Future U.S. Air Force pilots may have seen their most advanced training vehicle in the present, with the unveiling of the first of two production-ready Boeing T-X aircraft. The single-engine, flight-training vehicle recently completed its first test flight in St. Louis with lead T-X test pilot Steve Schmidt at the controls. As Schmidt observed: “The cockpit is intuitive, spacious, and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach.” The advanced aircraft (see figure) incorporates twin tails, stadium seating, and an advanced cockpit design with embedded training features.
Given its spacious seating, Dan Draeger, Boeing’s chief pilot for Air Force programs, was on board for the first test flight. “It was a smooth flight and I had a great all-around view from the instructor’s seat, which is critical during training,” he reported. The second of the two T-X aircraft under development is currently undergoing ground testing and is expected to make its initial test flight in early 2017.
The Boeing T-X aircraft is part of a comprehensive training system developed exclusively for the U.S. Air Force by Boeing and partner Saab AB. The aircraft is considered production-ready rather than a prototype and can be manufactured in production quantities as needed. The T-X represents a departure from normal military/contractor protocol since it has been developed as an investment by Boeing rather than as part of a dedicated contract.
It is based on an architecture that currently employs the latest electronic and mechanical technologies, but is flexible enough to evolve as technologies and training needs change. The Boeing T-X, which has a maintenance-friendly architecture, is designed for long-term reliability and intended to replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging T-38 aircraft.