Oct 13th, 2017

Jackie Cochran and the T-38 Record

Jackie Cochran and the T-38 celebrated an anniversary this week.  Jacqueline Cochran is, next to Amelia Earhart, the most famous female pilot in United States history.  On October 12, 1961 she set two records in the T-38.

Jackie Cochran rose to fame in World War II.  She could see war on the horizon and got the word to Roosevelt that female pilots may be needed in the war effort.  She began recruiting women pilots to ferry planes across the Atlantic for the British Ferry Command.

In 1943, Hap Arnold (the Father of the modern Air Force) asked Cochran to develop a program to train women to fly.  It became known as the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (AKA WASP).  Eventually she helped train over 1,000 pilots for the war effort.

Pilot Friends, Chuck Yeager and Jackie Cochran

Following the war she became a test pilot and was the first woman to break the sound barrier.  With the help of her good friend, Chuck Yeager, she accomplished the feat in 1953 flying an F-86 Sabre Jet.  More of her career can be read about at: http://www.hill.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/397171/jacqueline-cochran/

However on October 12, 1961 she set a record in an aircraft near and dear to my heart, the Northrup T-38 Talon.  On that day Cochran flew the T-38 to a level altitude of 55,252 feet and then zoomed to 56,072 – both records.  Photos from the day can be seen at: https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/

Twenty four years later, I would break a personal record in the T-38.  Over the west plains of Texas, I broke the sound barrier for the first time in “The White Rocket” as we called the T-38.  What a thrill.

Thirty two years later, the Air Force is still training aspiring plots in the T-38 Talon.  She is a beautiful bird and fun to fly.  I am not surprised that the legacy has continued for 56 years after Jackie Cochran sets those records.

Doctor Aviation on a T-38

3 Responses to “Jackie Cochran and the T-38 Record”

  1. Debbie Papish

    I ran across your web page here and saw the picture of Jackie Cochran with Northrup’s T38. Brought back fond memories. My father was one of Northrup’s chief Test Pilots that showed both Jackie & Chuck Yeager how to fly the T38 back in 1961. Fond memories!

    • doctoraviation

      Thank you for the story Debbie. What a fond memory and what a thrill for your Dad, I am sure. I consider the 1950s and early 1960s to be the golden age of jet test flight. Please feel free to share your Dad’s name so that I may recognize him in this site, but only if you feel comfortable in doing so!

  2. Debbie Papish

    Thank you. My father was Donald H Papish/ Northrop Experimental Test Pilot. Please feel free to contact me via my email & I would love to discuss that. Thank you!


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