Laughlin AFB Suspends Flying Operations Following T-38 Crash

A T-38 Talon sits on the flight line of Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, June 10, 2014. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Steven R. Doty)
A T-38 Talon sits on the flight line of Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, June 10, 2014. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Steven R. Doty)

Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas has temporarily suspended all flying operations through the Thanksgiving weekend following Monday's T-38 Talon crash, which resulted in the death of one pilot and the injury of another, base officials said Tuesday.

The trainer jet crashed at approximately 4:00 p.m. local time roughly 15 miles northwest of the base in Del Rio, Texas, the base said in a release Monday.

One pilot died, and one was transferred to Val Verde Regional Medical Center, according to a separate statement.

Witnesses reported seeing a parachute and pilot descending to the ground. Laughlin emergency response personnel and local responders were on scene to assist in recovery efforts.

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The names of the airmen have not been released.

"Our community has suffered the irreplaceable loss of one of our pilots," said Col. Charlie Velino, 47th Flying Training Wing commander.

"The immediate concern is to provide support and love to his family, friends and colleagues. Our airmen and their families are incredibly important to us, and our top priority. For now, we will focus inward to make sure that our base community rallies around those who are suffering and need our support," Velino said in a statement Tuesday.

"During this Thanksgiving season, there is value in remembering the debt that we all owe to the brave men and women who serve in the military," he continued. "The pilots who train at this base are truly the tip of the spear in securing our national defense, and we are grateful for their choice to serve in that pivotal capacity."

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

The twin-engine, high-altitude T-38 trains pilots to fly in fighter and attack aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt and F-22 Raptor, as well as the B-1B Lancer.

The service plans to replace the Northrop Grumman Corp.-made, two-seater T-38 over the next few years, with hopes of buying 350 new aircraft at a time when the service needs to replenish its fighter pilot ranks.

In December, the service launched a potential $16 billion competition to build a replacement T-38, which entered service in 1961. Firms publicly competing for the contract -- known as the T-X program -- include Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Leonardo S.p.A.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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