Lockheed T-33 Restoration In Process

About two years ago, a crew from the 183d Fighter Wing, Illinois National Guard based at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, Springfield, Illinois, dismantled and transported to their base, a T-33 which had served as a teaching tool at Southern Illinois University’s School of Aviation at the airport outside Carbondale. The goal then, as now, is to restore it for public display adjacent to their perimeter fence outside the main gate. I visited the restoration area in early October 2012 and took the pictures that follow. By happy coincidence, I photographed the aircraft when it was “active duty” at SIU during the months when I managed a Lum’s Restaurant in the city. When support for AeroKnow Museum permits, I will scan those pictures and share them at this site or the AeroKnow website.

Pictures here are thumbnailed for faster loading. Click on any for the larger view and back to return to the array as you see it now. main entrance along the new airport road which was completed in 2012

Inside the restoration building.

Though this particular bird did not fly with this unit, T-33s served with the 170th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS), later designated 183rd Tactical Fighter Group (TFG) during most of its service with jets. It was gone by the time the unit was re-equipped with General Dynamics F-16As and two-seat Bs.

The curved structure along the wing/fuselage junction appears to be there to support the wing fairing. As we will see later, the wing was disassembled as one unit from its mounting underneath.

The fiberglass tip of the vertical stabilizer is being restored elsewhere. The airframe has been engineless for some time.

It seems a smart idea to keep removed parts close to the airframe.

It’s hard to appreciate how complex even a 1949 airplane is until you see it partially disassembled.

The left side of the fuselage appeared significantly more “weathered” than the right. My guess is that the left side faced the sun a lot more during its decades in Carbondale.

Note the sheet metal bracket (NOT standard equipment on flying 33s) used to PERMANENTLY keep the canopy closed.

By the grace of beneficent COINCIDENCE (I’m pretty sure) the sheet metal “canopy lock” reveals just enough of the factory-applied stencil to show it was an early block 5 machine.

Exposure to the sun and other hostile natural elements found outside a friendly, shielding shelter has nearly obliterated the ejection seat warning triangle which was originally red and white.

view into the rear fuselage which was routinely removed to allow engine maintenance

The abrasion of the metal in front of the intake is not typical, suggesting something might have been attached to the area at some point in its instructional airframe career in southern Illinois.

The canopy is badly crazed from exposure to the sun. When placed on display at the 183d memorial site, this once-clear element, like all of their kind displayed outdoors these days, will be painted black.

Are these louvers standard equipment? My expert escort during my visit, Master Sergeant Rick Shanner suggested they might have vented gasses from ammunition fired from twin .50 caliber machine guns fitted to many 33s. I think he’s right. Who will confirm?

vert stab close

The straps coming down right behind the tail keep that part of the airplane stable during restoration.

Many metal panels appear to have been added to the tail, perhaps replacing examples removed during instructional airframe days down south.


The SIU instructional airframe did not have its tip tanks when the 183d brought it to Springfield. A civilian T-33 owner accidentally landed wheels up, rendering the tank bottoms slightly crumpled and unfit for flight. He donated them to this project.


This tank shows the effect of a long slide down the runway.

This is the seldom-seen part of the tip tank that met the wing when attached for flight. It’s more complex than I had imagined, but it is simple compared to what it connected to on the wing.

The tanks are in a smaller room adjacent to the fuselage.


The wing was (obviously) out on the ramp when visited October 16. I was impressed by how thin it was top to bottom. It was thick compared to the higher-speed wing used on the later Lockheed F-94C Starfire, the ultimate development of the original F-80.


The attachment bracket for the right tip tank was exceedingly complex. Fuel passed to and from the tip tanks via the round pipes just behind the wing’s leading edge.


The red has faded completely from the insignia atop the left wing. The national marking appears to have been applied during an earlier restoration as evidenced by the white paint “creeping out from underneath the slightly faded insignia blue.

Unlike tip tanks on some other birds that flew with them, these examples could be jettisoned from the tips. The mechanical apparatus in the center contained a powerful spring that made it possible in an emergency.










AeroKnow Museum extends a salute, kudos and THANKS to Master Sergeant Rick Shanner for his hospitality during the visit, and to the men and women of the 183d Fighter Wing, Illinois National Guard for their dedication and service to the cause of freedom here in the United States of America and beyond.













1 Comment

  1. Kyle

    We have a flying condition T-33 and we need new wheels for it. Ours corroded. Do you have any in good condition? Please contact me on our website http://www.caf-memphis.org

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