By Eddie C. Riley
The 100th T-45 Goshawk jet trainer rolled out from its production facility in St. Louis last month as the first aircraft to be built after under going multiple changes in its program.
"The merger of Boeing and McDonnell-Douglass, the transition of NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command Headquarters) from Crystal City (Va.) to Pax River, the addition of the new digital cockpit (referred to as Cockpit-21), the new students training with the aircraft at Naval Air Station Meridian, (Miss.) and the on-schedule, on-cost delivery of the Goshawk just kind of all came together with this airplane," said Capt. Tim Heely, program manager for the Jet Flight Training System (T-45TS) Program Office, PMA-273.
"The major assembly of this aircraft began being built the same month, June 97, this program office moved to Pax River," he added.
No. 100 was the 17th T-45C aircraft built with Cockpit 21, a "glass" cockpit representing the future in aircraft, and sent to Naval Air Station Meridian since the new squadron started there in December 1997. The first 83 aircraft, T-45As, went to the two training squadrons at NAS Kingsville, Texas.
The operational difference in the aircraft are in the cockpits. "Cockpit 21 represents modern tactical aircraft regarding displays and instrumentation -- avionics. We are transitioning from steam-gauges to electronics on MFDs (multifunction display monitors)," said Bob Kimble, the T-45 Airframe Integrated Program Team lead.
In addition to the visible change, Heely said, "The difference is what this aircraft represents -- and what it represents is a commitment to get a program further ahead than it's ever been before. It represents the commitment made by Boeing, BAe, Rolls Royce, Raytheon and all the suppliers on this program to pull together as a team." The captain is referring to the prime and sub contractors that worked together to order and manufacture parts, and build the T-45 during its 27-month production schedule at the Boeing plant in St. Louis.
The ceremony hosted in St. Louis by Boeing and Lissa Hollenbeck, the Boeing T-45 program manager, opened the ceremony by thanking the team for its hard work, dedication and ultimate success. "Success such as this doesn't come easily," she said. "Success is the result of teamwork, commitment and a determination to produce a quality product."
Up until now, we were producing 12 aircraft a year. Now we're looking at cranking it up to about 15 a year," said Cmdr. Tim Rivers, the Goshawk systems integrator.
The Navy has increased its procurement requirement from 187 to 234 T-45s after further test expanded the life expectancy of the jet trainer.
"The original requirement for the T-45 was to train pilots out to (fiscal) 2020. That initial procurement was at 187, which was a projection of what was required to continue training pilots out to that time frame. Based on a recent completion of the full-scale fatigue test and comparison of the actual in-use service of the aircraft at Kingsville and Meridian, and the way the pilots are flying it, we've come to the determination that we can actually fly these aircraft longer," Kimble said. "What we found is that we can fly the airplanes longer, but won't have in 2035, the quantity needed to meet the PTR (pilot training requirement) for training pilots. The increase of 47 aircraft will account for attrition in the inventory over the additional 15 operational years."
Currently, there are T-2, TA-4 and T-45 jet trainers on the flight line at NAS Meridian. "By Sept. 30, 1999, there will be no more A-4s on that line. And if you walk that flight line in 2003, the only jet trainer on the ramp will be T-45s," said Rear Adm. Michael Bucchi, chief of Naval Air Training, at the rollout ceremony.
"Soon, training the best with the best will be the T-45," the admiral said. "You have listened well to your customer. And because you have listened, more than 612 new aviators have earned ther wings in the T-45. Since 1992, the T-45 has flown nearly 200,000 flight hours and made more than 12,000 carrier arrested landings."
"In closing," he said, "I'd like to say that we need to see more T-45s and we need them faster."
Last updated: 2.12.99