Air Force Base Halts Flying After T-38 Crash

Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas has suspended flight operations through the Thanksgiving weekend following the fatal crash of one of its T-38 Talon trainer jets.

The pause will allow the base to scrutinize its operations, the Air Force said. Flying is expected to resume Nov. 27.

A U.S. Air Force T-38 training jet. (Air Force photo)

A U.S. Air Force T-38 training jet. (Air Force photo)

The Nov. 21 announcement came a day after the T-38, which was carrying two instructor pilots, went down at about 4 p.m. local time about 14 miles northwest of the base.

One pilot, Capt. Paul Barbour, 32, of Van Nuys, Calif., was killed. The other, Capt. Joshua Hammervold, was injured, treated at a local hospital and released.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Laughlin is home to the 47th Flying Training Wing, which calls itself the Air Force's largest pilot training base.

The Air Force’s T-X program is holding a competition to replace the aging T-38. Competitors include a Boeing [BA]-Saab team, which is pitching a new design; a Lockheed Martin [LMT]-Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) team, which is offering the T-50A; and Leonardo DRS, which is proposing the T-100.

The Air Force has been aiming to pick a T-X prime contractor by year’s end, but a service official said in October that it may delay a decision until the spring to ensure it finishes a thorough review of industry proposals (Defense Daily, Oct. 18).

Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the Teal Group, said the Air Force is eager to replace the T-38, which first flew in 1959 and is used to prepare pilots to fly fighters and bombers.

“The Air Force is totally dependent upon one aircraft type for its advanced jet training, and it’s a very old fleet,” he said.

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