April 08, 2008 Air Force Print News – by SrA John Parie
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss.
The T-37 Tweet formally retired April 3 from Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training here after 39 years of service as the gateway to the sky for more than 10,000 Air Force aviators.
Columbus Air Force Base was the last Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training base flying the T-37, but the T-37 will continue to be used at Sheppard AFB, Texas, in the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program. Vance AFB, Okla., and Laughlin AFB, Texas, phased out the T-37 from their pilot training programs in 2007.
“If you are a flier or a maintainer of any airplane, there is an emotional attachment,” said Maj. Gen. Irving L. Halter Jr., the 19th Air Force commander. “The T-37 is a part of the fabric of Air Force aviation as well as American aviation.”
The first T-37 arrived at Columbus AFB in 1969 in preparation for the base’s realignment from Strategic Air Command to Air Training Command in 1970.
In 1970, Columbus AFB officials undertook the undergraduate pilot training mission, usng the T-37 for its primary training, and the T-38 talon for advanced training.
T-37 tail number 68-8068 arrived at Columbus AFB from the Cessna factory in Wichita, Kan., Sept. 25, 1969, with a grand total of 9.1 flight hours to its credit.
Thirty-nine years later, on March 31, 68-8068 was flown for the last student training sortie in the T-37 at Columbus AFB. Maj. Robert McGrath, an instructor pilot, and Capt. Jay Labrum, a student pilot, flew the aircraft’s 10,351st sortie. The trainer jet ended its service to Columbus AFB with 16,637.6 flying hours.
With the completion of his training sortie, Captain Labrum was the last Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training student to utter the time honored words of “Tweet complete,” signifying his completion of Phase II of the Air Force Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training program and the T-37.
“The T-37 has been a symbol of Air Force pilot training for half a century,” said Lt. Col. David Johnson, the 37th Flying Training Squadron commander. “While getting newer aircraft is always a good thing, the Tweet was a living, breathing piece of pilot training heritage being used on a daily basis to train our young men and women.”
The retirement ceremony culminated with a four-ship T-37 fly over by members of the 37th Flying Training Squadron.
“Goodbye, old girl. We are going to miss you,” General Halter said. “You have done much for this nation and have made dreams come true.”