Story and Photos by Scott Jankowski
AirVenture always centers their events around certain themes with 2023 dedicated to the U.S. Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command (AETC) AETC was established in July of 1993 and is currently headquartered at Randolph Air Force Base, Joint Base San Antonio TX. AETC is the primary training and professional education command in the U.S. Air Force and has over 48,000 active duty and 14,000 civilian members and over 1,600 aircraft in its inventory, these include trainers, tankers, transports, helicopters, and fighters.
AETC has several bases around the country and includes bases in OK, MS, TX, NM, AZ, AL, FL, and AR. Most training is centered around Vance and Altus Air Force Base OK, Columbus and Keesler Air Force Base MS, Sheppard, Goodfellow, Lackland, and Laughlin Air Force Bases TX, Holloman Air Force Base NM, Luke Air Force Base AZ, Maxwell Air Force Base AL, Eglin Air Force Base FL, and Little Rock Air Force Base. AETC has quite a varied inventory of different aircraft and includes Lockheed Martin F-35A’s, F-16’s, HC-130 Hercules, Sikorsky HH-60 Blackhawks, Boeing KC-46 Pegasus. The primary trainers they use are the Raytheon T-1A Jayhawk, the Raytheon Textron T-6 Texan II, and the Northrop T-38C Talon. The Boeing T-7 Red Hawk will be the successor to the T-38. AETC was originally established in 1942 as the Air Corps Flying Training Command and has been active for almost 82 years now, AETC is also responsible for training NATO Pilots in instrument and low-level flying as part of the ENJJPT (Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program). AirVenture 2023 included several different examples of T-1A, T-6A, and T-38C aircraft on display which were rotated through Boeing Plaza the entire week. KC-135’s and C-17A’s were also on display and in the weekend afternoon airshows. The Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules was also parked on Boeing Plaza.
The Raytheon T-6A Texan II is a single engine, two seat primary trainer that students learn basic flying skills in. The T-6 Texan II is powered by a single 1,100 shaft horsepower Pratt&Whitney PT6A-68 Turboprop engine and has been in service since 2000. There are approximately 446 aircraft in the active inventory and are based at Columbus Air Force Base MS, Vance Air Force Base OK, Laughlin, and Sheppard Air Force Bases TX. The Texan II shares its name with the iconic World War II trainer the T-6 Texan. All of the T-6A’s on display wore special heritage color schemes.
The Raytheon T-1A Jayhawk is a medium range, two engine jet trainer used in pilot training for students selected to fly airlift or tanker aircraft. The T-1A has cockpit seating for two students and an instructor and is based off the civilian Beechcraft 400A business jet. The T-1A has been in service since 1992 and is powered by a pair of Pratt&Whitney JT-15D-5B Turbofan Engines. There are approximately 178 T-1A’s still in service with bases at Columbus Air Force Base MS, Laughlin and Randolph Air Force Bases TX, Vance Air Force Base OK, and Naval Air Station Pensacola FL.
The final trainer on display was the twin engine, supersonic, high altitude Northrop T-38C Talon. The T-38 first flew in 1959 and is used to train pilots for bomber and fighter aircraft such as the B-1B and the F-22A. AETC currently flies approximately 550 of the “C” model T-38 which features several upgrades and modernizations which should extend the service life of the T-38 for many years to come. The 80TH Flying Training wing uses the T-38C to train NATO combat pilots as part of the ENJJPT (Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program) at Sheppard Air Force Base TX. The T-38 is powered by a pair of General Electric J85-5R engines with afterburners giving the aircraft a top speed of Mach 1.3. All of the T-38’s participating at AirVenture 2023 wore heritage paint schemes.
AETC also had transport aircraft on static display and performing in the afternoon airshow. The first of these on static display was a 7-year-old Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules. This C-130 is part of the 314th Air Mobility Wing, 62d Airlift Squadron based at Little Rock Air Force Base AR. This 4-engine turbo prop airlifter first flew in 1956 and is the oldest continuously produced aircraft in history. The “J” model has been in service since 1999 with approximately 120 in service. The C-130J-30 is powered by four Rolls Royce AE-22100-D3 Turboprop Engines which offers substantial performance improvements over all previous versions and also features a 15-foot fuselage extension which increased the cargo capacity of the aircraft.
The four engine Boeing C-17A Globemaster III was on display all week and was also featured in the weekend afternoon airshow. Both aircraft came from the 97th Air Mobility Wing based at Altus Air Force Base OK. The C-17A entered service in 1993, has a crew of three and is powered by four Pratt&Whitney F117-PW-100 Turbofan Engines, and has a maximum payload of 170,900#’s. There are approximately 222 C-17’s in the U.S. Air Force inventory, with aircrew training focused at Altus Air Force Base. The 97th Air Mobility Wing, 58th Airlift Squadron has operated the C-17A since 1996 and can trace its history back to 1942 when the activated as the 58 Troop Carrier Squadron.
The final aircraft which was also featured in the afternoon weekend airshows was the 1956 vintage Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker. The KC-135 has been in service for over 60 years and still provides the core refueling capability of the U.S. Air Force today. The “R” model is powered by four CFM-56 Turbofan Engines, carries a crew of three, and can carry up to 200,000#’s of transfer fuel to other aircraft. There are still approximately 400 “R” models still flying today but are slowly being replaced by the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus. This KC-135R is part of the 97th Air Mobility Wing, 58th Air Refueling Squadron based at Altus Air Force Base OK. The 58th has provided aircrew training since 1998 and is the only KC-135 training squadron in the U.S. Air Force.
*Please note some of the KC-135 and C-17 images were shot at General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee WI, where the 97th was based out of.
The mission of AETC is to find, recruit, train, and educate the Airmen this nation needs, the vision of AETC is to develop Airmen with the competencies to win the high-end competition. This was proudly displayed at AirVenture 2023 by the men and women under LT. General Brian S. Robinson’s command. Look for additional AirVenture coverage to come. Until next time, “Blue Skies To All!.”