How to fly a North American T-28 Trojan
by Michael Weber
Only a few T-28 Trojans fly in Europe. The more special is the possibility to fly such a machine. In this report, the reader should be taught how it is to control such a machine from a pilot's perspective.
The T-28 Trojan was used in the 1950s as a replacement for the well-known training aircraft North American T-6 Harvard. The cockpit layout corresponds to that of one of the first jets and helped the pilot to facilitate the transition to the jet cockpit. So the controls are very similar to the F-86 Jet. The T-28 also flew from aircraft carriers and has extremely good slow and short start characteristics. Before flying the Trojan it is helpful to make experiences on planes with more power (300-600HP) than usual. The Class Rating is available at some providers in the United States with a complete training catalogue as in the Air Force in the 1950s must be flown through. A big part is the theory of electrics and hydraulics. The operation of such large-volume engines requires a lot of understanding.
The Trojan has two places, with the pilot in front and the back serving as the instructor. As a pilot, you sit in the front seat and at the same time you are surprised by the outstanding all-round visibility. You are sitting very high and therefore have a good overview of the plane and looks very good on the slopes. This is certainly the advantage of this trycicle undercarriage aircraft opposite the T-6, which limits the view through the rear wheel design enormously.
The Trojan is not as well known as a Mustang, Spitfire or Corsair. This certainly has something to do with the story on the one hand, but probably also that there were no major Hollywood films that would have made this plane known.
Cockpit overview: On the left side are: trim wheels, fuel pump and engine controls. In the front panel the gear lever is integrated which is very jet-like. On the right side are starter buttons and avionics elements.
Engine Start: A very simple engine start. Fuel pump, 12 blades of prop spin with the starter button, a finger on the gasoline primer (3-4sec depending on the temperature), ignition on and run the engine with the primer and at the same time the mixture lever on rich. It takes a lot of coordination to keep the start sequence exactly and not cause an exhaust fire.
At hot temperatures, it is enormously important to cool the enormous radial engine with 30 cubic liters. For this the pilot opens the cowl flaps which increase the air flow. Forget about this can overheat individual components of the engine, which can not be detected by Cylinder Head Temperature displays. The engine demands a lot of Love, Tender and Care, as the saying goes. The numerous mechanical parts on the engine take their time to play synchronously with each other, so you move the throttle very gently and carefully.
At the start you give thrust to 47 inch injection pressure and the powerful engine accelerates the approximately 3 tons of metal quickly. Slipstream effects (swirling air around the fuselage), PFactor (down wash propeller blade causes more propulsion) and precision (gyro effect) are very pronounced at warbirds with high performance. It is very fast and already reached 70 kts and with 80kts one is in the air. It goes fast and the Trojan accelerates very fast. A very strong left arm is needed to move the gear lever upwards. The right hand flies the plane and the power is reduced to 36 inches and 2400 RPM. Adjusting the power takes time and is done very harmoniously and in the right order so as not to overload the engine. Before you know it already 180 kts are reached and in cruising pulls the Trojan with 200kts. This is extremely fun in low flying and gives the pilot a jet feeling which the Mustang e.g. not taught. The Trojan flies like a jet. very fast, very responsive, agile and good natured.
Rolls, loops and other aerobatic maneuvers are very easy to fly with the Trojan considering the speeds. Due to the large propeller and the performance, especially in slow flight or in a loop, make sure that the speed does not fall below the minimum control speed. Because the forces of the engine and propeller take over the control of the aircraft and the pilot inputs are no use because the aerodynamic forces are no longer sufficient. If you fly a go-around too slowly or if you push the throttle too fast, the aircraft can inevitably roll on your back. If you fly the Trojan fast enough and treat it with the necessary respect, you get the feeling of flying a jet with the sound of a real warbird. The climb performance should be even better than of a Mustang!
Since the Trojan flies very similar to a jet, it is important to plan the approach well before the landing. This certainly helps the attached to the fuselage extendable brake flap can be extended at all speeds. If the speed is reduced to 140kts, the flaps and landing gear can be extended. There is a lot of strength to spend on that again. The temperature and performance data of the engine must be taken into account to prevent shock cooling or underload the engine and thus prevent bearing damage. Carburetor icing is not uncommon specially in european weather. In such warbirds, unlike normal aircraft, the pilot is very much absorbed by the noise, engine management, and controlinputs. It's hard physical work if you may say so Because at the same time, this aircraft is a lot of fun and a joy of flying. For the audience on the ground the sound of a Trojan is unmistakable!
The landing approach is done with 100Kts. The Trojan does not flare very well that for a nice landing everything has to be right to set the old Warbird gently on the runway. After landing, it is again enormously important to fully open the cowl flaps to allow the engine the necessary cooling. At airshows, it can happen that the engine gets very hot when you wait for your time slot. Therefore it is necessary to plan the timing exactly at all times.
If the mixture lever is idle cut off, it will take a while until the engine stops because of its mass. After the shut down the oil accumulating in the lower cylinders is pumped back into the main tank with an oil pump. This so-called CleanKit is a retrofit for the Trojan to counteract the heavy smoke when starting the engine. Because otherwise the entire oil of the lower cylinder in the form of white smoke is ejected at the start. There is even the danger that the engine will be completely blocked due to the large amount of oil and connecting rods will be bent by the power of the starter. To prevent this, the Trojan also has a clutch on the starter, so that a spin of the propeller before starting as with other warbirds is not necessary.
Hopefully we see this heavy metal bird more often on airshows around europe!
In 2019 we managed to bring back T28 Fennec 51-3647 back to life and it will fly soon.
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