Northrop T-38 Talon

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I'd Rather Be Flying From Hangar 18
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Northrop T-38 Talon
(Featuring some of the Ol'Kunnel's favorite airplanes!)

The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record. It is used primarily by Air Educat ion and Training Command for undergraduate pilot and pilot instructor training. Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration also use the T-38 in various roles.

The T-38 has swept-back wings, a streamlined fuselage and tricycle landing gear with a steerable nose wheel. Two independent hydraulic systems power the ailerons, flaps, rudder and other flight control surfaces.

The instructor and student sit in tandem on rocket-powered ejection seats in a pressurized, air-conditioned cockpit. Critical components are waist high and can be easily reached by maintenance crews. Refueling and preflight inspections are easily performed.

The T-38 needs as little as 2,300 feet (695.2 meters) of runway to take off and can climb from sea level to nearly 30,000 feet (9,068 meters) in one minute.
We know about takeoff distance but what of the landing distance?

A request asked of me today...

>>>I was trying to find the landing distance needed for the T-38 Talon. Someone told me it was over 8000 feet and I thought that was a little long. If you have any information on that, I would appreciate it.<<<<

The question was asked of the Old Kunnel on March 10, 2001. The following information seems to provide the answer.

>>>I am a Captain in the AF. I am an airlift pilot (KC-135R) so I never got to fly the T-38, but I did get to fly the T-1 out of Laughlin AFB. We flew along side T-38's and there was always a big rivalry between the T-1 and T-38 students.

>>>The runways the T-38's use are massive. Even though they can takeoff in a distance of just 2,300', the runways at Laughlin are 11,000' long.

Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas
Airport type US Air Force
Elevation AMSL 1,082 ft / 329.8 m
Coordinates 29°21'34?N 100°46'41?W? / ?29.35944, -100.77806

Direction Length Surface
ft m
13C/31C 8,857 2,700 Asphalt
13L/31R 8,311 2,533 PEM
13R/31L 6,246 1,904 Asphalt

15:06 11/28/2008
Now T-38 pilots are told to shoot for a landing spot about 500ft down the runway. When the flare and touchdown they are at about 130KCAS and usually begin to aerobrake. This usually takes no longer than 3,000'. Talons are a 1950's/60's model aircraft. It is high performance, but it is also thrust deficient. That makes for a good learning situation for the pilot. However with an engine failure, a mistake barely above the runway spells disaster. So with an engine failure they usually shoot for up to 2,000' down the runway.

>>>So that means Talons can operate from runways just 5,000' long. They can land on runways as small as 3,000', but they barely ever do.

>>>Hope that answered it for ya.
Capt. Liberston<<<< A Tip of the Ol'Kunnel's Beanie

A tip of the Ol'Kunnel's beanie to Captain Jake Liberston for answering the question. Many thanks, my friend.

It is good to have you aboard, Jake.

17:48 8/21/2001

Student pilots fly the T-38A to learn supersonic techniques, aerobatics, formation, night and instrument flying and cross-country navigation. More than 60,000 pilots have earned their wings in the T-38A.

Test pilots and flight test engineers are trained in T-38A's at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Air Force Materiel Command uses T-38A's to test experimental equipment such as electrical and weapon systems.

Pilots from most North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries are trained in the T-38A at Sheppard AFB, Texas, through the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration uses T-38A aircraft as trainers for astronauts and as observers and chase planes on programs such as the space shuttle.

Air Education and Training Command uses a modified version, the AT-38B, to prepare pilots for fighter aircraft such as the F-15, F-16 and A-10. and F-111. This model carries external armament and weapons delivery equipment for training.

The Talon first flew in 1959. More than 1,100 were delivered to the Air Force between 1961 and 1972 when production ended. Approximately 562 remain in service throughout the Air Force.

An ongoing program called Pacer Classic, the structural life extension program for the T-38, is integrating 10 modifications, including major structural renewal, into one process. As a result, the service life of T-38s should extend to the 2010. A dditionally, the introduction of the T-1A Jayhawk significantly relieved the T-38's work load.

General Characteristics
Primary function: Advanced jet pilot trainer
Builder: Northrop Corp.
Power Plant: Two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines with afterburners
Thrust: 2,900 pounds (1,315 kilograms) with afterburners
Length: 46 feet, 4 1/2 inches (14 meters)
Height: 12 feet, 10 1/2 inches (3.8 meters)
Wingspan: 25 feet, 3 inches (7.6 meters)
Speed: 812 mph (Mach 1.08 at sea level)
Ceiling: Above 55,000 feet (16,667 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 12,500 pounds (5,670 kilograms)
Range: 1,000 miles (870 nautical miles)
Armament: T-38A: none; AT-38B has provisions for external armament
Unit Cost: $756,000

Crew: Two, student and instructor
Date Deployed: March 1961
Inventory: Active force, 562; ANG, 0; Reserve 0


Air Education and Training Command, Public Affairs Office; 100 H Street, Suite 3; Randolph AFB, Texas 78150-4330; DSN 487-3946 or (210) 652-3946.
Visit the Northrop T-38 Talon Photo Gallery!
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The Ol'Kunnel now has a forum setup to allow us almost the same opportunity for the camaraderie we had on the old network. I trust it will offer you the same fun and companionship that IRBFlying once had on the GT Power Network. If you agree with me, you'll prove it by leaving a few words on the "I'd Rather Be Flying!" forum by clicking on the forum button.
Selected Messages from the Flying Forum:

I was employed at Northrop when the T-38 was first built and developed and worked on that program. This was after having worked on the F-89 program for a number of years.

Building the first three YT-38's was a load of work and a load of fun. We knew we had a great airplane on our hands. The full-scale wood mockup we constructed was enough to tickle the fancy of all who saw it in Hangar 13 at Northrop's old Plant 3 facility in Hawthorne.

I was at Edwards during the early YT-38 flight tests and witnessed the first flight, our number 5101.

But soon enough I had to go back to Hawthorne to work on the F-5, which was a-borning.

T-38 is a great airplane by any standard and was almost cutting edge technology when first developed. It has a fair share of epoxy and laminated sandwich structures and its out skin was chemically milled to reduce weight. The Air Force wanted an inexpensive trainer and this kept some available tech off the airplane, but aerodynamically she's a flyer.

I was happy to hear they did the structure refresh and new wings ... I read they did this on 800 or so, but your board says 576 ... This will keep the airplane in the inventory until 2020 ... is what I read Your site says 2010).

Northrop always built high quality airplanes in terms of their designs and workmanship and materials. Good quality manufacturing not only means a safer more reliable airplane, it means a longer lasting one. Of course, the other builders did this too.

I've got a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in the T-38.

10:01 12/20/2004

 February 11th 2004
12:14:21 AM
What is your name?
 Stu Gay
How did you find this Web Site?
Where are you from?
 Altus America
Do you have any comments?
 Any one out there have any knowledge on A/C 65-10341 (AT-38B)involved in incident out at Holloman in 1990 or 91? Believe the crew made it out. Was wondering on its disposition. May been scrapped or ARMARC bound. Thanks
09:51 2/11/2004
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