The Boeing contender for the US Air Force T-X requirement made its first flight today.
Wearing the civilian registration N381TX, the aircraft took to the air from the company facility at St Louis, Missouri with two company-owned T-38 Talons flying chase.
The maiden flight came only 48 hours after Boeing released footage of its T-X aircraft undergoing taxi tests in St Louis.
Since breaking cover with its joint Saab-developed T-X aircraft in September, Boeing has been keen to promote the aircraft and keep reporters updated regarding progress.
The first Boeing/Saab T-X, N381TX has been allocated production serial T1 — it is dubbed BTX-1 by the manufacturers — and was revealed to invited guests and selected media at Boeing’s St Louis, plant on September 13.
In the run-up to the ceremonial rollout, the aircraft was moved from the production facility to the paint-shop under cover of darkness. The aircraft was then sprayed and painted by hand in a hangar, surrounded by wooden scaffolding, before being transferred (again by night) to another building for pre-event filming.
Other than the replacement of a butterfly tail by canted twin fins and a conventional horizontal tailplane, the aircraft looked remarkably similar to an early Boeing artist’s impression, and exactly matched the more recent overhead artist’s impression of the nose and front cockpit released in September 2015.
The event revealed that not one but two aircraft have been built, with aircraft T2 (serial N382TX) being close to completion at the time of the rollout. In addition, the five development airframes required for the T-X project have also been pre-registered as N791TX, 792TX, 793TX, 794TX and 795TX.
Ted Torgerson, Boeing’s T-X Program Manager, was unapologetic about all the razzmatazz afforded for the rollout, saying that: ‘As an aircraft manufacturer we don’t get to do this every day. There’s a large team of people that were part of this and we have got a chance to show the world what we could do and that we’re the right choice for the Air Force.’
Steve ‘Bull’ Schmidt, Boeing’s T-X Program Chief Test Pilot, was more measured, pointing out that while the excitement was building, this was just ‘one more step along the way to get the airplane in the air.’