2011 was the "Centennial of Naval Aviation" with numerous events held throughout the year and across the country honoring the historical mark. A significant part of naval aviation history includes the T-28 Trojan which served the Navy for thirty years from 1954 - 1984.
The T-28's design and evolution was the direct result of the Navy's requirement for a versatile trainer to replace the SNJ. The year was 1946. Engineers at North American Aviation developed the first prototype XSN2J-1 by redesigning the SNJ's basic fuselage by converting the tail wheel with conventional tricycle gear, adding a tail hook for carrier landings and powering it with an 1100 rpm1830-78 Wright Cyclone radial engine outfitted with a three bladed Hamilton Standard prop. Although the Navy did not award the contract to NAA, it left an indelible impression for future generations to come. If not for the Navy, the T-28 might not have been conceived.
A year later, the USAF recognized the potential of NAA's prototype to develop as their own trainer. The aircraft was reconfigured with a smaller 800 hp radial, a two bladed prop and the tail hook was removed. The prototype, designated XBT-28 flew September 24, 1949 winning a successful production contract from the USAF along with a new designation, T-28A Trojan.
In 1952, once again under pressure for the need of a new trainer, the Navy looked at the T-28A but it fell short of meeting their specifications. NAA took the T-28A airframe and made a few modifications, adding the larger 1425hp R-1820-9 HD Wright Cyclone radial engine and put back the three bladed prop. Robert "Bob" Hoover test flew the first prototype T-28B from the Columbus, Ohio plant in April of 1953. This time around the Navy accepted NAA's T-28B.
The first factory delivered T-28B flew in 1954 showing off standard Navy trainer colors of overall yellow with black anti-glare markings on the cowling top and black markings on the side to cover up the exhaust flow. From 1954-55 the Navy accepted 489 T-28B's as primary trainers assigned to Naval Air Stations in Pensacola, Florida and Meridian, Mississippi. Six T-28B's were used as drone controllers at the Navy Missle Test Center at Pt. Magu, California under the designation T-28BD.
Between 1955 and 1957, the T-28 made another important evolution, this time into the T-28C model as an advanced Navy carrier qualification trainer. To address the additional stress on the fuselage for carrier landings, NAA added structural strength to the T-28B fuselage and wings, modified the tail structure and rudder to accommodate the tail hook again. The Navy took delivery of 299 new T-28C's during this time, and converted some existing T-28B's. Many young aviators gained their carrier landing qualifications flying T-28's onto the USS Antietam and the USS Lexington in the Gulf of Mexico.
There were four prominent Navy training squadrons identified by their respective tail codes; VT-2 (2G), VT-3 (2W), and VT-6 (2D) which operated from NAS whiting Field and VT-5 (2S) which operated from NAS Saufley Field. The Coast Guard's squadron was VT-27.
In late 1961, the color scheme of the Navy T-28's changed to overall white with bright orange markings on the nose, tail and wings to meet the Navy's new specs. The small nose wheel was now standard. Other color configurations were allowed depending on the aircraft's use so it was not uncommon to see other Navy T-28's in dark blue or plain battleship gray. In 1965 the Navy considered the YAT-28E, a turboprop design to replace the T-28's but it proved to be unsuccessful. Only three prototypes were built but never went into production.
Although its beginnings were doubtful, the T-28 proved to be a stalwart trainer serving the Navy for thirty years. By 1983 only one squadron remained at Corpus Christi, Texas and it was from there in 1984 the last T-28 trainer was flown to the 'boneyard' at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona joining many other T-28's already sitting idle in the desert. Sitting idle maybe but not for long. The Navy retirement of the T-28's opened up the civilian market who were eager and willing to buy old warbirds to lovingly restore and fly them with pride as "living history." The T-28's have continued their tour of duty beyond military retirement performing in airshows and other venues as a reminder of it's place in aviation history, and in particular, naval aviation history.