t 38 talon


Photo series #12

The Northrop T-38 Talon is one of the few aircraft in the USAF inventory to remain in service for more than 50 years.

The twin engine, two-seater, supersonic jet trainer is the world’s first supersonic trainer and the most produced one. It is mainly operated by the US Air Force which is also used by NASA, the US Naval Test Pilot School is also one of the branches that use the Talon, the Navy also used them in the agressor squadron but those T-38s were replaced by the F-5N Tiger II.

The most famous Talons are operated by NASA, those are used in astronaut training and as chases planes. During the Space Shuttle era, it was a common sight to see shuttles coming to land with T-38s chasing them.

The USAF has launched the T-X program to replace the T-38s, the trainers that were proposed are the Hawk from BAE Systems, the T-50 from Lockheed Martin and the T-100 which comes from Raytheon and Alenia Aermacchi, the last one is a derivate from the Aermacchi M-346 Master.

That’s it for this photo series, as always if you have any suggestions for the next photo series, don’t be shy, send them to me and i’ll upload it!

Have a great day!

The NASA Village

Today in the NASA Village… Let’s Fly: Why Jet Training is Essential

Why do we train in jet trainer aircrafts? Many astronauts like myself, are selected for our scientific skills.  We also select some pilots too, but for those of us that have had no “operational” experience, T-38 is required training.

Flying in the T-38 was essential for adapting to unusual physical stresses (like higher than normal g-environments and wearing an oxygen mask), all the while being expected to read and follow checklists, communicate with my crewmates and the ground (Air Traffic Control), and prioritize real-time assessments of fuel and weather to ensure the safety of our crew. Extremely applicable training for space flight!

The T-38 is a two-engine jet that can hold two crew members and reach speeds as high as Mach 1.2, fly to heights of 50,000 feet (though 41-42,000 is much more common), and is used for aerobatic maneuvers to help the astronauts become adjusted to unusual attitudes that they will experience in the space flight.

Randy Watkins is one of the Mechanics at Ellington. You can see him assisting me to get ready for the flight.

“The job we do is a very unique opportunity. Working closely with America’s astronauts on a daily basis and sending them flying in our T-38 Talons is pretty awesome to say the least. And because everyone working with and for NASA are more than coworkers we are family, makes the seriousness of our job real with nothing taken for granted. This has been one of the best jobs I have ever had and hope and pray we continue to explore space for our future generations.”

Want to learn more about the T-38? Click here: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/flyout/t38flyout.html

Do you want more stories?  Find our NASA Villagers here!


T-38 Talon and B-2 Spirit

A T-38 Talon flys in formation with B-2 Spirit of South Carolina during a training mission over Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Feb. 20, 2014. The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/RELEASED)

32 F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Langley-Eustis on the ramp of the 121st Air Refueling Wing, at Rickenbacker ANGB, Ohio. The stealth multirole jets have arrived at the base south of Columbus, along with 10 – 12 T-38 Talons, on Oct. 5, to escape from Hurricane Matthews.

Too good not to share.

A U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon aircraft and B-2 Spirit aircraft fly in formation during a training mission over Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Feb. 20, 2014. The B-2 is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear ammunition. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder, U.S. Air Force/Released)

The NASA Village

Today in the NASA Village… So you want to be an astronaut?

The road to becoming an astronaut is as diverse as the NASA Village itself. Today’s astronauts come from varied career backgrounds.  NASA has recruited doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers and a veterinarian to serve as astronauts.

I had dreamed of being an astronaut since I was 9 years old when Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon.  It became a goal to be an astronaut when I graduated high school, because that was the first year they selected female astronauts.  After getting a Ph.D in Biochemistry, I applied for 10 years to become an astronaut before I was lucky enough to be selected to become an astronaut.  I was selected as part of the Astronaut Class of 1996 along with 34 other people, the largest NASA astronaut class so far.

If you get selected, you are given the title “astronaut candidate” or “ASCAN”.  Yes, it is pronounced like it looks!  As an ASCAN, you begin two years of intensive astronaut candidate training which includes team building, survival skills, and technical space systems training.

The technical training includes robotics instruction, how to perform spacewalks, operational training in T-38 Talon supersonic jet, language training, expeditionary crew skills, and specialized hardware and science instruction.

Andrew Morgan, shown with his classmate Nicole Mann, were part of the most recent Astronaut Class of 2013.

Andrew said “EVA (“spacewalk”) training is some of the most exciting training we do as astronauts.  Every training run in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory begins with several days of preparation.  One way we prepare is by making a SCUBA dive in the NBL to look at the ISS mock-up and study the components we will fix when we’re wearing the EMU (spacesuit).  By wearing standard SCUBA equipment we have a little more freedom of motion to look around and it helps us become familiar with the part of ISS where we will work when we wear the spacesuit underwater.”

Andrew and Nicole just recently completed ASCAN training and earned their astronaut wings.  It is the culmination of a lifetime of dedication and perseverance to reach that goal. Their new job duties include support of mission operations and technical duties while awaiting their spaceflight assignments, which might take 1-5 years.  Once assigned to a mission, you have another 2 ½ years of intensive training for that mission.

What are your odds of becoming an astronaut you may wonder? Nicole and Drew were 2 people selected from 6300 applicants that year.  But don’t let the odds discourage you, you will never become an astronaut if you don’t try.

I had the privilege of being a member of the 2004 Astronaut Selection Board, and I chaired the 2009 Astronaut Selection Board. I am always so impressed with the caliber and quality of people who apply.

The basic requirements for becoming an astronaut are straight forward:

1. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. (Quality of academic preparation is important and the higher education you have the more likely your chance of success).

2. Degree must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. (Teaching experience is considered to be qualifying experience for the Astronaut Candidate position).

3. You will need to pass the NASA long-duration space flight physical (rigorous would be a complementary discriptor of all the tests that have to be passed).  Because we are going on longer duration missions, 6 months or more, we want to ensure the astronauts are in good health and won’t encounter any serious medical issues in space. And, you want to be in good shape to help minimize bone and muscle loss, and also to be able to do spacewalks. It takes a LOT of upper body strength to work in the space suits for 6-7 hours!

Some other factors that the selection board would consider include a genuine appreciation and love of the spaceflight program, a team-based orientation, language skills, organizational skills, and an ability to communicate a spirit of discovery.  And, since astronauts will be spending more time in space than ever before, it’s crucial that candidates can interact with people from diverse backgrounds, demonstrate they have skills outside a lab environment, and are good with their hands for operational tasks.

The best advice is to follow your passion! We need a diverse range of people and skills to make our team successful! So pursue your hobbies and be the best you can be in the areas that interest you!

If you are ready to apply, YOU ARE IN LUCK!  NASA recently announced that they will begin accepting applications for the next class of astronaut candidates December 14, 2015 through mid-February 2016.  

This is your chance!  No matter the odds, if it is your dream you should try, and try, and try again.

Next time on the NASA Village… Map my brain.

Do you want more stories?  Find our NASA Villagers here!


A Short History of USAF Thunderbirds Display Aircraft

  • Republic F-84G Thunderjet: 1953 - 1954
  • Republic F-84F Thunderstreak: 1955 - 1956
  • North American F-100C Super Sabre: 1956 - 1964
  • Republic F-105B Thunderchief: 1964 (six shows only)
  • North American F-100D Super Sabre: 1964-1968
  • McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II: 1969 - 1973
  • Northrup T-38A Talon: 1974 - 1981
  • General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon: 1983 - 1992
  • General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon: 1993 - 2012 / 2014

B-52 Stratofortress in formation with B-2 Spirit

B-2 pilots, on average, fly between 1 and 3 sorties a month in the B-2 bombers (they also have T-38 Talon trainers to maintain proficiency). As of 2013, only 35 pilots had reached 1,000 hours on a B-2. None have reached 2,000. By contrast, the average B-52 pilot flies around 300 hours per year in their bomber. Many B-52 pilots have accumulated 5,000 or 6,000 hours on the aircraft type. A B-52 costs $70,000 per hour to fly, versus the B-2’s cost of $170,000 per hour.

via War Is Boring

A student pilot from the 80th Flying Training Wing assigned to the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot training (ENJJPT) program takes off at sunrise in a T-38 Talon Oct. 30, 2014, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. The ENJJPT program is a challenging and rigorous 55-week course that tests pilots’ nerves and produces some of the best pilots in the world. 

(U.S. Air Force photo/Danny Webb)