April 29, 1963: Category II Performance Tests Completed on a T-37C Trainer

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

Category II Performance Tests were completed on a T-37C trainer equipped with two 65-gallon tip tanks and two bomb racks. The tests demonstrated that the Tweety Bird would be capable of providing training for ground support warfare under the Military Aid Program, and serving as a limited war ground support vehicle. This eventually led to the successful A-37 Dragonfly counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft program.

The Cessna T-37 Tweet (designated Model 318 by Cessna) is a small, economical twin-engined jet trainer type which flew for decades as a primary trainer for the United States Air Force (USAF) and in the air forces of several other nations. The T-37C was also capable of light attack. The A-37 Dragonfly variant served in the light attack role during the Vietnam War and continues to serve in the air forces of several South American nations.  The T-37 served as the U.S. Air Force's primary pilot training vehicle for over 52 years after its first flight. After completing Primary in the Tweet, students moved on to other advanced Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Allied trainers. With a total of 1,269 Cessna T-37s built, the USAF retired its last T-37 in 2009.

The Cessna Aircraft Company of Wichita, Kansas, provided the United States Army during World War II and the Korean War with utility, light transport, and observation aircraft, particularly the "O-1 Bird Dog" series.  In the spring of 1952, the USAF issued a request for proposals for a "Trainer Experimental (TX)" program, specifying a lightweight, two-seat basic trainer for introducing USAF cadets to jet aircraft.  Cessna responded to the TX request with a twin-jet design with side-by-side seating. The USAF liked the Cessna design, which was given the company designation "Model 318", and the side-by-side seating since it let the student and instructor interact more closely than with tandem seating. In the spring of 1954, the USAF awarded Cessna a contract for three prototypes of the Model 318, and a contract for a single static test aircraft. The Air Force designated the type as XT-37.  The XT-37 had a low, straight wing, with the engines buried in the wing roots, a clamshell-type canopy hinged to open vertically to the rear, a control layout similar to that of contemporary operational USAF aircraft, ejection seats, and tricycle landing gear with a wide track of 14 feet. It first flew on 12 October 1954.  The wide track and a steerable nosewheel made the aircraft easy to handle on the ground, and the short landing gear avoided the need for access ladders and service stands. The aircraft was designed to be simple to maintain, with more than 100 access panels and doors. An experienced ground crew could change an engine in about half an hour.  The XT-37 was aerodynamically clean, so much so that a speedbrake was fitted behind the nosewheel doors to help increase drag for landing and for use in other phases of flight. Since the short landing gear placed the engine air intakes close to the ground, screens pivoted over the intakes from underneath when the landing gear was extended, to prevent foreign object damage.

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