The Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna attracts visitors with a great slogan: “War belongs in a museum”. By the same token, warbirds – restored and (obviously) demilitarized fighter jets – belong at air shows. They also feature in the Flying Bulls fleet.
A North American T-28B Trojan is now on show once again in Hangar-7, alongside several other such warbirds. This old lady – as pilots affectionately referred to aircraft of her generation – actually served no fewer than four different air forces between 1955 and 1980. Her story started with the US Navy. In 1954, legendary aerospace manufacturer North American Aviation – strongly represented in the Flying Bulls fleet in the shape of one B-25J Mitchell, one P-51D Mustang, and more recently a T-6D Harvard – commenced production of 489 Trojans of the T-28B Navy version (the difference between this variant and the T-28A was the more powerful Wright engine and the three-blade propeller). Between 1950 and 1957, a total of 1,948 Trojans of types A to D were produced. Although the low wing aircraft with the tandem cockpit for flight instructors and trainee pilots was mainly intended to serve as a training aircraft, it was ultimately used as a lightweight ground attack aircraft, with the D type deployed for the purposes of counterinsurgency (or COIN for short).
The Trojan forming part of the Flying Bulls fleet soon found itself drawn into the Vietnam War and was even handed over to the South Vietnamese Air Force in 1962. Two years later, when both South Vietnam and the United States intervened in the Lao Civil War, the aircraft was made available to the Kingdom of Laos, which had lost a T-28 a year earlier in an incident with far-reaching consequences when a lieutenant of the Royal Lao Air Force absconded to North Vietnam in his Trojan.
The aircraft was duly impounded, soon after which it was proudly presented as the very first fighter aircraft of the North Vietnamese Air Force. Logically speaking, this also made it the first aircraft of the Vietnam People's Air Force, which shot down a US Fairchild C-123.
‘Our’ Trojan officially remained the property of the Kingdom, but in 1969 it was left to the infamous Ravens, a group of forward air controllers who flew covert missions on behalf of the CIA in Laos, primarily to reconnoitre and mark targets for bombing raids; in this way, the Ravens played their part in making Laos the most bombed country in the world per capita. In the end, even two million tons of American bombs were not enough to stop the Vietcong supply lines from north to south. In 1975, the Vietnam War and the Lao Civil War both ended in defeat for the US and its allies.
The Flying Bulls Trojan remained in Southeast Asia for some time before changing colours again and transferring in 1976 to the Philippine Air Force, where it ended its service as a military aircraft. In 1980 the Trojan was dismantled and stored at the Villamor Air Base in Manila. It was subsequently bought by an American citizen and taken back to its country of manufacture for reassembly. The aircraft was exported to Canada in 1995 before in 2017 becoming the property of the Norwegian Flying Aces, who finally sold it on to the Flying Bulls. Sporting a smart new look, the old lady can now be seen on display in Hangar-7. That is, when she‘s not performing displays at airshows, proving that her flying days are far from over.