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Tom Cleaver
878 articles

Roden 1/48 AT-28D

December 20, 2012 · in Aviation · · 5 · 1.8K

Frequently a model project will lead to a writing project in TCWorld (and vice-versa). I got the T-28 kit (the first release), and was talking to Ross McMillan of Scale Aircraft Conversions about it, and Ross said he hoped someone would do the AT-28s flown by the "Zorros" because he had been ground crew on them in the 606th SOS and "those guys were the bravest people I ever knew". At the moment, I didn't know their story, but a quote like that "gives you ideas." So I did some research (thank you Internet!). The "Zorros" flew AT-28Ds, Cessna O-2As and O-1s over the Ho Chi Minh Trail at night between 1966-68 and were so successful that 7th AF finally stopped breaking down success rates by "prop" and "jet" because this collection of ex-trainers and light observation planes were killing the jets when it came to success there. I ended up contacting COL Charlie Brown, the only "Zorro" to be shot down over the Trail and survive to be rescued, who went back in T-28s to Farm Gate in SVN in 1962; LCOL Jack Drummond, who not only flew with the 606th but flew "black ops" in Laos where he was commanding a squadron of Thai mercenaries tasked to attack the Nationalist Chinese drug dealers in The Golden Triangle in northern Burma (an event that the history books say never happened), and who never spoke on the radio in any of those missions so an American couldn't be associated with them (they were known as "The Sopwith Camel Company" in reference to their airplanes), and LCOL Norm Coleman, who flew 150 missions over the Trail in T-28s.

Even more than 40 years after the secret war over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, almost nothing has been written about Air Force AT-28D or 606th Special Operations Squadron operations during the period from October 1966 through March 1968. Officially, AT-28D aircraft were not used by the Air Force on operations in Southeast Asia after 1964. AT-28D operations from Nakhon Phanom AB supporting the secret war in Laos were not officially admitted until the late 1990s, and there are still aspects of the operation that former pilots cannot speak of today. All operations in Laos were credited to Royal Laotian Air Force T-28Ds, which did indeed fight on until the end of the war in Indochina in the spring of 1975.

You can read a bit more about them in my review of this kit over at Modeling Madness, at

Fortunately, you'll also be able to read an even longer piece about them with photos, in an upcoming issue of Flight Journal in 2013.

And of course while I was interviewing them and writing up the articles, I had to build a model of one of their airplanes. The first release of this kit had most of what I needed, but not the outer pylons or the ordnance, which came from the spares dungeon. The new release of the AT-28D has all that for those interested. Do get the Scale Aircraft Conversions metal gear and Terry Dean's weights - getting this puppy to nose sit otherwise, and not have the gear collapse due to weight, is pretty close to impossible. I used the Squadron True Details resin cockpit, which I do not recommend but it is better than the kit cockpit. The best resin replacement cockpit (the kit really needs one) is Mike West's Lone Star Models set.

Reader reactions:

10 additional images. Click to enlarge.

5 responses

  1. Tom... nice model and great background information. I'll be looking for the article. I have read many accounts about FAC pilots, but had never heard any reference to the "Zorros".

    • That's because until about 1997, the Zorros never officially existed. Officially, the AF never used the AT-28 in SEA after they concluded Farm Gate in SVN in 1964. All the guys in the unit never put anything other than "training mission - Thai AF" in their logbooks for their flights over the Trail. That was because they were attacking up in Laos/NVN border region, and that was officially a no-no from the 1962 Geneva Accords about Laos that "officially" ended the civil war in that country.

  2. Very informative as always, Tom. The Trojan certainly looks tough as nails in that camoflage. I can still recall the incredible chugging sound of the engine when they used to fly overhead daily at NAS North Island when I was a kid. Nice work!

  3. The T-28 is dear to my heart. My dad flew F-4's in VN, and in his later years ended up with Parkinson's. My last gift to him was to secure a ride in a local T-28 (it was his first basic trainer in the AF). At that point, he was so "crippled" that it took a couple of us quite an effort to get him into the cockpit, but once in the air, he came alive and took the controls for awhile. Back on the ground, he was more lucid and talkative than he'd been in 6 months!

    I love the big throaty voice of that radial, and the manliness-look of the airplane (beside it, the T-34 just looks like the class w**p). It was nice to see a scheme that was unfamiliar to me, and I'm tempted to build one of these vs. the SVN version I was considering.

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