Evaluation and Assessment of Significance
Archaeological Site: 8BY1817 (Aircraft Crash)

Task Order TY-16-0019 • Tyndall Air Force Base • Bay County, Florida
Gary Francis Quigg, M.A., R.P.A.
Final Report, April 24, 2017, page 3.


Site Specific Aviation Historical Context

P-80/F-80 Shooting Star

Figure 3. Lockheed P-80/F-80 Shooting Star.

The P-80/F-80 Shooting Star was the progenitor aircraft type for the T-33A and was the first operational jet aircraft accepted by the USAAF. Conceived by legendary aircraft designer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, the P-80 (later F-80) was manufactured between 1944 and 1950 as a fighter/bomber. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s Chief Research Engineer, Johnson was observing P-38 aircraft armament trials at Eglin Field, Florida in May 1943 when he was approached by USAAF officials requesting a proposal for a jet-propelled fighter. Johnson sketched his design for the new aircraft on his flight back to Lockheed corporate headquarters at Burbank California. The first prototype, designated the XP-80, first flew successfully on January 7, 1944 at Muroc Field, California. Eventually 1,732 P-80 aircraft were produced between 1944 and 1950. In June 1948 the USAF changed the designation for fighter aircraft from “P” (pursuit) to “F” (fighter). Thus, all P-80s became F-80s from that point forward. On November 8, 1950 an F-80 became the first jet fighter aircraft to shoot down another jet fighter aircraft when First Lieutenant Russell J. Brown downed a MIG-15 over Korea. F-80s were used extensively in Korea for both air to air and air to ground missions. The F-80 remained in the USAF arsenal until 1953 and in the United States Air National Guard (USANG) until 1958. Two USAAF Base Units, the 610th and 611th, flew P-80/F-80s from Eglin Main in the late 1940s. The United States Navy (USN) received 54 P-80/F-80 aircraft between 1945 and 1948 used for catapult launch tests and to train aviators in jet operations. The Navy designated these planes as TO-1, TV-1, and T2V-1 aircraft, most of which remained in service until 1955.4

No P-80/F-80 aircraft were assigned to Tyndall AFB during this aircraft’s period of operation with the USAF or USANG. However, both piloted P-80/F-80 aircraft and unpiloted QF-80 radio controlled drone aircraft operated from Eglin AFB (62 miles northwest of Tyndall AFB) between 1946 and 1963. P-80/F-80 aircraft from Eglin and other AFBs are documented to have operated from Tyndall on temporary assignment for gunnery practice, or in the course of navigational training flights, and instrument flight rules (IFR) proficiency missions.5

Figure 4. LockheedT-33A Shooting Star.

Sharing the same name as its progenitor, the P-80/F-80, the T-33A Shooting Star was the first American operational jet training aircraft. As USAF fighter pilots switched from propeller driven fighter aircraft such as the P-51 to the turbine powered P-80/F-80 the accident rate for the latter type increased alarmingly. With a clear need for a two-seat transitional trainer aircraft for jet pilots, in August 1947 the Air Force authorized the modification of a P-80C airframe that included inserting fuselage extensions fore and aft of the wing to accommodate a second seat. The 50.5 inch additional length of the fuselage was balanced by reducing fuel capacity and armament. This first trainer was designated the TP-80C and first flew in March 1948. The following June the aircraft’s designation number was switched to TF-80C and 128 of these were produced before the designation was again changed to T-33A in May 1949. Soon the T-33A became unofficially known as the T-Bird among pilots. One of the most successful training aircraft ever developed, 5,691 of these aircraft were produced in the United States, with an additional 656 manufactured in Canada and 210 made in Japan. By 1954, 95% of USAF jet pilots had been trained in the T-33A. The T-33A continued in production until 1959 and served in the air forces of at least thirty nations. The USAF used the T-33A as a trainer well into the 1980s, and still had one T-33A in active inventory in 1994. Many countries continue to use the T-33A in their military forces as both a trainer and an attack aircraft.6

Numerous T-33As operated from Tyndall AFB from 1952 to 1988. The first T-33As arrived on base in late 1952 and were assigned to the USAF Pilot Instructor School where student pilots were first introduced to jet aircraft. At that time, Tyndall’s role as an Air Training Command installation included training Ground Control Intercept (GCI) radar operators. T-33As were used both as “enemy” aircraft flying mock attack missions against the base and as “friendly” aircraft defending Tyndall, placing the GCI students in a position to separate friend from foe on radar and radio the speed, altitude, and heading of the “enemy” planes to the “friendly” aircraft. By 1955 the T-33A missions on Tyndall had expanded to include towing targets for the interceptor aircraft (F-86D and F-94A/B jets) on base for gunnery and rocket practice as well as search and rescue efforts for missing planes and watercraft. Hundreds of pilots earned their jet qualifications in Tyndall T-33As through the next three decades. In 1983, Tyndall T-33As in the 95th Fighter Interceptor Training Squadron (FITS) were assigned to the 325th Fighter Weapons Wing. The 95th FITS was the last active USAF T-33A squadron, flying these aircraft until the end of 1988. Of the twenty-one T-33A aircraft crashes documented on or near Tyndall AFB, all occurred between October of 1951 and January of 1985.7

Figure 5. Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star at USAF Armament Museum.

The collection of the USAF Armament Museum, located adjacent to Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, includes a T-33A on outdoor exhibition that flew with the 325th Fighter Weapons Wing at Tyndall AFB (Serial Number 53-5947). This aircraft served as a convenient, intact example to which the author could compare photographs of artifacts found on 8BY1817 for component identification. A later section of this report details on site artifact analysis.8

Archival research subsequent to the conclusion of field review has identified 8BY1817 as the crash site of Lockheed T-33A-1-LO Serial Number 49-9995A which occurred on September 14, 1955 and resulted in the deaths of two USAF lieutenants. The aircraft was accepted by the Air Force on April 12, 1950. At the time of the accident #49-9995A was assigned to the 3625th Combat Crew Training Wing (CCRTRAW) at Tyndall AFB. A more detailed account of the accident is found under the Archival Research heading later in the report.


4

David R. McLaren, Lockheed P-80/F-80 Shooting Star, (Atglen, PA: Shiffer Publishing, 1996), 5-10, 95-96, 113-115, 137, 151, 168; Larry Davis, P/F-80 Shooting Star in Action, (Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, 2008), 4. Please note the use of USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) in this paragraph rather than USAF (United States Air Force). This is because the USAF did not exist as a separate military branch until October 1947. Back.

5

“History of the Air Proving Ground Command 1 January 1953 to 30 June 1953,” Volume I, 14, (History Office, Eglin AFB); McLaren, Lockheed P-80/F-80 Shooting Star, 44-45; “3205th Drone Group,” Air Proving Ground Regulation 24-9, Eglin AF Base, FLA. 19 February 1952, (History Office, Eglin AFB); “3205th Drone Group,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3205th_Drone_Group (Accessed March 18, 2017); “3205th Drone Squadron,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3205th_Drone_Squadron (Accessed March 18, 2017); “P-80 & F-94 pre 1956,” attachment to email from Craig Fuller, (Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research), March 15, 2017; “Forgotten Jets: Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star,” http://www.millionmonkeytheater.com.html. Back.

6

Davis, P/F-80 Shooting Star, 40-45; McLaren, Lockheed P-80/F-80 Shooting Star, 17-23; Joe Baugher, “Lockheed TP-80C/TF-80C/T-33A,” http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_fighters/p80_10html (Accessed March 18, 2017); Robert F. Door, “Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star Variant Briefing,” Wings of Fame, Volume 11, 1998. Back.

7

“Two Seater Jets Used as Training Craft at Tyndall,” Panama City News Herald, May, 20, 1955, 2; “325th Fighter Wing,” Tyndall Air Force Base, http://www.tyndall.af.mil/AboutUs/FactSheets/Display/tabid/6654/Article/314996/325th-fighter-wing.aspx (Accessed March 19, 2017); “T-33 pre 1956,” attachment to email from Craig Fuller, (Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research), March 15, 2017; “Forgotten Jets: “Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star,” http://www.millionmonkeytheater.com.html. Back.

8

“T-33 T-Bird,” exhibition label at USAF Armament Museum, Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Back.
Abstract & Introduction Previous Investigations and Preliminary Findings Site Specific Aviation Historical Context Site Specific Aviation Historical Context 2 Artifact Analysis
Artifact Analysis 2 Archival Research NRHP Assessment of Eligibility & Recommendation Bibliography  

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