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Naval Reservists Bid Farewell to the T-2 Buckeye


By Journalist 2nd Class Michael Sheehan,

Training Wing 1 Public Affairs


NAS KEY WEST, Fla. (NNS) — After more than 40 years of service, the venerable T-2 Buckeye training aircraft is retiring from the Navy after one last hurrah in Key West, Fla.

Since the early 1960s, the T-2 had been the first jet flown by Navy and Marine Corps student pilots while earning their wings. But it will be leaving service soon after one last training detachment with Training Wing 1’s Reserve Squadron Augment Unit (SAU) 9.

The T-2 started as a single-engine trainer in the 1960s. However, it was quickly modified into a twin-engine jet, and has gone through two major modifications in its service life. The current version flown by student pilots is the T-2C, and has been around since the late 1970s. The Navy is gradually phasing out the T-2 in favor of the more advanced T-45 Goshawk.

The T-45 features digital readouts and higher-end avionics technology, while the T-2 relies upon gauges and dials for its flight instrumentation. The T-2 had been used as the student pilots’ transition from basic propeller-driven aircraft to jets.

“It’s hard for me to comprehend that this basic foundation of flight instruction will be gone,” said Cmdr. Hank Papa, an instructor pilot with SAU-9. Papa has more than 2,700 hours in a T-2. “Today’s students are more familiar with the technology in the T-45. They grew up with it. Plus, the cockpit of the T-45 is almost a mirror image of what they will see in an F/A-18 Hornet.”

Papa and other pilots from SAU-9 are conducting the final training detachment featuring the T-2 at Naval Air Station Key West. Once the current class of student aviators finishes its flight qualifications, the T-2’s service career training pilots will be over.

Some of the aircraft will continue in service, training naval flight officers and other non-pilot personnel. The rest of the aircraft will be flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The last T-2s will be flown there in September to reside alongside other legends of American aviation, including P-51 Mustangs and F4U Corsairs.


Photo by Shawn Levy