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Boeing T-43 (Gator)

United States (1973)
Picture of Boeing T-43 (Gator) Navigational Trainer / VIP Transport Aircraft
Picture of Boeing T-43 (Gator) Navigational Trainer / VIP Transport Aircraft Picture of Boeing T-43 (Gator) Navigational Trainer / VIP Transport Aircraft
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The Boeing T-43 series of navigational trainers went on to serve the US military for 37 years prior to its retirement in 2010.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Boeing T-43 (Gator) Navigational Trainer / VIP Transport Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 3/17/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

In the early 1970s, the United States Air Force commissioned the Boeing concern to develop and deliver an airborne navigational training platform for use in educating up-and-coming Combat Systems Officers (CSOs) in the fine art of map-reading and situational response. Boeing responded by modifying the 737-200 airframe for the role, outfitting the passenger area with the required equipment that would serve as the in-flight classroom. After completing testing and evaluation, the USAF proceeded to procure some nineteen examples as roughly $5.4 million per unit. The aircraft was designated as the T-43 and entered USAF service in 1973, serving actively for decades until their official retirement in 2010. The T-43 formally replaced the aged, prop-powered Convair C-131 Samaritan training platforms (as the "T-29") in service since 1950. New T-43s were first assigned to the 323rd Flying Training Wing at Mather AFB in California before activity permanently moved the fleet to Randolph AFB in Texas under the 12th Flying Training Wing badge.

Outwardly, there was little of the T-43 to sell its true role save the occasional antenna protrusion. The aircraft appeared every bit the part of the 737-200 passenger airliner. The cockpit was held well-forward behind a short nosecone assembly. The fuselage was tubular and short, capped at the end by a single vertical tail fin and a pair of horizontal planes (each with slight dihedral). The main wing appendages were lo-mounted along the fuselage sides and carried turbofan engines in underslung nacelles. The undercarriage consisted of a pair of double-wheeled main legs and a double-tired nose leg. While the forward portion of the fuselage allowed for viewing through a framed windscreen, the passenger cabin was lined with rectangular viewing ports. Rectangular doors allowed for access to the aircraft.

The primary trainer model was the T-43A, based on the Boeing Model 737-253 series and powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9 series turbofan engines of 14,500lbf thrust each. The crew included two pilots while passengers were made up of up to three instructors along with 16 student seating positions (12 basic, 4 advanced). Each workspace was aligned to the right side wall of the fuselage which allowed instructors to assist students individually. All nineteen airframes accepted by the USAF were of the T-43A type. The aircraft could manage a top speed of 560 miles per hour up to a service ceiling of 37,000 feet and a range out to 3,000 miles. It is noteworthy that the T-43A's flying record proved spotless in its many decades of service (save for the 1996 Croatian event mentioned below).


Picture of the Boeing T-43 (Gator) Navigational Trainer / VIP Transport Aircraft
Picture of the Boeing T-43 (Gator) Navigational Trainer / VIP Transport Aircraft


Each student workspace allowed for fine-tune training in the art of navigation found on modern aircraft types as well as up-to-date communications and avionics packages. The inclusion of GPS-aided navigation eventually retired the tried-and-true method of star-based navigation for new recruits. The program proved successful enough that the United States Navy merged its own training program into the USAF T-43-based program. Ultimately, the T-43A series outlived its usefulness with the US military and was retired in 2010 (through a formal ceremony marking the event).

While the T-43A was primarily utilized as an airborne school for most of its career, the airframe began serving several other useful roles before her retirement. The "NT-43A" designation marked a single T-43A modified to serve as an in-flight radar test aircraft for some time. Furthermore, at least six T-43A airframes were later converted to VIP passenger transports as the "CT-43A". One such aircraft crashed into a mountainside (due to pilot error) on April 3rd, 1996 over Croatia, killing US Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and 34 others.

T-43A aircraft were unofficially referred to as "Gators" (as in "navigators") during their service life. Many affectionately recognized her as the "Flying Classroom".






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (562mph).

    Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Boeing T-43A (Gator)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
19
19


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 1973
Type: Navigational Trainer / VIP Transport Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Boeing Company - USA
Production: 19
Global Operators:
United States
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Boeing T-43A (Gator) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2 + 19


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
99.41 ft


Meters
30.3 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
92.52 ft


Meters
28.2 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
36.75 ft


Meters
11.2 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
64,155 lb


Kilograms
29,100 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
117,506 lb


Kilograms
53,300 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
2 x Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9A turbofans developing 14,500lb of thrust each.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
562 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
904 kph


Knots
488 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
2,983 mi


Kilometers
4,800 km


Nautical Miles
2,592 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
36,745 ft


Meters
11,200 m


Miles
6.96 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
3,760 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
1,146 m/min

Armament - Hardpoints (0):

None.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• 737-200 - Base Boeing Series Model on which the T-43 is based on.
• T-43 - Base Series Designation
• T-43A - Primary Navigational Trainer designation; 19 examples delivered to the USAF.
• CT-43A - Six examples converted for VIP passenger transport role from active T-43A airframes.
• NT-43A - One-off T-43A airframe converted for use as in-flight radar system test-bed.