Details are still coming in, but two U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon jet trainers were involved in a mishap at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma today. The service has said that four pilots were involved in the accident and that two have died, but the condition of the other two individuals is unclear.
The mishap occurred at around 9:10 AM during what the Air Force has described as a routine training exercise. So far, there are no specifics about exactly what happened, but live feeds from local news outlets show that both jets departed a runway at Vance and that one of them flipped over entirely during the accident. We don't know what units the aircraft were assigned to, but the base is home to the 71st Flying Training Wing, which includes multiple squadrons that fly the T-38, as well as other aircraft.
"At the time of the accident, the aircraft were performing a routine training mission. There were two people onboard each aircraft," an initial press release from Vance's public affairs office read. "Vance emergency response personnel are on scene to treat casualties and assist in recovery efforts."
"Two Vance Air Force Base Airmen were killed in an aircraft mishap at approximately 9:10 a.m. today. At the time of the accident, the aircraft were performing a training mission," a second release stated. "Vance emergency response personnel are on scene to treat casualties and assist in recovery efforts. Names of the deceased will be withheld pending next of kin notification. A safety investigation team will investigate the incident."
The T-38 community suffered a significant number of accidents between 2017 and 2018, with six major mishaps in the space of 12 months. This included another mishap involving a jet from the 71st Flying Training Wing in August 2018.
We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
UPDATE: 8:45pm EST—
The Air Force has now said that the incident occured during the landing phase of a training exercise and that the pilots in the other aircraft were unhurt, according to Air Force Times. Details about exactly what happened remain limited.
“Only … for the purity of the safety investigation," U.S. Air Force Colonel Corey Simmons, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, said at a press conference. "I don’t want to try to guess. I wasn’t out there when it happened."
"I know that there are two airplanes that are off the runway right now at Vance Air Force Base," he continued. "How they got to that point, I've got to let the investigation play itself out."
Simmons added that the mishap had led officials at Vance to shut down flying operations for the day and that this would likely continue into Nov. 21, 2019.
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