Tag Archives: Northrop T-38A Talon

15 September 1961

Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-25-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards AFB, 1961. (U.S. Air force)
Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1961. (U.S. Air Force)

15 September 1961: As a consultant to Northrop Corporation, Jackie Cochran flew a T-38A-30-NO Talon to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Over a Closed Course of 2,166.77 kilometers (1,346.37 miles).¹ During August and September 1961, she set series of speed, altitude and distance records with the T-38.

Jacqueline Cochran's Diplôme de Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)
Jacqueline Cochran’s Diplôme de Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)

Famed Air Force test pilot Colonel Charles E. (“Chuck”) Yeager kept notes during these record runs:

September 13: Jackie landed at 4:15 am. We flew the T-38 on the closed course distance. Takeoff at 2:15 pm and climbed to 40,500 feet [12,344 meters] for initial cruise. Fuel checked out very good. I was amazed at the way Jackie handled the aircraft at high altitude. Everything looked good on the entire flight. Landed a little short of oil in the left engine. Weather was bad over Kingman, Arizona. Cruise climbed at 96% rpm and .87 IMN to 46,500 [14,173 meters] at the end of run. We were in the air 2 ½ hours.

September 14: We tried cold fuel today. It gave us an additional 170 pounds [77 kilograms] at the end. Was a very good flight. We talked with the NAA [National Aeronautic Association] about tomorrow’s run.

September 15: Flew closed course distance for record today and had a good run. Jackie did an excellent job even with bad weather. I chased her in an F-100 all the way.

Brigadier General Charles Elwood (“Chuck”) Yeager, U.S. Air Force, quoted in Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York, 1987, Pages 305–306.

Jackie Cochran and Chuck Yeager at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight in the record-setting Northrop T-38A Talon. (U.S. Air Force)
Jackie Cochran and Colonel Chuck Yeager at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight in the record-setting Northrop T-38A Talon. (U.S. Air Force)

The Northrop T-38A Talon is a two-place, twin-engine jet trainer capable of supersonic speed. It is 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). The trainer’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms).

The T-38A is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines. The J85 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The J85-GE-5 is rated at 2,680 pounds of thrust (11.921 kilonewtons), and 3,850 pounds (17.126 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 108.1 inches (2.746 meters) long, 22.0 inches (0.559 meters) in diameter and weighs 584 pounds (265 kilograms).

Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)

It has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour, 1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The Talon’s service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters) and it has a maximum range of 1,093 miles (1,759 kilometers).

In production from 1961 to 1972, Northrop has produced nearly 1,200 T-38s. As of January 2014, the U.S. Air Force had 546 T-38A Talons in the active inventory. It also remains in service with the U.S. Navy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Jackie Cochran’s record-setting T-38 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.

Northrop T-38A Talon 60-0551, now twenty years old, sits on the ramp at teh Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, 1981. (Photograph by Gary Chambers, used with permission)
Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon 60-0551, now twenty-one years old, sits on the ramp at the Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, 15 May 1982. Jackie Cochran set nine world speed, distance and altitude records while flying this airplane. (© Gary Chambers, used with permission)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12384

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 September 1961

Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards Air Force Base, 1961. (U.S. Air Force)
Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards Air Force Base, 1961. (U.S. Air Force)

7 September 1961: As a consultant to Northrop Corporation, Jackie Cochran flew a T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 500 Kilometers, flying from Edwards Air Force Base, California to Beatty, Nevada, Lone Pine, California, and back to Edwards. Her speed averaged 1,095.56 kilometers per hour (680.749 miles per hour).

Jacqueline Cochran’s Diplôme de Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)
Jacqueline Cochran’s Diplôme de Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)

Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager kept notes during these record runs:

“September 7: Re-run 500 km. Good run. Observers miss her at Lone Pine, Calif.”

— Brigadier General Charles Elwood (“Chuck”) Yeager, U.S. Air Force, quoted in Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York, 1987, Page 305.

During August and September 1961, Cochran set series of speed, altitude and distance records with the T-38.

The Northrop T-38A Talon is a two-place, twin-engine jet trainer capable of supersonic speed. It is 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). The trainer’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms).

The T-38A is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines. The J85 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The J85-GE-5 is rated at 2,680 pounds of thrust (11.921 kilonewtons), and 3,850 pounds (17.126 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 108.1 inches (2.746 meters) long, 22.0 inches (0.559 meters) in diameter and weighs 584 pounds (265 kilograms).

It has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour, 1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The Talon’s service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters) and it has a maximum range of 1,093 miles (1,759 kilometers).

In production from 1961 to 1972, Northrop has produced nearly 1,200 T-38s. As of January 2014, the U.S. Air Force had 546 T-38A Talons in the active inventory. It also remains in service with the U.S. Navy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Jackie Cochran’s record-setting T-38 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.

Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)
Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon 60-0551 at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 August 1961

Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1961.

24 August 1961: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Jacqueline Cochran flew a Northrop/Ryan Aeronautical T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, to an average speed of 1,358.6 kilometers per hour (844.2 miles per hour) over a straight 15-to-25 kilometer course, setting a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed record for women.¹

Jackie Cochran's FAI record certificate in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)
Jackie Cochran’s FAI record certificate in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)

August 24  Big day! First solo in production. Jackie took off in Northrop T-38 for 15–25 record attempt at 9:00 am. I chased in F-100. Flew good pattern and lit afterburners 50 miles from west outer marker. Jackie held good altitude through trap and made a good procedure turn. Lit afterburner 40 miles out on return run and nailed the altitude down perfect. Average speed was 844 mph. All the officials were pleased and the record was confirmed. One down and nine to go.

— Brigadier General Charles Elwood (“Chuck”) Yeager, U.S. Air Force, quoted in Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York, 1987, Pages 301–302.

Jackie Cochran and Chuck Yeager at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight in the record-setting Northrop T-38A Talon. (U.S. Air Force)
Jackie Cochran and Colonel Chuck Yeager at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight in the record-setting Northrop T-38A Talon. (U.S. Air Force)

The Northrop T-38A Talon is a two-place, twin-engine jet trainer capable of supersonic speed. It is 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). The trainer’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms).

The T-38A is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines. The J85 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The J85-GE-5 is rated at 2,680 pounds of thrust (11.921 kilonewtons), and 3,850 pounds (17.126 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 108.1 inches (2.746 meters) long, 22.0 inches (0.559 meters) in diameter and weighs 584 pounds (265 kilograms).

It has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour, 1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The Talon’s service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters) and it has a maximum range of 1,093 miles (1,759 kilometers).

In production from 1961 to 1972, Northrop has produced nearly 1,200 T-38s. As of January 2014, the U.S. Air Force had 546 T-38A Talons in the active inventory. It also remains in service with the U.S. Navy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Jackie Cochran’s record-setting T-38 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.

Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon 60-0551 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1961. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12937

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 May 1977

The first 10 female officers to graduate from the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training Program, Class 77-08, with a Northrop T-38A Talon, 2 September 1977. (U.S. Air Force)
The first 10 female officers to graduate from the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training Program, Class 77-08, with a Northrop T-38A Talon, 2 September 1977. (U.S. Air Force)

2 May 1977: First Lieutenant Christine E. Schott, USAF, was the first woman in the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training Program to solo in the Northrop T-38A Talon at Williams AFB, Arizona. She was a member of Class 77-08, which entered on 19 September 1976.

Northrop T-38A-55-NO Talon 64-13302 on takeoff at Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)
A Northrop T-38A Talon two-place, twin engine supersonic trainer (T-38A-55-NO Talon 64-13302) at Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

The ten women in this photograph, along with their 36 male classmates, received their Silver Wings on 2 September 1977. They are Captains Connie Engel, Kathy La Sauce, Mary Donahue, Susan Rogers and Christine Schott; First Lieutenants Sandra Scott and Victoria Crawford; Second Lieutenants Mary Livingston, Carol Scherer and Kathleen Rambo.

Captain Christine E. Schott would later be the first woman in the Air Force to qualify and serve as an aircraft commander on the C-9A Nightingale medical transport.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 12.36.16
Above image from “Chronological History of the C-9A Nightingale,” by Cadet 1st Class Janene L. Drummer and Ms. Kathryn A. Wilcoxson, Office of History, Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, Illinois, March 2001)
McDonnell Douglas C-9A Nightingale, 71-0874. (U.S. Air Force)
McDonnell Douglas C-9A Nightingale, 71-0874. (U.S. Air Force)

The T-38A is a two-place, twin-engine jet trainer capable of supersonic speed. It is 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). The trainer’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms).

The T-38A is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines. The J85 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The J85-GE-5 is rated at 2,680 pounds of thrust (11.921 kilonewtons), and 3,850 pounds (17.126 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 108.1 inches (2.746 meters) long, 22.0 inches (0.559 meters) in diameter and weighs 584 pounds (265 kilograms).

It has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour, 1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The Talon’s service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters) and it has a maximum range of 1,093 miles (1,759 kilometers).

In production from 1961 to 1972, Northrop has produced nearly 1,200 T-38s. As of January 2014, the U.S. Air Force had 546 T-38A Talons in the active inventory. It also remains in service with the U.S. Navy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 April 1959

Prototype Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191 takes off for the first time at Edwards AFB, 10 April 1959. (U.S. Air Force)
Prototype Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191 at Edwards AFB, 10 April 1959. (U.S. Air Force)

10 April 1959: Northrop test pilot Lewis A. Nelson made the first takeoff of the prototype YT-38-5-NO Talon, serial number 58-1191, at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

A private venture by Northrop, the Talon was designed by a team led by Edgar Schmued, famous for his work on the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre and the F-100 Super Sabre. The Talon is a twin-engine advanced trainer capable of supersonic speeds.

After testing, the YT-38 was modified to the YT-38A. The modified aircraft was accepted by the Air Force and ordered into production as the T-38A Talon.

The T-38 was the world’s first supersonic flight trainer. It is 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters). The airplane’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight is 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms). The Talon is powered by two General Electric J85-5A afterburning turbojet engines, producing 3,300 pounds of thrust, each.

Northrop YT-38-5-NO 58-1191 in flight over Edwards AFB, 10 April 1959. (U.S. Air Force)
Northrop YT-38-5-NO 58-1191 in flight over Edwards AFB, 10 April 1959. (U.S. Air Force)

The T-38A has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour/1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. It has a rate of climb of 33,600 feet per minute (171 meters per second) and a service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters). Its range is 1,093 miles (1,759 kilometers).

Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191. (Northrop)
Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191. (Northrop)

Between 1959 and 1972, 1,187 T-38s were built at Northrop’s Hawthorne, California factory. As of 2014, 546 T-38s remained in the U.S. Air Force active inventory. The U.S. Navy has 10, and NASA operates 15.

Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191. (Northrop)
Northrop YT-38-5-NO Talon 58-1191. (Northrop)

Lewis Albert Nelson was born 13 September 1920 at San Diego, California, the second of three children of George Walter Nelson, an electrician, and Edith Clarissa Merrill Nelson. He grew up in Santa Cruz, California.

Nelson first flew in a Piper J-3 Cub as a teenager. While attending a junior college in 1939, he was accepted into the Civilian Pilot Training Program and continued while at San Jose State College, San Jose, California.

Nelson enlisted as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 12 January 1942. He was 5 feet, 7 inches (1.702 meters) tall and weighed 154 pounds (69.9 kilograms). He served until 1947. He was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After leaving the Air Corps, Nelson studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, graduating in 1949. He later earned a master’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Lew Nelson worked as an aeronautical engineer for the National Advisory Commission on Aeronautics (NACA), and joined the Northrop Corporation as a test pilot in 1950. In 1952 he was promoted to Chief Experimental Test Pilot. Nelson made the first flights of a number of Northrop aircraft, such as the F-89 Scorpion, N-156 and F-5. Nelson retired from Northrop in 1986.

He married Elaine M. Miller, Clark County, Nevada, 28 April 1979.

Lewis Albert Nelson died at Menifee, California, 15 January 2015, at the age of 94 years. His remains were buried at sea.

Lewis A. Nelson. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Lewis A. Nelson. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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