WATCH: Boeing’s T-X Trainer Takes First Flight

Boeing's new single-engine aircraft lifted off from St. Louis on Dec. 20, 2016, making it one of the last companies vying for an Air Force contract to have its offering take flight and strut its stuff, according to photos the company released on Twitter.Boeing's new single-engine aircraft lifted off from St. Louis on Dec. 20, 2016, making it one of the last companies vying for an Air Force contract to have its offering take flight and strut its stuff, according to photos the company released on Twitter.

It’s wheels up for Boeing’s new T-X trainer aircraft.

The single-engine aircraft lifted off from St. Louis on Tuesday, making it one of the last companies vying for an Air Force contract to have its offering take flight and strut its stuff, according to photos the company released on Twitter.

“The aircraft met all expectations,” lead T-X Test Pilot Steven Schmidt said in a statement. “It’s well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach.”

Schmidt and Chief Pilot for Air Force Programs Dan Draeger flew the aircraft during a 55-minute test flight, Boeing said.

They climbed past 10,000 feet at 231 knots, or roughly 265 miles per hour, Schmidt said during a phone call with reporters.

Engineers will now review flight data to see if the specifications met their predictions, according to Ted Torgerson, the program manager. Those parameters and weather conditions will determine when the ship will take the next flight, he said.

The aerospace giant unveiled its T-X trainer jet sporting the sleek design during a ceremony in September at its St. Louis facility. The Chicago-based company, collaborating with Saab, is competing with Northrop Grumman Corp. for a new design for the program.

Boeing is the only team so far to offer a twin canted vertical tail design, mimicking fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets such as the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F/A-18 Hornet.

Northrop this summer conducted training tests in the Mojave Desert, California. Company spokeswoman Katherine Thompson confirmed to Defense News at the time that photos, which first surfaced on social media, were of its trainer. Northrop also took its first flight during the training tests, according to a report from Aviation Week.

Northrop is partnering with BAE Systems, L-3 and Rolls-Royce on the project.

The Air Force wants a replacement for its T-38 Talon trainer aircraft, first produced by Northrop in 1959. The Talon is used to prep 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,” according to the service.

The service hopes to buy 350 new trainer jets.

Other vendor teams such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Korea Aerospace Industries, and Raytheon Co., Leonardo-Finmeccanica and CAE Inc. are offering modification designs to current aircraft, but are not competing in clean sheet designs.

However, another company may add to the running.

Sierra Nevada Corp. and Turkish Aerospace Industries are said to be partnering on their own design for a T-X trainer, one that could be more fuel efficient, according to Aviation Week. The two businesses have allegedly set up shop for the project in Centennial, Colorado, as Freedom Aircraft Ventures LLC, AvWeek reports.

Mock designs provided to AvWeek online also show the competitor to have twin canted vertical tails.

Boeing officials on Tuesday said they would not comment on any competitor’s designs or decisions.

In addition to the tail design, Boeing’s aircraft features “one engine … stadium seating and an advanced cockpit with embedded training,” the company said in a previous statement. “The system also offers state-of-the-art ground-based training and a maintenance-friendly design for long-term supportability.”

Boeing officials said so far they’ve only built two jets, “but are ready to win the program so they can build some more.”

Saab deputy program manager Eddy De la Motte added that while there will be a market for international buyers in the future, “we need to win T-X” from the Air Force first.

About the Author

Oriana Pawlyk
Oriana Pawlyk is a reporter for Military.com. She can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.