First Fatal T-38 Crashes In Years Prompt Stand Down

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Two fatal accidents in nine days snapped five years of fatality-free operations for the Air Force's T-38C trainer and have now grounded the aircraft. An April 23 crash and a May 1 crash together claimed four pilots. The Air Force has so far offered few details, offering Thursday that the accidents so far appear unrelated. "Until we have a more complete understanding of the causes," said General William Looney, commander of Air Education and Training Command (AETC), "it's prudent to stand down the T-38's." AETC will observe a "safety day" Monday, leaving all its aircraft on the ground. The April 23 crash occurred on takeoff at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, killing Maj. Blair Faulkner and 2nd Lt. Matthew Emmons. The May 1 crash killed two more pilots whose names had not yet been released when AVweb went to press. Those pilots -- a student and instructor -- were flying a training mission out of Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls.

The jet crashed short of the runway at Sheppard, according to local news, temporarily closing Wichita Falls Municipal airport (the airport shares a runway with the base). The T-38 has been used to train military pilots since 1961.