Air Force investigators aren’t releasing any more details three weeks after a T-38 training jet crashed and burned just north of Columbus Air Force Base.
“An Air Force Investigation Board is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the May 23 T-38 crash. The Board is working diligently to get to the bottom of what happened that day and why, but we are unable to release any details about the crash or the pilots until the investigation is complete,” Staff Sgt. Joshua Smoot, a media relations specialist at CAFB, wrote Wednesday in an e-mail response to a Packet inquiry.
“The aircraft was destroyed as a result of the mishap, and the wreckage is currently being stored in a hangar on Columbus Air Force Base as the investigation proceeds,” Smoot added.
Two airmen ejected to safety as their T-38 jet training aircraft went down at about 8:15 a.m. May 23.
It’s unclear if the pilots were trying to get back to the base when the crash occurred. The site is just north of the base near the intersection of old Highway 373 and the gravel Barton Ferry Road near what is commonly known as the old north gate.
The site was near the banks of the Buttahatchee River as it winds its way through northern Lowndes County to dump into the Tombigbee. Gravel pits and wetlands cover parts of the area, although a small church is near the site.
The pilots parachuted to safety and were treated and released that day from Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle.
Among other questions, Smoot could not answer whether the pilots realized they had a problem and were trying to get back to the base, how long they had been flying that morning, the plane’s maintenance history, the pilot’s names or backgrounds, how much warning the CAFB control tower had before the crash, or whether debris was scattered or concentrated.
The crash came 10 years and one month since the last CAFB-related crash — a T-38 on April 23, 2008, that claimed two lives.
At CAFB, the planes flew 10,902 sorties in fiscal year 2016, second most among the 56,642 sorties flown from the base that year.
The base has 58 Talons assigned to standard flight training and 29 more assigned to the fighter pilot program that was moved to the base seven years ago.
According to CAFB, the T-38C is an upgraded T-38A, sometimes known as the “glass cockpit” variant, because its improved avionics and support systems are close to what pilots will use when they move on to advanced assignments.
Despite the two crashes in the last decade at CAFB, the T-38 has what is considered an “exceptional” safety record during its 50-year history. According to Air Force and federal statistics, more than 210 aircraft losses and ejections have been documented over the lifetime of the T-38.