Boeing's T-X single-engine fighter trainer airplane took to the skies for the first time today on a 55-minute flight. The fifth generation trainer being developed in partnership with Swedish defense contractor Saab was flown by Test Pilot Steven Schmidt and Chief Pilot for Air Force Programs Dan Draeger as an initial demonstration of the airworthiness of key systems.
According to Boeing, the maiden flight went off without incident. The first T-X prototypes were revealed to the world in September and today's flight was part of the partners' strategy of demonstrating to the Air Force and the US Department of Defense the ability of the "blank sheet" aircraft to compete with off-the-shelf competitors for the contract in terms of quick delivery.
If approved, the T-X could enter service by 2024. It has twin tails derived from Boeing's F/A-18 for greater maneuverability and a high angle of attack, stadium seating, an advanced cockpit with embedded training, and the ability to blend with state-of-the-art ground-based training. In addition, it's billed as being maintenance-friendly in anticipation of decades of service.
"I've been a part of this team since the beginning, and it was really exciting to be the first to train and fly," says Schmidt. "The aircraft met all expectations. It's well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach."
A second T-X is being ground tested and will fly early next year.
Here's a look at the T-X in action: