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Air Force pilot dies, another injured after T-38 Talon crash at Laughlin AFB

A T-38 Talon participates in the 2004 Lackland Airfest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)
November 14, 2018

One pilot has died and another is injured after an Air Force supersonic jet trainer crashed on base.

The T-38 Talon crashed Tuesday evening at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas.

“An Air Force T-38 Talon assigned here at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, crashed at approximately 7:40 p.m. today on base. Emergency personnel are on the scene,” Laughlin stated late Tuesday.

A few hours later, an update was provided to show that one pilot had died, and another was injured.

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“One pilot is dead, and one was transferred to Val Verde Regional Medical Center,” Laughlin said in an update.

The air base added that, “A board of officers will convene to investigate the incident.”

It is the second time in a year that a pilot has been killed in a T-38 crash at Laughlin.

In November 2017, one pilot was killed and another injured after a T-38C crashed 14 miles outside of Laughlin.

Last year’s crash was found to be caused by a failed hydraulic system, which had experienced multiple failures before. However, Capt. Paul J. Barbour was killed because he didn’t arm his ejection seat before takeoff and was unable to eject, Express News had reported.

The 50-year-old T-38 Talon is one of the oldest aircraft in the Air Force and has been involved in five crashes over the past year.

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In September, two Air Force pilots safely ejected from a T-38C Talon training jet that crashed after takeoff at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. The base previously spent $185 million upgrading the T-38’s ejection seats in 2013.

In August, a T-38C Talon crashed outside Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla. Only one pilot was on board during the training mission, and they safely ejected before the plane crashed, the Air Force Times had reported.

Similarly, the Air Force has had numerous issues with the T-6 Trainer resulting in crashes – several of them fatal.

The Department of Defense awarded a contract to Boeing in September to create a new T-X Trainer training jet for the Air Force that would replace the T-38 Talon. However, the $9.2 billion project will take more than a decade. The Air Force will purchase at least 351 of the training jets, although it could eventually acquire up to 600.

It will take time for an investigation to determine the cause of this week’s crash.

Laughlin recently experienced a shakeup when three top commanders were removed from their command two weeks ago after “chronic leadership failures” were identified from an investigation. The commanders were from the 47th Flying Training Wing, operations group and flying training squadron.

“The prior command team chronically failed to appropriately care for people and the mission,” said Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, chief of the Air Education and Training Command. “They failed to correct an evolving situation that led to an environment where some airmen did not feel safe or respected.”

This article has been updated to reflect that the crash happened Tuesday evening, not “late” Tuesday evening. The base made the announcement late Tuesday evening. The article has also been reflected to note that the training plane is a supersonic jet trainer.