Two USAF T-38C Talons Crash, One Pilot Killed at Laughlin AFB

T-38 crash
Main image: file photo of a T-38 Talon aircraft assigned to the 87th Flying Training Squadron, Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, taken in September 2021 at Nellis AFB (U.S. Air Force photo by William R. Lewis). The aircraft should be the same involved in the crash at its homebase on Nov. 19, 2021. (Image sent us by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous but that we have already seen being shared across social media).

Two badly damaged T-38Cs seen on runway in photos from Texas Training Facility. Fourth T-38 crash in 2021.

One pilot is dead and two others are injured following an accident involving two T-38C Talon advanced jet trainers at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio Texas at approximately 10 A.M. local time on Friday, November 19, 2021.

According to an official media release from Laughlin AFB posted on their Facebook page, “One of the injured pilots was transported to Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Del Rio, Texas, where they were treated and released. The other pilot is in critical condition and was evacuated by air to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.”

The accident, which appears to have occurred in close proximity to a runway at the installation based on photos circulated on social media, may have happened while the two aircraft were about to take off or land. No details have been officially released. An official accident investigation is underway.

Photos shared on social media showed one T-38C sitting upright next to a runway with a guide sign next to it and part of its nose missing. The ejection seat appears to still be in place on this aircraft.

Based on the same photographs, we can determine that one of the aircraft involved in the incident is the specially painted T-38C of the 87th Flying Training Squadron (FTS) “Redbulls” (serial 68-8121) that was given a heritage livery similar to the one used on the F-106A Delta Darts jets the 87th Fighter Interceptor Squadron from K.I. Sawyer AFB (Michigan) from 1968 to 1985.

F-106A of the 87th FIS (USAF via Wiki)

In a statement, USAF Col. Craig Prather said, “Losing teammates is unbelievably painful and it is with a heavy heart I express my sincere condolences. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with our pilots involved in this mishap and their families.”

The names of the crew members involved in the accident have not been officially released.

Laughlin AFB is reported to be the, “largest USAF flight training base”. According to one source, on weekdays, the facility “accommodates more flights than any other airfield in the U.S”. The base is home to the Air Education and Training Command’s 47th Flying Training Wing. The Wing includes the 87th Flying Training Squadron, the unit that operates the T-38C Talon at Laughlin.

The Northrop T-38C Talon is a two-seat, twin-engine, advanced supersonic jet trainer. It first flew 62 years ago in April of 1959 and is the first-ever supersonic advanced jet trainer.

The Aviation-Safety.net website lists 101 accident “occurrences” involving the T-38 Talon in their database while a separate reference cites that, “More than 210 aircraft losses and ejections have been documented over the lifetime of the T-38”. This latest accident is the fourth T-38 crash in 2021 and resulted in the third fatality so far this year. The accident rate in the aging supersonic advanced trainer appear to be accelerating in frequency during the past two years. If you search in our archive, unfortunately, you’ll find several reports about T-38 incidents.

The T-38 Talon is expected to be replaced by the new Boeing T-7A Red Hawk advanced jet trainer in the future.

About Tom Demerly 516 Articles
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.

2 Comments

  1. As a T-38A IP at Reese AFB in the 70’s we had three accidents within a three-week period resulting in three fatalities. One was a solo student in a four-ship formation. In an overhead pattern, he was No. 4 and made an aggressive pitch out and ended up inside of No. 3 on downwind. Rather than breaking out and re-entering the pattern he tried to do a level turn and go back down initial. Ended up doing an accelerated stall. The aircraft rolled over and impacted the ground nose first.

    The second involved a single ship dual contact flight. To avoid being blown off the side of the runway during the flair, crew put in a large rudder input resulting in a rudder roll. The aircraft impacted the runway upside down resulting in the death of both crew members.

    The third involved a complete electrical failure on an aircraft in a four-ship formation. The aircraft was led back to base for a no flap landing. The crew performed premature aerobraking after touchdown causing the aircraft to become airborne again and departing the runway. No fatalities in this accident. Two of these incidents were pilot error. The primary cause of the third was equipment failure with a secondary cause as pilot error. Although the T-38 is an ageing aircraft, many of these incidents are caused by pilot error and no fault of the aircraft.

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