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A 41st FTS T-6A Texan II sits on the wet Columbus ramps after a heavy downpour

The 14th FTW currently has the largest aircraft inventory in the United States Air Force with 244 aircraft on strength (47 x T-1A, 100 x T-6A, 87 x T-38C and 10 x A-29) and in Fiscal Year 2014 graduated some 416 students through its training programme (292 SUPT students, 93 IFF students and 31 international students). In the same year, the Wing accomplished over 54,000 sorties and achieved almost 77,000 flight hours.

#94-0148 heads out towards the runway at Columbus on a damp Friday afternoon

The SUPT is broken down into three phases; Phase 1 is Academics, Phase 2 is Primary Flight Training and Phase 3 is Advanced Flight Training, lasting approximately 12 months in total. Phase 1 is six weeks of classroom study covering everything from aircraft systems to basic instrument flying procedures. Phase 2 is held over the next 22 weeks, where students fly a total of 81 hours in the Beechcraft T-6A Texan II, learning basic flight manoeuvres and aerobatics, basic instrument flying and 2-ship formation flying. At the completion of Phase 2, the students select one of four different Phase 3 training tracks. Selection is of course based on merit and the needs of the Air Force, but in the simplest of terms, the students are ranked on academic, flight and military performance. Then the number one student gets their first choice of the available tracks, and then the number two student chooses and so on. Phase 3 is approximately 24-28 weeks long, during which time the student will be taught more advanced formation and instrument flying skills in addition to more mission-specific aircraft manoeuvres.

During Phase 2, students learn basic aircraft characteristics and flight control, take-off and landing techniques, aerobatics, and night, instrument and formation flying. The 37th and the 41st FTS are also the only two squadrons in the Air Force that conduct AETC's Aviation Leadership Programme for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. The international students participating in the programme with the 41st FTS receive USAF pilot wings upon graduation. The T-6s operating at Columbus AFB generally use Runway 13R/31L under the control of a Runway Supervisory Unit (RSU). The T-6 flight pattern at Columbus extends around 5 Nautical Miles (NM) to the southwest of the air base, up to a height of approximately 3500ft. Due to the heavy amount of traffic at Columbus, the T-6 students also conduct practice approaches and landings at Gunshy Auxiliary Field, some 40 nautical miles (NM) south of Columbus AFB.

Although indistinguishable externally from the T-38C, this aircraft is an AT-38C and is operated by the 49th FTS

Phase 2 training at Columbus is undertaken on the Beechcraft T-6A Texan II such as this 37FTS 'Bengal Tigers' example

"The Premier Pilot Training Wing and Community Developing the World's Best Airmen"

The Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) conducted at Columbus AFB is highly demanding, training pilots for the USAF and over 20 of its partner nations. Following their Initial Flight Screening (IFS) in Pueblo, Colorado, where students fly 25 hours in the Diamond DA-20 aircraft, student pilots entering the SUPT programme at Columbus initially join either the 37th Flying Training Squadron (FTS) 'Bengal Tigers', or the 41st FTS 'Flying Buzzsaws', both of which conduct primary flight training in the single-engine Beechcraft T-6A Texan II.

Having been stripped down for scheduled maintenance, #70-1558 gets prepared to be moved to the adjacent paint shop
As with the T-1 and T-6 aircraft, all on base maintenance is carried out by civilian contractors

Supported by jacks, this Texan undergoes some scheduled maintenance

#92-0363 gets a bit of 'spit & polish' between missions

Students destined for the tanker/transport mission in the U.S. Air Force complete their Phase 3 training in the T-1A Jayhawk

Two Texans await their turn to be towed into the Columbus maintenance hangars

The compact cockpit of the T-1A Jayhawk

#70-1563 is marked up as the 50 FTS Squadron Commander's machine

After completion of their T-6 training, students progress to Phase 3, Advanced Training, in the T-38C, T-1A (or T-44/TC-12 with the U.S Navy at NAS Corpus Christi) or UH-1 (at Fort Rucker, Alabama) as appropriate to their future pilot streaming. Student pilots destined for the aerial refuelling or airlift communities transition to the 48th Flying Training Squadron 'Alleycats' at Columbus, which conducts this part of the SUPT programme, with students receiving a minimum of 159 hours of flight instruction in the Beech T-1A Jayhawk. Here the students learn basic air refuelling procedures, tactical navigation, airdrop and advanced navigation, with an emphasis on crew resource management. The T-1 community at Columbus AFB tend to use Runway 13L/31R when conducting their Instrument (IFR) or Visual Flight Rules (VFR) patterns at Columbus, utilising an area that extends around 10NM to the northeast of the base.

14th Flying Training Wing
USAF Air Education & Training Command
Columbus Air Force Base, Ms.

March 2016 and Jetwash Aviation Photos is embedded with 'Team Blaze', more commonly known as the 14th Flying Training Wing (FTW) at Columbus Air Force Base (AFB). Located in the state of Mississippi, Columbus AFB comes under the auspices of Air Education & Training Command (AETC) and has six Flying Training Squadrons (FTS) under its command, one operating the Beechcraft T-1A Jayhawk, two operating the Beechcraft T-6A Texan II and two equipped with the venerable Northrop T-38C Talon. The Wing also controls the 81st Fighter Squadron, which is based at Moody AFB, Georgia, training Afghan Air Force pilots on the Embraer/Sierra Nevada Corporation A-29 Super Tucano aircraft. Although not having any aircraft assigned directly to the squadron, the 43rd Flying Training Squadron, Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) also operates alongside the AETC squadrons at Columbus, their role being to provide a reserve of experienced instructor pilots to augment Air Education and Training Command’s instructor cadre. During wartime, or in the event of hostilities, the unit is mobilised to offset any loss of experienced active-duty instructor pilots to frontline units.

reached a peak of 2,300 enlisted men, 300 officers, and an average of 250 pilot cadets per class. The end of hostilities significantly slowed training activities, so in 1946 the War Department inactivated the base.


Columbus was then void of activity for four years until communist troops violated South Korea's borders in 1950. To handle increased pilot requirements for the Korean War, Air Training Command (ATC) re-activated Columbus Air Force Base on 20th December to be used as a station for a contract flying school. To manage the base, Air training Command established the 3301st Training Squadron on 1st March 1951, with training continuing until 1954, when the mission moved to Moore Air Base, Texas.


On 1st April 1955, HQ USAF transferred Columbus AFB from ATC control to Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the 2nd Air Force. The base began an active building programme to support the new mission as part of SAC's base dispersal system. The city of Columbus provided an additional 3,600 acres to the base so that a northwest-southeast runway could be built. In December 1957 officials at HQ SAC announced the base would become the home of a Boeing B‑52 Stratofortress squadron and a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker refuelling squadron under the auspices of the 4228th Strategic Wing. The first KC-135A landed on 7th January 1959, followed on 28th May by the first B-52. In February 1963, SAC inactivated the 4228th Strategic Wing and activated the 454th Bombardment Wing (Heavy), in its place. Beginning in the summer of 1965, the wing became a part of SAC combat forces in the Pacific and Southeast Asia for operations over Vietnam, during which time the 454th Combat Support Group operated Columbus AFB.

After 14 years as a SAC base, on 1st July 1969 Columbus transferred back to its original mission of training pilots. In preparation for this transfer, Air Training Command had activated the 3650th Pilot Training Wing on 15th February, with the first undergraduate pilot training class entering the school on 17th July. Three years later, on 1st June 1972, Air Training Command discontinued the 3650th and activated the 14th Flying Training Wing in its place. In the mid-1990's the 3-phase Specialized Undergraduate Pilots Training (SUPT) commenced, the programme continuing to this day.

Columbus AFB is situated roughly 9 miles north of Lowndes County in Mississippi, U.S, with approximately 11,500 personnel in residence. The base has three paved runways of 12,000 (3658m), 8,000ft (2438m) and 6,300ft (1920m) in length.

The small luggage pod under this T-38C from the 50th FTS is a regular sight on aircraft flying cross-country sorties

The 49th FTS 'Black Knights' conducts the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) flying training, utilising the AT-38C version of the Talon II. Training over 90 USAF and international students annuallly, the squadron develops the ability, proficiency, confidence, discipline, judgment, situational awareness and airmanship of future fighter pilots. The 49th FTS has a much lower number of active airframes in comparison to its sister squadron at Columbus (29 as against the 58 operated by the 50th FTS), but during FY2014 still flew a creditable 3,929 sorties and achieved 3,547 flight hours. In its secondary role, the squadron's instructors deploy to support fighter syllabus and operational training requirements for Close Air Support (CAS) and Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) with other United States Air Force units around the country.

It's noticeable that some, but not all of the T-6s wear a red cheatline above the dark blue lower section of the fuselage (as above)

Phase 3 students destined for the fighter or bomber communities at Columbus join the 50th Flying Training Squadron 'Striking Snakes'. Phase 3 consists of an additional 110 hours of flight training in the Northrop T-38C Talon. The training includes advanced aircraft handling, instruments, low-level navigation and an increased emphasis on two and four-ship aircraft formations.The Talons at Columbus AFB generally fly VFR patterns around the base, utilising a similar area to the T-1As and also using Runway 13L/31R. The T-38 phase of the students training lasts approximately 24 weeks, preparing them for conversion onto Air Combat Command’s frontline operational types such as the F-22, F-15, A-10 and F-16 fighters, together with the B-1B, B-2 and B-52 bomber communities.

Seen at the FBO at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport, Alabama is #68-8114
Columbus based T-38s make regular weekend cross-country sorties, this one being seen on March 12th

The Beechcraft T-1A Jayhawk is a medium-range, twin-engine jet trainer used in the advanced phase of specialized undergraduate pilot training for students selected to fly airlift and/or tanker aircraft. It is also used to support navigator training for the U.S Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and coalition partners. The swept-wing T-1A is a military version of the Beech 400A executive jet. It has a cockpit with two seats located side by side for primary pilots. It also has a third seat located just behind the instructor's seat for the trainee. The third seat provides maximum visibility as it can be adjusted all around and outside the flight deck. All three seats in the cockpit are fitted with a five-point restraint belt system. It can be fitted with four additional chairs for passengers or maintenance crew members. An acoustic insulation system is installed in the cockpit to reduce the interference between the trainer and the trainee during communications. The T-1A also differs from its commercial counterpart with structural enhancements that provide for increased bird strike resistance and an additional fuselage fuel tank.


The Jayhawk is powered by two Pratt and Whitney JT15D-5B turbofan engines, each providing 2,900 pounds of thrust and giving the aircraft a maximum speed in excess of 530mph (850km/h) . The range and service ceiling of the aircraft are 2,400 miles (3,890km) and 41,000 feet (12,500m) respectively. The maximum take-off weight of the aircraft is 16,100lbs (7,300kg).

The U.S Air Force announced a decision to procure the T-1 in February 1990 as part of its T-1A Jayhawk programme. Beech Aircraft (now Hawker Beechcraft) was initially contracted to deliver a total of 148 Jayhawks to the U.S Air Force at a cost of $648m. In 1994, the USAF awarded another $127m contract to Beechcraft to supply 32 T-1A Jayhawks, increasing the total order to 180 aircraft and value to $755m. Beechcraft delivered the 180th T-1A Jayhawk to the USAF in 1997. The first T-1A Jayhawk was delivered to the United States Air Force at Reese AFB, Texas in January 1992, with student training beginning in 1993. Pilots who have graduated from their primary training on the T-6A aircraft proceed to specialised training on the T-1A, tailoring the training for their future follow-on assignments. The T-1A is currently in use at Columbus, Laughlin, Vance and Randolph Air Force Bases to train pilots and with the 479th Flying Training Group at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, where training for all of the USAF's Combat System Officer (CSO) training is completed. Columbus AFB received their first T-1A in January 1996.

All the maintenance at Columbus AFB is undertaken by civilian contractors

Tail markings of the 49 FTS Black Nights and 50 FTS Strikin' Snakes

The sleek lines of the T-38 Talon can clearly be seen as this 50FTS example heads out at Columbus AFB

A 37th FTS Texan II trundles along the Columbus taxiway for a morning training mission

The lull after the storm. 14 FTW Jayhawks sit forlornly on the wet ramps at Columbus Air Force Base

The Beechcraft T-6A Texan II is a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer designed to provide Joint Primary Pilot Training (JPPT) for U.S Air Force students in basic flying skills. Powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68 turbo-prop engine delivering 1,100 horsepower, its excellent thrust-to-weight ratio provides the aircraft with an initial climb rate of 3,100 feet (945 metres) per minute and can reach 18,000 feet (5,486 metres) in less than six minutes. The aircraft is fully aerobatic and features a pressurized cockpit with an anti-G system, ejection seat and an advanced avionics package with sunlight-readable liquid crystal displays. A unique feature of the aircraft is that the tandem two-seat cockpit allows the student and instructor positions to be interchanged.


The T-6A was identified in 1989 as the aircraft for the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS), a system which includes a suite of simulators, training devices and a training integration management system. On 5th February 1996, Raytheon-Beech was awarded the JPATS acquisition and support contracts, with the first operational T-6A arriving at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in May 2000. The full rate production contract for the aircraft was awarded in December 2001, with USAF production of the aircraft completed in 2010.

The T-6A is used to train SUPT students, providing the basic skills necessary to progress to one of the advanced training tracks; the bomber/fighter track, the airlift/tanker track, the turbo-prop track and the helicopter track. Instructor pilot training in the T-6A began at Randolph AFB in 2000, with the SUPT beginning in October 2001 at Moody AFB, Georgia. Primary training on the T-6 is currently undertaken by USAF Training Wings at Columbus AFB, Vance AFB, Oklahoma and Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB in Texas. The 14th FTW received their first T-6A in October 2006, replacing the older Cessna T-37B completely by April 2008.

Another AT-38C used by the 49th FTS 'Black Knights' in the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) training role
Note that the 49FTS wear differing tailbands each side of the vertical fin, green/black on the port side and yellow/green checkerboard on the starboard side

The crew of this T-38C trying their best to look cool as they taxi out for a weekend cross-country sortie on 11th March 2016

Looks like someone's drawn the short-straw! Washing a very grubby Texan in the rain
It's noticeable how dirty the forward fuselage section gets from the engine exhausts

A pair of 14FTW T-1A Jayhawks seen on the Columbus ramps from the control tower on the afternoon of 11th March 2016
Of note is that the aircraft furthest away wears the blue/red tailband of the 43rd FTS, the AFRC unit at Columbus

The 'sheds' at Columbus are designed to protect the aircraft from the sun and sweltering temperatures that regularly exceed 100°F during the Summer months
However, on this day in mid-March, the only thing #65-10452 is being protected from are the unseasonal heavy rain showers

The busy Jayhwawk fleet at Columbus flew a total 10,697 sorties and almost 23,000 hours during Fiscal Year 2014

History of Columbus AFB The initial planning for what would initially be known as Kaye Field, began on 26th June 1941, when the War Department approved establishment of an Army Air Field for the Columbus area. Six months prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the War Department announced that a pilot training base would be established in Columbus, the base starting life as a training facility for fighters and bombers. Planned as an advanced flying school, the base came under the control of the South-eastern Air Corps Training Center at Maxwell Field, Alabama. Construction began on 12th September 1941 and on 13th January 1942, 100 enlisted men arrived to form the first skeleton organisations of the base.

The naming of the base as Kaye Field soon became an issue due to the similar sounding name of Key Field, Meridian, Mississippi. To correct the problem, in March 1942, the War Department changed the name of the base to Columbus Army Flying School. The Columbus flying school received nine Lockheed AT‑10 aircraft and 21 AT-8s in early 1942, with Barksdale Field, Louisiana, providing the first students.


During World War II, the training load increased until Columbus was graduating 195 pilots per month, with a total of 7,766 students coming to Columbus during the war. When the war ended, the base strength had

'Alleycats' and 'Firebirds' share the ramps at Columbus

We would like to thank the following for their help in completing this article;
SrA Stephanie Englar (14FTW Public Affairs)
2nd Lt. Lauren Woods (14FTW Public Affairs)
2nd Lt. Joseph Wioncek (14 STUS)
2nd Lt. Carlos Monge (14 STUS)
2nd Lt. Joseph Wioncek (14 STUS)
2nd Lt. Aaron Hansen (49 FTS)
Capt. Jacob Yates (37 FTS)
1st Lt. Timothy Jaronik (41 FTS)

A small part of the busy T-38 maintenance shop at Columbus
Note the blue protective wing covers that are also used out on the flightline

A total of 47 T-1As are in service with the 14th FTW at Columbus

The Northrop T-38C Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles by the U.S Air Force. Air Education and Training Command is the primary user of the T-38, utilising the aircraft as part of the SUPT programme. The Talon's superb manoeuvrability and its supersonic capability make it an ideal aircraft for the fighter lead-in role. As the T-38 is far less expensive to operate than aircraft such as the F-15 or F-16, it enables the USAF to provide realistic training to student pilots before they are assigned to a frontline squadron.


First flown in 1959, the T-38A version was Initially delivered to the USAF in March 1961 and remained in production until 1972, with in excess of 1100 being delivered to the Air Force. Having provided sterling service for some 40 years and trained thousands of student pilots, by the turn of the century an updated version was required in order to prepare students for the more advanced aircraft they would go on to fly. Under a programme called 'Pacer Classic', the fleet received avionics and structural modifications to extend their life cycle. A 'glass' cockpit was added with integrated avionics displays, head-up display (HUD), global positioning system (GPS) and an electronic 'no-drop bomb' scoring system.


Powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 afterburning turbojet engines, providing 2,200lbs of thrust (3,300lbs with re-heat), the T-38 can reach an altitude of 30,000 feet in around one minute. AETC began receiving the T-38C models in 2001, the aircraft also having undergone a propulsion modernisation programme which replaced major engine components to enhance reliability and maintainability, and an engine inlet/injector modification to increase available take-off thrust by around 19%.


Boeing announced on 5th January 2016 that it had secured a 10-year contract worth up to $855 million for T-38C Talon avionics and logistics support, maintaining its involvement with the widely-used aircraft through to 2026. Boeing completed a major T-38 avionics upgrade in 2007, converting 463 Talons to the T-38C standard by replacing analogue components with a new digital 'glass' cockpit. Meanwhile, structural upgrades to more than 150 T-38s through the 'Pacer Classic III' structural modification are currently being performed by maintainers, extending the venerable trainer’s life to 2029. This new contract provides avionics component integration and contractor logistics support for the remaining 456 T-38s on the USAF and U.S Navy inventories. According to USAF budget documents, a request for proposals for the T-38 replacement is expected by the end of Fiscal Year 2016, with an engineering and manufacturing development contract award by 2018.