An Air Force training jet recently made an emergency belly landing at a pilot training unit in Mississippi, marking the 14th Flying Training Wing’s second jet mishap in as many weeks.

The T-38C Talon’s landing gear malfunctioned in flight around 10:45 a.m. local time on Nov. 18, forcing its pilot to touch down with the wheels up at Columbus Air Force Base. The jet belongs to the 50th Flying Training Squadron.

The unnamed pilot landed safely, Columbus said in a statement the same day. Air Force officials are investigating why the landing gear failed.

Air Force officials have not disclosed whether two pilots were flying in the two-seat trainer at the time, or how extensively the plane was damaged.

This is the T-38C’s third landing gear-related accident since fiscal 2012, according to safety data obtained by Air Force Times.

Ten days earlier, an instructor pilot with Columbus’s 49th Flying Training Squadron ejected from his T-38 when the jet became “inoperable,” Col. Jeremy Bergin, vice commander of the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus, said at a press conference.

The unnamed airman was treated at a local hospital and returned to flight, the service said. But the Nov. 8 incident totaled the aircraft, the eighth major T-38C mishap in the past five years. Six people have died in Talon accidents in that same time period.

The airframe averages at least one crash that is fatal, causes permanent disability or costs more than $2.5 million in damages per 100,000 flight hours.

While those most severe accidents, known as “Class A” mishaps, declined slightly between 1987 and 2021, Air Force Safety Center data shows the T-38C’s rate of “Class B” incidents remained essentially flat at about one per year.

Class B refers to an incident that results in permanent, partial disability; inpatient hospitalization; or property damage costing between $600,000 and $2.5 million.

T-38Cs entered the fleet in 1961, when they cost about $750,000 apiece. Boeing is building the T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer jet to replace the aging fleet; the first Red Hawk came off the production line in April.

The Air Force now owns 445 Talons, most of which are spread across Columbus; Vance AFB, Oklahoma; and Laughlin AFB, Texas. The supersonic jets are used to teach new pilots to fly fighter and bomber aircraft before they move onto their assigned airframes.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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