Air Force News

AF replaces T-3 flying program

Released: 13 Oct 1999

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The Air Force is replacing its enhanced flight screening program with commercial training and eliminating use of the T-3A Firefly to screen and prepare pilot candidates for Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training.

An expanded Introductory Flight Training Program that provides pilot candidates Federal Aviation Administration-certified flight instruction through commercial pilot training schools will replace the flight screening program before the end of the year, according to Maj. Gen. William Welser, director of operations, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

This decision is expected to maintain acceptable attrition rates for SUPT, save $16 million a year and capitalize the Air Force's current introductory flight training program in use as a stopgap training measure since October 1998.

The service's T-3 enhanced flight screening program was suspended in July 1997 following a number of uncommanded engine stoppages.

Without the benefit of T-3 flight screening, attrition rates for SUPT climbed above 15 percent. The Air Force considers an 8 to 10 percent attrition rate acceptable.

To reduce the climbing attrition rate and increase pilot production, the service instituted an introductory flight training program in October 1998 that brought attrition down to 8.8 percent.

With the T-3 being almost two years from returning as a screener, the Air Force decided to terminate the program and expand IFT, which has a comparable attrition rate, according to General Welser.

"The real big factor is that it was going to take us about 18 to 24 months to bring the T-3 back online to be able to produce our first pilot candidate," he said. "With the added numbers of people that we're trying to put through pilot training, we just couldn't wait that long."

General Welser said the Air Force's goal with the expanded IFT was to maintain an acceptable attrition rate.

"Over the period of time we've been doing IFT vs. the T-3, we're finding the attrition rates within 1 percent of each other," he said. "7.8 percent for the T-3 and 8.8 percent for IFT."

Under the expanded IFT, pilot candidates will receive 50 hours of flying time and earn a private pilot's license. General Welser said this will give pilot candidates confidence, flight experience and a better opportunity to succeed when they enter pilot training.

"We feel anyone who receives a private pilot's license based on FAA requirements will come to us with the right amount of experience and the right amount of confidence to be able to successfully complete our undergraduate pilot training," he said.

More than 150 flight schools nationwide may be involved in the training program, mostly near colleges and universities with Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps detachments. Pilot candidates at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., will receive their training in the local area.

After completing the expanded IFT program, pilot candidates will enter Air Force SUPT.

General Welser said Air Force officials are studying disposition options for the fleet of 110 T-3A aircraft which originally cost the Air Force about $32 million.


** Maj. Gen. William Welser
** Air Education and Training Command
** Federal Aviation Administration