A T-38C Talon II trainer aircraft crashed after it departed the runway before taking off from Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, Tuesday morning, the base said in a release.
The two pilots of the T-38 ejected from the aircraft. One pilot, U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Charles Walet, was taken to United Regional Medical Center in Wichita Falls and is reportedly stable, according to an update from the base posted on social media Tuesday afternoon. The other, German air force Maj. Christian Hartmann, was taken to the Sheppard Clinic and treated for minor injuries.
Walet is assigned to Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, and is temporarily assigned to Sheppard.
The plane, from the 80th Flying Training Wing, crashed at about 10:13 a.m. local time at the Sheppard air field, the release said.
“We are grateful both aircrew members are safe, and for the outstanding response from our fire, security and medical personnel,” Col. Lendy Renegar, vice commander of the 80th, said in a release. “We also greatly appreciate any expressions of support from leaders and members in our local community.”
Sheppard said that emergency crews immediately responded to the crash site to provide medical support to the pilots, and put out a small fire in and around the T-38. An explosive ordnance disposal team from nearby Fort Sill also responded to make sure all the explosive material from the ejection seats was rendered safe. The crash site was declared safe at about 12:45 p.m. local time, Sheppard said.
The Air Force has launched an investigation into the crash, Sheppard said.
Sheppard also said that in 2013, it finished a $185 million upgrade to its T-38 fleet to add “zero/zero” ejection seats, allowing air crew to eject at zero-foot altitude, at zero velocity.
In addition to training U.S. pilots, the 80th Flying Training Wing teaches the fighter pilots of 14 NATO allies as part of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program. This program trains half of the Air Force’s fighter pilots and conducts all fighter pilot training for NATO allies Belgium, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Norway, the 80th’s website said.
There have been several T-38 crashes in recent months.
A Talon II from Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma crashed Aug. 17, but the pilot ejected safely and was not seriously injured.
However, a T-38 crash near Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas last November killed one of the two pilots. That accident was caused by a dual failure of the trainer’s troubled airframe-mounted gearboxes, according to a report released last month. The accident investigation board also said the pilots became distracted during checklist procedures, which led to one pilot’s ejection seat not being armed, which contributed directly to his death.