Boeing T-X trainer contender makes first flight

Boeing T-X takes off on its first flight. (Boeing)
Boeing T-X takes off on its first flight. (Boeing)

Boeing’s contender for the US Air Force’s T-X trainer program has completed its first flight.

The maiden flight lasted 55 minutes with lead T-X test pilot Steven Schmidt at the controls and Chief Pilot for Air Force Programs Dan Draeger in the instructor’s seat.

Schmidt said the aircraft met all expectations.

“I’ve been a part of this team since the beginning, and it was really exciting to be the first to train and fly,” Schmidt said in a statement on December 20 (US time).

“It’s well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach.”

Boeing unveiled the T-X trainer, designed in partnership with Sweden’s Saab in September at a ceremony at St Louis.

Features of the aircraft include a single GE F404 engine, twin tails, what Boeing calls “stadium seating” and advanced avionics.

Draeger said it was a successful test mission.

“I had a great all-around view throughout the flight from the instructor’s seat, which is critical during training,” Draeger said.

A second T-X was currently in ground testing and expected to start flying in early 2017, Boeing said.

Boeing and Saab are one of five teamings competing for T-X, as well as Lockheed Martin with Korean Aerospace, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, Raytheon and Alenia Aermacchi, and Textron AirLand.

T-X initial operating capability is planned for 2024, with the USAF planning to acquire 350 T-X aircraft to replace its ageing Northrop T-38 Talon trainers. A final RFT was due for release by the end of this year, with selection of the winning design planned for 2017.

The T-X program may also have longer-term relevance for Australia. Included in the 2016 Defence White Paper’s Integrated Investment Program (IIP) document is a new $5 billion project to replace the RAAF’s Hawk lead-in fighter trainers.

The IIP details a requirement for “a new lead-in fighter training system to support those students who go on to complete the ADF’s fast jet pilot training.”

The IIP lists a timeframe of 2022-2033 and a budget of $4-5 billion.


  1. Raymond says

    Sean, the PC-21 is a turboprop. There will be a jet LIFT to replace the Hawk to provide the next step for pilots transitioning to fast jets, and the winner of the USAF’s T-X program will be a serious contender.

  2. Samual says

    I am just thinking that the T-38 has been around since the early 60s and they are now just getting around to replacing them.

    I imagine that the winner of the T-X competition will be a good chance to replace the Hawks.

  3. Hayden Roberts says

    I can imagine going from a small turboprop trainer PC-21 with a top speed of 685 Km/H to an F/A-18F/G with twin afterburning F414-GE-400 turbofans with 9,800 kg thrust each and a top speed of 1960 Km/H or an F-35A with a Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 and a top speed of 1960 Km/H would be pretty hard! thats why you have a lead in fighter training aircraft the difference between 700 and 2000 Km/H is pretty big