At approximately 7:40 p.m. local time on Tuesday, an Air Force T-38 Talon crashed near Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas. One crew member died in the crash and the other is currently hospitalized. The Air Force has yet to reveal the second crew member’s identity or condition.
Details regarding this most recent crash remain limited, but the incident itself begs some hard questions about the Air Force’s training advanced jet training program. Tuesday’s crash marks the fifth time an Air Force T-38 Talon has crashed in training in just the past twelve months. In fact, over the past year, the T-38 platform alone accounts for half of all Air Force crashes. The most recent T-38 crash occurred in September when another trainer jet veered off the runway at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. Both crew members ejected from the aircraft and were eventually released back to full duty.
— Sheppard AFB (@SheppardAFB) September 11, 2018
In August, yet another Talon, this time from the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, went down. The pilot was able to safely eject in that instance, as well.
An aircraft crash has occurred approximately 50 miles west of Vance AFB. Pilot is conscious and with emergency responders. Follow #VanceUpdates for more information.
— Vance AFB (@71FTW) August 17, 2018
In May of this year, a T-38 out of Columbus Air Force Base crashed. Both pilots were able to eject.
Air Force T-38 Talon crashed around 8:30 a.m. today near Columbus AFB, MS. Both pilots ejected the aircraft safely. Local law enforcement and first responders arrived immediately. The pilots are in good condition. We are thankful for our Airmen’s safety and our first responders! https://t.co/ZXscj4J6mz
— Columbus AFB (@Columbus_AFB) May 23, 2018
In November of last year, a pilot from the 87th Flying Training Squadron died when his T-38 Talon went down near Laughlin.
An Air Force T-38 Talon assigned here at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, crashed at approximately 4 p.m. today… https://t.co/slI4cx7pcK
— Laughlin AFB (@LaughlinAFB) November 20, 2017
While plans are already underway to replace the T-38 jet training platform with the forthcoming Boeing T-X, they likely won’t begin fielding the new aircraft for years to come — which places the Air Force in a difficult position. In October, the Air Force Air Education and Training Command chose to relieve the wing commander, group commander, and flying training squadron commander from the 47th Flying Training Wing at Laughlin Air Force Base, citing leadership failures.
“These commanders saw behavior in their wing, in their group, and in their squadron that they knew was inconsistent with our values and they did nothing sufficient about it,” AETC commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast said at the time. “It continued and that behavior created a culture where the airmen did not feel safe and they did not feel respected, and it became a cancer that caused problems.”