T-38 Makes ‘Belly Landing’ in Mississippi, 2nd Mishap in 2 Weeks for Supersonic Trainer

T-38 crash

The T-38, which entered service in 1970 and was flown by the Thunderbirds for 10 years, is the primary training aircraft for future Air Force fighter pilots. US Air Force photo by Danny Webb.

US Air Force photo by Danny Webb.

For the second time in two weeks, a T-38C jet trainer from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, crashed during a training flight.

The single pilot on board the jet was not hurt, base officials said.

According to a brief press release, the landing gear of a T-38C failed during a flight, forcing the pilot to make a “belly landing” at approximately 10:45 a.m on Monday, Nov. 21. The jet landed on a Columbus runway with all its wheels up, skidding to a stop on its bottom, or belly.

A similar T-38C crashed Nov. 7 after becoming inoperable and unrecoverable soon after taking off from Columbus. The Air Force has not yet released the cause of that jet’s loss of control. The pilot in that crash safely ejected and parachuted to the ground.

T-38 four-ship May 20 2021

A standard training T-38 flight on May 20, 2021, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Phaff.

US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Phaff.

The T-38 can carry two pilots — usually a student and an instructor — but Columbus Air Force Base spokesperson Danielle Knight said only one pilot was on board during the Monday mishap. A second plane flying with the T-38 landed without incident.

The T-38 is one of the Air Force’s oldest aircraft but plays a pivotal role in training many new pilots. Designed in the late 1950s and first flown in 1961, the last T-38 was built in 1972.

Still, the plane remains the Air Force’s only trainer that can fly supersonic. During flight training, all future fighter pilots learn to fly the T-38 before moving on to more advanced planes like the F-35, F-22, F-15, and A-10.

The crash is the latest in a string of T-38 crashes during two-ship training flights since 2019. A crash almost exactly a year ago killed a student pilot at Laughlin Air Force Base as two planes attempted to land. Another similar crash also killed a student in 2019.

Read Next: Air Force Flight Nurse Who Delivered Baby on C-17 Among 51 Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross

Matt White is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a Pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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