We joined all of Enid recently in mourning the lives lost in the tragic airplane crash at Vance Air Force Base.
The accident Nov. 21 involving two T-38C jets claimed the lives of Lt. Col. John “Matt” Kincade, 47, an instructor pilot assigned to the 5th Flying Training Squadron, and 2nd Lt. Travis B. Wilkie, 23, a student pilot assigned to the 71st Student Squadron. Two other pilots in the other jet were uninjured.
The Air Force is investigating to determine what happened. What we know is the two aircraft were on a formation training flight and were in the landing phase of the mission when the mishap occurred. One of the two aircraft, a T-38C Talon, ended up upside down, while the other plane was able to land. Both came to rest on the grass next to the runway.
Col. Corey Simmons, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance, halted flight operations after the accident and then resumed them Nov. 26.
The base is a busy place, with some 225 missions per day, and its runways see 800-1,000 landings per day. In order to meet a shortage of pilots in the Air Force, Vance has been tasked with increasing its pilot output by about 30% by 2021 over the fiscal year 2017 output. Output this year, projected at 362 pilots, is up more than 31% over the 2015 numbers.
In spite of all that activity, and the Nov. 21 tragedy, Vance’s safety record is outstanding.
Before the latest incident, the last fatality involving Vance personnel happened on Sept. 8, 2000, when Navy Ensign Kristopher Krohne, 24, was killed during a student training flight when the T-37 he was flying crashed in a field a mile north of a runway.
After that, Vance did not suffer a Class A mishap again until Aug. 17, 2018 — a safety record unmatched in Air Education and Training Command. A Class A mishap involves loss of life or loss of an aircraft.
In the 2018 incident, a T-38 suffered a bird strike and engine fire, forcing the pilot to eject near Mutual. The plane crashed and was destroyed.
The flying will go on at Vance. The base is an important part of the Air Force mission, and an important part of the Enid community.
The sound of the planes over the city is part of who we are.