2 Airmen Dead After T-38 Trainer Aircraft Accident at Vance AFB

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Pilots from the 25th Flying Training Squadron and the 5th Flying Training Squadron soar through the sky in T-38C Talons on July 25, 2019, over Oklahoma. The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles across the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Crul)
Pilots from the 25th Flying Training Squadron and the 5th Flying Training Squadron soar through the sky in T-38C Talons on July 25, 2019, over Oklahoma. The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles across the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Crul)

Two airmen are dead after two Air Force T-38 Talon trainer aircraft were involved in an accident at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, on Thursday, according to Air Education and Training Command officials.

The mishap occurred at approximately 9:10 a.m. during a routine training event and required emergency personnel to respond, according to a release from the 71st Flying Training Wing.

There were two people on board each T-38.

The accident happened during the landing phase of training, according to Col. Corey Simmons, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing. Simmons and other officials spoke with local press following the mishap. 

One aircraft landed inverted and slid several yards, the officials said. The other T-38 was able to land upright, and the two pilots aboard that aircraft were not injured, according to the Enid News & Eagle.

The identities of the two deceased pilots are being withheld pending next-of-kin notification.    

Prior to this, the last Class A mishap – involving fatalities, severe damage totaling $2 million or more, or a complete loss of the aircraft – for the base occurred in August 2018. A Talon crashed near the base at the time; the pilot was able to eject.

“I am deeply saddened by the devastating news of the training-related incident at Vance Air Force Base that resulted in the deaths of two airmen,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Thursday. “Over the last decade, more active-duty service members died as a result of training-related incidents than in combat operations.”

“In last year’s defense authorization bill, Congress acknowledged this crisis — increasing funding for training and flight time, investing in repairing and modernizing our fleet of aircraft, and implementing other policies to improve safety," Inhofe added. "While training-related casualties are down this year, even a single instance is too many.”

The 71st trains pilots on the T-38, T-1A Jayhawk and T-6A Texan II.

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The Talon has been the backbone of the service's undergraduate pilot training, or UPT, program for decades. Since 1961, the Air Force has trained more than 71,000 U.S. and allied pilots on the T-38, according to the service.

Those selected to fly bombers and fighters typically receive their advanced pilot training in the T-38. The Air Force is preparing to receive new trainer jets -- the T-7A Redhawk -- to replace its current Northrop Grumman-made T-38s, some of which date to the mid-1960s.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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