T-38 Talon

Roamy here.  When astronauts train or otherwise get their flying hours, they fly T-38 Talons, the first supersonic jet trainer.

STS-135 crewmembers Chris Ferguson and Sandy Magnus arrive at KSC in their T-38.

First built in 1961, they replaced the T-33 Shooting Star trainers (which both Roamy’s dad and XBradTC’s dad flew).  The F-5 Freedom Fighter and F-20 Tigershark were derived from the T-38 airframe design.  Over 1,100 were built, and there are several variations, including adding a gunsight and gunpod for weapons training aircraft.

T-38’s were flown by the Air Force Thunderbirds air demonstration squad from 1974 to 1982, though that ended with the infamous “Diamond Crash” near Creech AFB, Nevada.  The team was practicing a four-plane line abreast loop, when Major Norm Lowry’s pitch control actuator malfunctioned.  He, Capt. Willie Mays, Capt. Joseph “Pete” Peterson, and Capt. Mark E. Melancon were supposed to level off at 100 ft after the loop and instead nearly simultaneously crashed into the desert floor.  When the Thunderbirds resumed flight demos in 1983, it was with F-16’s.

It’s on Wikipedia with no citation, so take this with a grain of salt, but it has been said that 50,000 military pilots have trained on the T-38.  Even though the last one was built in 1972, a couple hundred T-38A’s are being rebuilt to the T-38C standard, with an all new glass cockpit very similar to those in modern jet fighters.

5 thoughts on “T-38 Talon”

  1. I can believe more than 50K pilots have gone through T-38 cockpits in training. It’s been around a while, and in the last 40 years, the AF has trained a lot of pilots.

    If Brads dad was trained in a T-33, he was a rare Naval Aviator. I’ve never heard of one going through a T-33 syllabus before. It was strictly an AF trainer.

    1. Dad didn’t go through his initial flight training on the T bird. He got a few hours to transition into jets after a long time in operational prop birds.

      The Navy actually bought several hundred TV-2s, and 150 T2Vs for advanced training, and transition from props to jets. They were also used for proficiency training (and “hacks”) at a lot of bases.

  2. The Navy trainer then was the TV-2, which was renamed the T-33B in 1962. XBradTC’s dad did fly the TV-2, my dad *said* he flew the T-33, which would have been around the time of the renaming.

  3. Learn something every day. I’m surprised, however, the Navy used the T-33. I’m guessing Lockheed reinforced the landing gear to take those controlled crashes the Navy pretends are landings.

    1. The Navy’s TV-2s (T-33B) were not carrier capable. They used them to familiarize aviators with jet operations. Actual carrier operations would then be trained in an operational jet, or later, in the TF-9J.

      The follow on T2V (later redisignated the T-1A) was carrier capable, but they only bought 150 of them.

      My dad got his hours in the TV-2 at NAS Olathe, KS. They used the jets to train the air traffic control folks in radar controlled carrier approaches.

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