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T-38 ejection seat
The 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base is working to install new ejection seats in its T-38 fleet in order to increase the overall safety of the training aircraft. The first full class to use the upgraded seats had their first flights on Oct. 26 (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo).
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T-38 to receive new ejection seats

Posted 10/29/2012   Updated 10/29/2012 Email story   Print story


by 2nd Lt. Meredith Dilley
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

10/29/2012 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- The 80th Flying Training Wing is working to replace the ejection seats in its T-38 fleet to a new model which increases pilot safety.

Students in the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program (ENJJPT) will begin their training in the upgraded T-38s during the final phase of their training, though some seats have already been upgraded and are in use in Pilot Instructor Training and Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals courses.

The wing is supporting an Air Force-wide push to upgrade all T-38 ejection seats throughout pilot training. The new seat, the MK US 16T by Martin Baker, will replace the old Northrop Grumman seat.

The process should be completed by Nov. 2013, but is already in the works. The first full class to fly the upgraded planes had their first flight Oct. 26.

The new seats are much easier to deploy than the old model, with only a single handle that must be pulled in order to eject. The old model was more complex to deploy and posed potential risks to pilots in distress.

"There have been fatal ejections from the T-38," said Captain Jamilee Lambert, 80th Operations Support Squadron. "These new seats could reduce the risk ejection carries with it."

The new seats offer an increased chance of survival through a much more reliable system than the old seat, which was the original ejection seat when the T-38 came onto the scene in the late 1950s.

The new seats will also make the students' lives a little easier. Instead of carrying a 50 pound parachute pack to and from the plane, the ejection seat will be self-contained on the aircraft.

Students begin pilot training in the T-6, which has a similar ejection seat to the new seat being installed in the T-38. Having the same type of ejection seat will reduce confusion among students who are transitioning from one aircraft to the other.

Students receive extensive training on egress and ejection prior to flying. Due to the extended timeframe of the upgrades, students will learn to egress either on the old Northrop seat or with the new Martin-Baker seat. Instructor pilots must remain proficient in both seats until the upgrades are completed.

The new seat is a "zero/zero" seat, meaning the pilot could eject from zero feet altitude at zero velocity and be safe. This is an improvement from the old seat, where a fatal ejection could occur in the same scenario.

Air Crew Flight Equipment has received $1.1 million dollars to update harnesses, training devices and other equipment to prepare for the installation of the new seats.

The new upgrades will cost an overall $184.4 million.

"The new seats could save a pilot's life, and to us that's worth the cost," Lambert said.

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