SD Storm Research Aircraft to Be Retired

Jul 3, 2004
Hotel room somewhere by an airport
Tech retiring unique plane

By Jomay Steen, Journal Staff Writer

RAPID CITY - It signals the end of an era.

For more than 30 years, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology's storm-penetrating aircraft flew through thousands of storms, more than a dozen states and two continents. Its eight pilots had one mission - meteorological research.

The unique North American T-28 Storm Penetration Aircraft has one more project and two more flights left before its pilots walk away forever.

Charlie Summers, 69, has piloted the aircraft for more than a decade.

"It's the only airplane in the world that did that kind of work," Summer said. "Now, our old bird is going to be put out to pasture."

Paul Smith, professor emeritus in the Atmospheric Sciences Department at Tech, said the plane was instrumental in the discovery of storm development in the past three decades.

Note from Eric:
Here are a few more links, if you're interested. T-28's are great aircraft, fun to fly and built like a tank.

Official website of the aircraft:

A fun article Budd Davisson wrote for Air Progress magazine about flying T-28's (not the chase aircraft) in 1981 can be viewed here:
Apparently retirement became a probability during the STEPS experiment. Midway during a pass through a storm, the plane suffered a complete engine failure. The aircraft became a heavy glider and the pilot was lucky to be able to land it. They opened up the hatch and parts fell out so I am told! They replaced the engine, but more problems popped up, so that was pretty much the nail in the coffin.