, and its performance was considered
The Army Air Force planned to build the Shooting Star in large numbers. However, only two
of the machines arrived in Italy before the end of the war in Europe, and these were never
used in operations. Despite the cessation of hostilities, production was continued on a
Lockheed built 917 F-80A's and B's, one of which was modified for an attempt on the world
speed record. on June 19, 1947, this plane set a speed mark of 623.8 miles per hour. Some
of these modifications were retained in the F-80C, 798 of which were produced in 1948 and
1949. At the same time, Lockheed designed a two-seat version, the F-94 Starfire
. This model was equipped with radar for
When war started in Korea, F-80's were sent to the battle area to help the South Koreans.
On November 10, 1950, Lieutenant Russell Brown, flying a Shooting Star, made history when
he destroyed a Russian MiG-15
fighter in the world's first decisive all-jet combat.
Final version of the plane was the T-33 trainer, which remained in continuous production
until August 1959. The T-33A was a very hot fighter to handle, compared to slower piston
engine aircraft, and an alarming number of airplanes were lost. The solution was a
redesigned T-33A two seat trainer. Engineers at Lockheed called their operation the
"Skunk Works", named after an imaginary factory in the "Li'l Abner"
In the early years some T-33s were blowing up just after take-off. The T-33 (F-80) had a
fuselage tank just aft of the cockpit, filled through a zeus fastened cover plate and tank
cap. Some of the pilots and/or ground crews were not diligent in checking the door or the
cap. The aircraft would take off and at about 120 knots, the airflow would create a vacuum
immediately over this cover. If it and the cap were not properly closed, the kerosene
would be sucked out of the tank.
Immediately behind the the filler tube were spring-loaded plenum chamber doors feeding
extra air to the engine. These didn't close until the aircraft reached about 200 knots.
The combustible mixture would ignite and cause the plan to explode. The problem was solved
by placing two fins underneath the cover which had to mesh with the fin on the cap. The
cover could not be locked if the cap wasn't secured. The pilots would always check the
cover and it's zeus fastener after hearing the horror story once.
|Initial climb rate
||Six .50 cal. machine guns; under wings up to 2,000 lb (900 kg)
bombs or ten .5 inch rockets