Thunderstorm Damage Sets Back Air Force Flight Training


Air Force officials say their already-challenged basic flight training program has been set back by a destructive thunderstorm that heavily damaged 12 T-6 Texan II trainers at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma July 20. Because of the power of the storm, which had wind gusts of up to 70 MPH, all the remaining 87 T-6s in the unit have to be thoroughly inspected for structural damage and for debris in the engines and other parts of the aircraft.

Full operations won’t resume until Aug. 4, and that will put a dent in the effort to graduate 1,500 basic students this year. Since it’s the first step in a years-long training program to create combat-ready pilots, the hiccup will ripple through the Air Force for years to come. “The pilot training pipeline has been impacted by this storm, and officials are discussing how to make up for the time lost to meet production numbers,” Vance spokesperson Tech. Sgt. James Bolinger said. Vance is also home to T-1 Jayhawks and T-38 Talons but only the Texan IIs were damaged by the storm.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I was at Vance many years ago. A tornado came through, hit the civilian airport where the Vance initial training was done, 35 hours in a USAF model C172 (T-41), took out almost the entire fleet or the T-41s. Tornado alley then…and maybe now still.

    • Fifty years ago, everyone wanted to go to Williams AFB (Willie) near Phoenix for the great weather. I was assigned to Columbus AFB, MS and the crappy weather there was great training for my first assignment in Interior Alaska where the weather was crappy a lot of the time. But I got really good at instrument flight.

      We only had one tornado while I was at Columbus. They had us tie down the T-38s with heavy ropes around the main gear. I doubt that would have helped much had the funnel passed over the ramp.

  2. I took my personal plane to a week-long fly-in convention in Texas in the month of June many years ago. Out of about 100 airplanes that were there, I was the only pilot who purchased cheap hangar space for the week. People thought I was weird, a nerd, whatever, but I had personally seen damage to airliners in Denver from a hailstorm that shut down the airport only a couple of years earlier. Fortunately, there were no storms during the week of the fly-in, but I slept better at night.

  3. The man who bought the aeroplanes, forgot to buy the hanger…..

    Unless there were very good tie downs and gust locks all very locked, “heavily damaged” probably means bent hinges on vital parts, and or control cables snapped.

  4. There is really no excuse for this. You protect your airplanes. Simple sheds will do the trick. Every military base I fly over now seems to have them. Some heads should roll.