Boeing and Saab flew their T-X trainer for the first time on Tuesday and officially entered the race to provide the Air Force with its next generation training platform. The single-engine twin-tailed jet took off from Boeing’s facility in St. Louis for a flight that lasted 55 minutes and covered basic flight characteristics. Boeing lead test pilot Steve Schmidt was joined by Chief Pilot for Air Force Programs Dan Draeger, who was in the rear instructor seat. “The aircraft met all expectations,” said Schmidt. It’s well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach.” Draeger said his back seat view was ideal. “I had a great all-around view throughout the flight from the instructor’s seat, which is critical during training,” he said.
The Boeing/Saab offering is the third official entrant to a competition that hasn’t even been officially approved. The Air Force needs a replacement for the 60-year-old T-38, which can’t teach all of the skills the pilots of F-35s and F-22s need. The Air Force has put off the procurement repeatedly but it will happen eventually. When it does, there will be at least five contenders besides the T-X. Lockheed Martin, Korean Airspace Industries, Northrop Grumman and Textron Airland are all in the hunt.