I’m glad to see that the Cessna T-37A military training jet is now on public display at the Neosho Hugh Robinson Airport.
It has been a long time coming.
The city first acquired it from the United States Air Force National Museum in 2003. Initially, Premier Turbines was going to put it on static display near the entrance to their plant, but it never got done and ultimately, of course, the plant closed.
Before that happened, however, the disassembled plane had already been moved from Premier Turbines to an old hangar at the Neosho Airport. The last time I saw it, it was just a wingless, tailless fuselage.
Hats off to former airport manager Steve Herrin, current airport manager Chuck Graves, Ernie Trumbly and the Joplin Civil Air Patrol squadron, local welder and artisan Tim Booyer, and everyone else who had a hand in reassembling, restoring, and mounting the aircraft for us all to now enjoy, as well as everyone and anyone who donated their time and money to this project, including those who helped cover the required insurance on the aircraft.
I’m sure there are many more people to name. You know who you are, even if most of us don’t, and you’re appreciated.
It’s nice to see the old bird finally on display. A whole generation of Air Force pilots trained in the T-37, which was produced by Cessna between 1955 and 1975. There were only 1,269 T-37s of various models built, and of those, only 444 were T-37As.
The last one came off the line in 1959, which means the T-37A on display at Neosho airport was built between 1955 and 1959. I’m sure someone much more knowledgeable than I could tell you everything you want to know about it, including the exact year it was built and the time it was in service. I haven’t looked up the tail number.
The last T-37 was retired by the Air Force in 2009. I don’t know the particulars on the specific jet now displayed at the airport, but I’m sure there are many pilots and instructors who sat side-by-side in its cockpit (the side-by-side seating was a unique feature).
The T-37A had the nickname “Tweet” because of the piercing whistle it made as air was sucked through its turbojets. It had a maximum speed of 390 miles per hour when at altitude.
They were built to fly as high as 35,000 feet, but since the cockpits weren’t pressurized, they could actually only fly at 25,000 feet, per regulations.
The aircraft was upgraded to a T-37B, which was higher powered. The old T-37As were later converted to the newer models, I believe. A yet newer version, the T-37C, was fitted with weapons, though that slowed down its top speed.
Production on all T-37s halted in 1975, though as I noted, the Air Force continued to use them until just eight years ago.
Neosho has a rich aeronautics history. Heck, the airport is named after Neosho native Hugh Robinson, the man who invented the tailhook, used on jets to snag cables when they land on aircraft carriers and rapidly decelerate.
I think the display of the T-37A is a wonderful thing and I hope it is just the start of more to come.
(Wes Franklin can be reached at (417) 658-8443.)