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NEWS | March 19, 2007

End nears for Randolph's T-37 instructor pilot mission

By Staff Sgt. Lindsey Maurice 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Like the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end." 

This time the "good thing" includes Randolph's most historic active aircraft and the valuable mission it has served here for 42 years. 

By March 23, the last T-37B Tweet instructor pilot class will graduate and depart the base, with the last Randolph T-37 to follow just two weeks later after its official base retirement ceremony April 6. 

"It's going to be sad to see such a huge part of Randolph aviation history leave," said Lt. Col. Mitch Ashmore, 559th Flying Training Squadron director of operations. "Just about every pilot above the rank of captain has a history with the T-37. Randolph pilots alone have accumulated more than 814,000 flying hours on the aircraft." 

The last T-37B instructor pilot class underwent 13 weeks of classroom, simulator and aircraft instruction, learning how to simultaneously fly and instruct future Air Force pilots. In all, they averaged about 55 hours in the classroom, 30 hours in the simulator and about 60 hours in the air. 

The students, which include Capts. Jeremiah Dixon, Joe Rucker and Lacy Gunnoe, will go on to instruct at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., and Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, where the T-37B will remain in the Air Force fleet for a couple more years before it retires permanently. 

"It's very cool to think that we're a part of aviation history - being the last student IPs to train on the T-37B," said Captain Rucker. "To finish out the career of an aircraft that has been serving the Air Force for 50 years is pretty significant." 

Captain Gunnoe was also sentimental about being a part of aviation history. 

"I take a lot of pride in being able to close out the career of an aircraft that so many pilots before me have flown," he said. 

Captain Dixon added that while it may be time for the Air Force to evolve from the T-37B and focus on its successor the T-6A Texan II, the training he and others have received on the T-37 is priceless. 

"It's a great training platform for pilots," he said. "You really get in touch with the basics and fundamentals of flying which in today's modern world pilots often lose touch with." 

When the captains graduate from T-37B instructor pilot school, 7,737 IPs will have graduated from Randolph, add that to instructor sorties and together they have accumulated more than 597,000 sorties. 

The T-37B will have served at Randolph from October 1965 to April 2007. The aircraft will pass the lead of its base training mission to the T-6 Texan II in an official ceremony April 6 at 3:59 p.m. (1559) on the west ramp behind Hangar 64.