|T-38 61-0928 Wreck Site, AZ|
|T-38 61-0928 Wreck Site, AZ|| |
T-38 61-0928 Wreck Site, AZ
|Hiking||4.40 Miles|| 6 Hrs 7 Mns ||1.90 mph|
|2,100 ft AEG|| 3 Hrs 48 Mns Break|
||no linked trail guides|
|I went for a hike to locate an aircraft wreck. I’ve known about the crash for over 45 years, and thought…. “It’s about time to go look at the crash site”.
All plane crashes are bad, however in this case, the two pilots ejected safely. Only the plane was mortally wounded.
In a former life, I was a T-38 instructor pilot at Williams AFB (now Phoenix–Mesa Gateway Airport).
The T-38 was (and still is) the U S Air Force’s advanced supersonic aircraft that prepares future air force pilots to fly fighters, and some other ‘like’ aircraft.
The T-38 is also used in the Navy’s and Air Force’s test pilot schools, and by NASA pilots. The tandem two seat T-38 (twin engine, with afterburners) has been around a long time, and has a stellar accident record. With that said, ‘things’ still do happen.
T-38 61-0928 was based at Williams AFB, and crashed on 18 April 1967, a few years before I arrived for instructor duty.
This T-38 was in a 4-ship formation - with 2 instructor pilots in each of the four aircraft.
The instructor pilots were on what is called, an upgrade proficiency flight on 2-ship formation landings. (The original 4-ship would split up into two 2-ships half way thru the mission for the 2-ship landings). Landing a T-38 from the back-seat, in formation, is quite challenging and proficiency flights are necessary. Back then, only fully qualified instructors performed 2-ship formation landings.
This T-38 was #3 in the 4-ship. On climb out from Williams AFB the two instructors felt (and heard) some unwarranted "thumps" going on. At about 27,000 feet the front cockpit canopy disintegrated (The canopy ‘glass’ is made of an acrylic-polycarbonate laminate), causing FOD (Foreign Object Damage) to go into the two engine intakes. Both engines were damaged and airspeed couldn't be maintained, except in a 2,000 foot per minute descent rate.
The two instructors ejected safely, and the T-38 went down. Both instructors were soon picked up by an Air Force rescue helicopter.
The "controlled" ejection procedure in the T-38 calls for a slow (220 to 230 knots) speed with landing gear and flaps retracted. The impact point was at the top of a ridge, and the debris field goes almost all the way down to a valley. A small fire started in the demolished fuselage. That’s where the two fuel tanks and engines reside.
Other wreckage is strewn all down the mountain side, with alot of small pieces, and many very large pieces still sitting where they came to a stop fifty years ago. It’s in a remote, ‘off-the-beaten-path’ location, and I assume treasure hunters have been few. That’s very good.
I took alot of photos, and attempted to identify large and small wreckage pieces. I have included ‘combined’ wreckage photos with photos of actual T-38s, to help those interested, make sense of some of the wreckage pieces.
I spent four years instructing in the T-38, and accumulated thousands of flying hours in it, before moving on to other aircraft.
It was a bit sad to see one of these fine airplanes in this forlorn state.
The actual hike was a bushwhack, ’up and down’ many ridges and valleys, with alot of thick vegetation in the low areas. Most of the ‘thick’ areas were short lived.
The hike was definitely worth the effort, even though an aircraft wreck site isn’t exactly a happy place.
|Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost|