A U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon jet trainer went skidding off the runway at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Virginia earlier today, but thankfully no one was injured. This is the latest in a series of major accidents for the T-38 community, which has suffered multiple crashes, including one that led to the death of a pilot, this year already.
This new incident occurred at around 11:15 AM local time on Dec. 28, 2018. Only one pilot was on board the two-seat Talon, which belonged to the 71st Fighter Training Squadron, part of the 1st Fighter Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, also in Virginia. The accident shut down the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport’s main runway and was expected to impact a small number of commercial flights, spokesperson Jessica Wharton told the Associated Press.
“Today we are fortunate that our pilots have the training they need to react in emergency situations, such as the incident that occurred today,” U.S. Air Force Colonel Jason Hinds, the commander of the 1st Fighter Wing, said in a statement on Facebook. “I am thankful that everyone is safe, and thank you to the Newport News Airport for your support and understanding.”
The exact condition of the aircraft is unclear, but a picture from Virginia’s 13News Now television channel, a local ABC affiliate, suggests it could have suffered significant damage. The outlet reported that the plane experienced an unspecified problem with its landing gear before veering off the runway.
Since November 2017, the Air Force’s Talon community has suffered five major accidents, including one in the vicinity of Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas in November 2018 that killed one of the pilots on board the jet. Two months earlier, another T-38 had skidded off the runway at Sheppard Air Force Base, also in Texas, prompting both pilots to eject. Thankfully, they only sustained minor injuries.
The Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command (AETC) decided not to ground its Talon fleet after the November 2018 crash. “AETC is committed to using the lessons learned from the results of any investigation to prevent similar accidents from happening again across the 19th Air Force fleet,” Jennifer Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the command, told Military.com in a subsequent statement.
The 71st Fighter Training Squadron falls under the purview of Air Combat Command and may not have been impacted by any AETC-specific decisions, regardless. The unit directly supports the training requirements of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighters assigned to the 1st Fighter Wing by acting as airborne aggressors.
We will update this post with more info as it comes available.
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