ENID, Okla. – Two airmen died Thursday morning when their T-38C jet trainer flipped upside down and slid from the runway while landing at Vance Air Force Base in this northern Oklahoma city.
A second jet trainer had been flying a routine training mission with the death plane, and it landed safely. The two airmen aboard that plane were uninjured, said base officials.
Identities of the deceased airmen were withheld pending notification of their families. The accident occurred shortly after 9 a.m. central standard time.
Student pilots learning to fly fighter jets typically fly the T-38Cs during the third and final stage of their training program, said an Air Force official. Vance AFB houses the Air Force’s 71st Flying Training Wing.
Col. Corey Simmons, commander of 71st Wing, said the two T-38Cs jets were on a formation training flight and in the landing phase of the mission when the accident occurred. He said an investigation by the Air Force is underway into the cause of the accident.
"This doesn't happen often," said Simmons. "There's no textbook on how to handle this, so we will do our best to be fantastic human beings to each other, and just put our arms around our airmen."
It was the third fatal accident involving the T-38C jets in the last two year, according to Air Force records. Air Force Capt. Paul J. Barbour died when his jet experienced hydraulic failure in November of 2017 at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. Capt. John Graziano, also assigned to Laughlin AFB, died a year later when a compressor stalled in his plane.
In August of 2018 an Air Force pilot stationed at Vance AFB ejected successfully before his jet trainer crashed and exploded 70 miles west of the base. Investigators said the pilot ejected after the jet developed engine trouble.
The T-38C is a Northrup Grumman-built twin-engine, supersonic jet trainer that has been used by the Air Force since 2001. It is scheduled to be replaced by a new jet trainer in the next three years.
Versions of the T-38 have been used as the Air Force’s primary jet training aircraft since the 1960s. The Air Force said more than 70,000 fighter pilots have trained in the plane.
The Enid, Okla., News and Eagle contributed to this story.