Fourth T-38 Trainer Accident in Eleven Months for USAF Talon Crews.
A U.S. Air Force T-38C Talon two-seat, twin engine advanced jet trainer from the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas departed the runway prior to takeoff this morning at approximately 10:13 a.m.
Both crew members ejected from the aircraft after the runway overrun. One crew member, Major Christian Hartmann of the German Air Force, was treated for minor injuries according to the Sheppard Air Force Base Facebook page. Luftwaffe (German Air Force) Maj. Hartmann is part of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard AFB. The exchange training program instructs combat pilots for 14 partner nations including Germany, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The second crewmember, U.S. Air Force pilot 1st Lt. Charles Walet, was also transported to United Regional Medical for medical evaluation following the accident. Lt. Walet was reported to be in stable condition. The statement released on the official Sheppard Air Force Base Facebook page went on to say that Lt. Walet is assigned to Vance AFB in Oklahoma and was on temporary duty at Sheppard AFB.
In a statement released soon after the accident USAF Colonel Lendy Renegar, Vice Commander of the 80th Flying Training Wing, said on Facebook that, “We are grateful both aircrew members are safe, and for the outstanding response from our fire, security and medical personnel. We also greatly appreciate the any expressions of support from leaders and members in our local community.”
Issuing a similar statement from Vance AFB in Enid, Oklahoma, USAF Colonel Corey Simmons said on Facebook, “We’re relieved both pilots successfully ejected from the aircraft and stand ready to assist Sheppard in any way we can.” Col. Simmons is commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB.
The two T-38 crewmembers escaped in ejection seats that were recently upgraded as part of a $185 million improvement program. The new MK US16T ejection seats were installed in the T-38 in 2013. The “zero/zero” ejection seats manufactured by Martin Baker are also used in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the T-6A Texan II trainer.
The statement posted on the Sheppard AFB Facebook page went on to say, “Emergency crews responded to the scene immediately to provide medical support to the aircrew and also extinguished a small fire in and around the aircraft. An explosive ordnance disposal team from Fort Sill also responded as a precaution, to ensure all the explosive material associated with the ejection seats was safely expended. The scene was declared safe for recovery operations at about 12:45 p.m.”
There has been no speculation or statements about the cause of the accident by the U.S. Air Force. As with all Air Force aviation accidents, the official cause will be determined by an investigation.
It is noteworthy that this is the fourth accident involving T-38 trainers in 11 months for the U.S. Air Force. There have now been nine U.S. Air Force crashes in the continuing tally of accidents since the beginning of 2018. These include the loss of an F-15C Eagle that crashed near Japan on June 11, 2018 and the fatal June 22, 2018 crash of an Embraer A-29 Super Tucano participating the Light Attack Experiment near Holloman AFB. This latest Air Force accident increases the total number of U.S. military aviation accidents in 2018 to at least 14.
The frequency of aviation accidents in the U.S. Air Force prompted U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General David L. Goldfein, to direct a one-day safety stand-down for an operational review earlier this year. Following the review, no single reason has been officially cited by the U.S. Air Force as a contributing factor to the number of accidents that have occurred in recent years and especially during 2017 and 2018.
Top image: stock photo of a T-38 Talon trainer like the one involved in today’s accident at Sheppard AFB. (Photo: USAF Official/Danny Webb)