Battleland

Trainer Aircraft…With Training Wheels

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Cirrus Aircraft

Cadets at the Air Force Academy are now flying Cirrus SR-20s like this one.

It was one of the saddest stories Battleland ever did: reporting on the three cadets at the Air Force Academy who died, along with their instructors, in a trio of separate crashes of the T-3 Firefly trainer aircraft from 1995 to 1997.

Parents grieved as the young men they sent off to Colorado Springs came home, a short time later, dead. The story, and its pain, always echoed the James Taylor song, Fire and Rain: “Sweet dreams, and flying machines, in pieces on the ground.”

The Air Force eventually scrapped the T-3s, plagued with numerous problems, and leased safer trainers instead. Then last year, they began buying a new fleet of 25 Cirrus Aircraft trainers. The service rechristened its Cirrus SR-20s as Air Force T-53As.

Air Force photo / Mike Kaplan

On Sept. 7, Air Force Academy Cadet 1st Class Staci Rouse became the first cadet to fly one solo. “I had much more confidence flying the aircraft than I expected I ever would after my first flight,” the Woodbridge, N.J. native said. “When I landed, I felt everything I worked for had paid off.”

Two other things worth noting about the T-53A:

– It is the first production general-aviation aircraft outfitted with a parachute that can lower the entire plane (somewhat gently) to the ground if something goes wrong. There should be far fewer “pieces on the ground.”

– About the same time the Air Force decided to buy the T-53As, Duluth- Minn.-based Cirrus announced it would be bought by the China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. Ltd. — the Chinese government, in other words.

Bottom line: all those F-22 and F-35 pilots who some expect will someday be waging war with China, will learn how to fly in a trainer now built by a Chinese-owned concern.

3 comments
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Amicus Curiae
Amicus Curiae

Stop training pilots. We don't need new ones. The USAF is shrinking because they will have half as many jets by 2025 as they did in 2005. Duh!

Bosda
Bosda

"Bottom line: all those F-22 and F-35 pilots who some expect will someday be waging war with China, will learn how to fly in a trainer now built by a Chinese-owned concern."

This statement is reckless, speculative, amp; reflects a lack of journalistic responsibility! 

Time Magazine--I urge you to re-consider this part of the article, amp; use your editorial authority to moderate its inflammatory language.

If a poster used language this reckless, his post would be deleted.


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