Losses and Aviation Safety

T-38C Talon that crashed in November was doing an emergency landing when it went down

AETC said the pilots were completing a training mission but provided no answer when asked if the flyers had reported an in-flight emergency before returning to the base

The pilots of a T-38C training aircraft were making an emergency landing at Laughlin Air Force Base (AFB) when it crashed last month.

The Talon crashed about 7:40 p.m. Nov. 13, claiming the life of instructor pilot Capt. John F. Graziano, 28, of Elkridge, Md., and injuring Capt. Mark S. Palyok.

In a statement responding to questions submitted by the San Antonio Express-News, the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) said it “can’t speculate on the cause” of the crash, but said Graziano ejected from the plane along with Palyok.

AETC said the pilots were completing a training mission but provided no answer when asked if the flyers had reported an in-flight emergency before returning to the base.

Palyok was treated at a hospital and later released.

The incident marked the second fatal crash of a T-38 at Laughlin in 12 months, coming almost one year after USAF Capt. Paul Barbour was killed and Capt. Joshua Hammervold was injured when their Talon experienced total hydraulic failure, according to an investigation into the wreck.

It was also the fifth T-38 crash in the last 12 months. Those incidents happened at other locations and the pilots survived.

Graziano and Palyok, also an instructor pilot (IP), flew with the 87th Flying Training Squadron (FTS) at Laughlin. The unit conducts specialized undergraduate pilot training for the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and allied nations.

Graziano is survived by his mother, father, sister and brother.

Other T-38 crashes, in which the pilots safely ejected, occurred during flights out of Columbus AFB in Mississippi on May 23 and at Vance AFB in Enid, Okla., on Aug.17.

The T-38C Talon II is a is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles. Air Education and Training Command is the primary user of the T-38 for joint specialized undergraduate pilot training. Air Education and Training Command uses the T-38C to prepare pilots for front-line fighter and bomber aircraft such as the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, B-1B Lancer, A-10 Thunderbolt and F-22 Raptor.

Capt. John Graziano, IP with the 87th FTS, killed in a T-38C Talon crash on Nov. 13, 2018.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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