A Comparison of 2 Jets
A review by Ray Marshall
A comparison by Ray Marshall
Comparison of 2 Jets – a private and personal small jet, the Learjet 24B vs the Northrop Grumman T-38A Talon that is now an iconic military supersonic trainer.
During my research for the Learjet 24B review (specifically the choice of turbojet engines and where they came from) I started to wonder how these two aircraft would compare. General Electric had recently lost some big contracts to supply jet engines for military airplanes. It seemed like Pratt and Whitney had their number and beat them out time and time again. Although GE had lost back-to-back large contracts to P & W, they had won the Northrop T-38A Talon engine contract a few years earlier. The new T-38 was to be the next generation Air Force high performance trainer. This was slated to replace Lockheed T-33 (F-80).
The decision was to use GE money, as opposed to military contracting funds, to establish a stand-alone division to supply GE turbojet engines for the up and coming small business jet market. Interestingly, there was no small business jet market when GE started working on adapting their T-38 engine for civilian use.
The timing was perfect for Bill Lear and General Electric in the early 1960s so in less than a year, GE had removed the afterburner section of their J85-5 military engine and, with a bit of tuning and tweaking, they announced their new offering - the CJ610-1 turbojet engine that fit perfectly on the almost-ready-to-fly Lear Jet 23 being built in Wichita, Kansas.
I didn’t find how the 610 designation was derived but the Civilian Jet (CJ) was easy to decipher. The direct thrust output was almost identical although the CJ610 weighed almost 100 pounds less than the J85-5 with the afterburner attached. This is a very compact engine that actually had its start in the early 1940s somewhere between England and ###### Germany.
A few of our forward thinking World War II high ranking officers foresaw the need to be ready to identify, capture, and ship back to America for reverse engineering and flight testing as much of the captured German technology as possible. We had teams of engineers and pilots well ahead of our battle lines looking for jet powered aircraft, engineering drawings, wind tunnel tests, etc. and interviews with German engineers, pilots and mechanics. Interviews at gunpoint would be more correct.
Unfortunately, several key airplane and engine designers were not fluent enough in English to secure passage to America and ended up in Russia as a second choice. The American F-86 Sabre and the Russian MiG 15 designs are no accident. The number one guy came to America with a few sketches that belonged to his Chief Designer who went to Russia after being rejected by the American team that interviewed him and decided he was not qualified. Yeah, right. Both designed the new jet fighter for their new host counties on about the same timeline.
The first U.S. pilots to spot the MiG 15 in Korea came back saying they look just like that new F-86 we are supposed to be getting over here. The first dog fights must have been interesting.
Fortunately, a lone Boeing engineer was a member of a technical team that stumbled onto the design data, including wind tunnel results of a new high speed, swept wing design for the next generation of Luftwaffe bombers. This data somehow ended up only at Boeing and the immediate results were the now common B-47 bomber and the Boeing 707 airliner. America was so far behind the Germans in high-speed jet airplane design it’s difficult to believe how lucky we were.
Back to the Engine
One of the stories goes, the British SAS acquired the detailed plans for one of the early jet engine designs from a BMW plant as early as 1942 but leaders in the U.K. did not see the benefit at the time. Fortunately, one of our Generals wasn’t ready to write it off and arranged to have the design given to General Electric in 1943. It took much more time than it should, but finally someone saw the light and got serious about building these things for testing.
Meanwhile a totally separate path was being forged in China that would ultimately have a direct impact on refining these designs and putting these new engines on the fuselage of Bill Lear’s private jet airplane in Kansas. A young Jewish boy with an inquiring mind got some better than average grades in school and was selected to study as an assistant to a Master Auto Mechanic. Just prior to the German invasion of Poland, this Auto Mechanic saw an ad seeking technical work in China. About a week after his arriving in Hong Kong, the war began and all Germans were rounded up and imprisoned.
Completely by luck, this particular Mechanic was set to interview for a job, but the interview fell through. He was leaving the building and speaking German to his escort guard when an Airline Pilot overheard him and inquired about the circumstances. A short conversation later, our Mechanic was on his way to employment with what ended up being the Flying Tigers. Somewhere along the way our Mechanic was drafted into the Army, eventually promoted to Sargent in the U.S. Army Air Corps and became an indispensable aviation mechanic. He actually rebuilt a crashed Japanese Zero for the Flying Tiger to fly and evaluate. General Chennault arranged for our now U.S. Army Mechanic to travel to America. After a rude reception on U.S. soil as an ‘Enemy Alien’ he was eventually made an American Citizen by an Act of Congress. “Herman the German” and he was now a U.S. citizen and on his way to a remarkable aviation related career.
Now it Comes Together
Herman the German soon became an aircraft engine Engineer and a jet test pilot. After a short stint at Douglas he ended up as a troubleshooter and test engineer for General Electric. Long story short, he retired after 32 years in 1980 as the Head Dude of GE Aircraft Gas Turbine Division. But in the early 1960s he was instrumental in the design and building of a turbojet engine known as the J85-5 and the CJ610 used in T-38A and Lear Jet 23 airplanes. All those CFM56 engines on the gazillion B737s and most of the Airbus fleet flying around the world today also came from this group. I think his best title should be Jet Engine Innovator.
Guess who the Neumann Hangar facility at MIT is named for? Herman the German is Gerhard Neumann from Frankfurt, Germany. Check out the Gerhard Neumann Museum in Bavaria that honors his contributions to aviation.
I thought it would be interesting to compare the two platforms with these similar engines.
There are many interesting size and performance figures for these two similar but very different aircraft. But even more interesting is fact that we can fly both of these aircraft in our flight simulator.
Lionheart Creations Learjet 24B and Military Visualizations, MILVIZ T-38A Talon are available today for download for FSX or P3D.
Sure, they are as different as night and day but they have enough in common for a brief discussion. A prerequisite is that you read the Lionheart Creations Lear Jet 24B review for some background on the Lear and then read the 2011 Avsim review of the MILVIZ T-38 by Peter Hayes.
The idea for this comparison started when I was researching the designing, building, and testing of the now famous Lear Jet. A short description of the Learjet is that it is the one small, private jet that kicked off the Jet Age revolution in the 1960s and set the standards for those few who chose not to fly the airlines and to fly very fast and in style. Today, after 50 years, the Lear Jet can still outperform many private jets being produced. Sure it’s noisy, inefficient, too small, and has a cramped cabin but it still has that WOW effect on arrival or departure.
The Northrop T-38A Talon is a totally different story. I am personally amazed that an aircraft this beautiful and this futuristic looking could have been designed 55 years ago. The T-38 was the very first twin-engine high altitude supersonic jet trainer aircraft designed for advanced pilot training.
The T-38 Talon jet has been used for advanced pilot training since the 1960s, enabling student pilots to learn supersonic techniques, aerobatics, night and instrument flying and cross-country navigation. It is built primarily of riveted aluminum alloy and can take off with as little as 2,300 feet of runway, climbing to 30,000 feet in one minute. In addition to its role as a supersonic trainer, the T-38 is used as a spaceflight readiness trainer for NASA astronauts, a research support aircraft and as a chase plane used during test flights or other research missions.
I don’t want to turn this into a full blown review of the Talon, but, you might be interested to know that the T-38 was built in 1959 in Hawthorne, California for the Air Force. Jacqueline Cochran made several record-breaking flights in a T-38A in August, 1961 setting the altitude record for women at 56,071 feet and speed of 844 mph (mach 1.3) over a closed course. Chuck Yeager flew chase for both flights in an F-100.
A Comparison of Basics
Please remember all performance figures and measurements should be considered approximate because it seems that every web site has a somewhat different set of numbers. All are probably correct or incorrect depending on whom you ask.
Northrop T-38A Talon – Jet Trainer
With 60,000 pilots out there someplace that can claim to have learned the fine art of supersonic flight in the front seat of the T-38A it shouldn’t be difficult to strike up a conversation at most any party.
I’m sure stories abound but I have one to contribute. I lived in Biloxi, MS for several years and was active in the Civil Air Patrol that maintained a presence at Keesler AFB. Keesler has a single runway, 03- 21, the shortest active runway in the U.S. Air Force system. Biloxi is also hometown to Fred Haise, Astronaut on Apollo 13, the one that the side blew out on the way to the moon.
As most of you already know, NASA maintains a fleet of T-38A aircraft, about 30, for proficiency training for the Astronaut corps, and other fun things like flying chase for Shuttle launches and such. Biloxi, on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is about half way between the Houston Space Center in Texas and Kennedy Space Center in Florida where all the launches originate. As one would expect, there is a bit of T-38A traffic between Ellington AFB (Houston) and Kennedy (KSC).
In the early 1970s when Project Apollo was still in the news, Fred Haise would make that round trip once or twice each week in preparation for his upcoming moon flight. Also I’m sure you have heard something along the lines of ‘You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy’. Being raised in Biloxi, then the seafood capital of the U.S., you never get over the great taste of fresh shrimp. Fred was no different and would stop by for a brief visit to say hi to Mom and pick up a Playmate cooler with 2 or 3 pounds of fresh shrimp when he could work it in with his busy training schedule.
Once Fred was assigned his own T-38A it only made sense that he would be eager to enhance his proficiency by executing an approach into KBIX on his way back to Texas after a hard day’s work in Florida. Herein lies the problem. The T-38 just did not have a baggage area to hold the Playmate cooler with the iced down fresh shrimp that his Mom would have ready and waiting at the AFB for her son.
Grumman Aerospace to the Rescue
With the Northrop/Grumman merger somewhere along the way, and Grumman being the NASA contractor for the Lunar Module that Fred would land on the moon in Apollo 13, and Northrop supplying the T-38A fleet, it just seems natural someone would STC an update the T-38A. Specifically a storage space the exact size of a Playmate cooler that happens to hold 3 pounds of fresh shrimp on ice.
Yep, you guessed it. Fred Haise volunteered to test the STC for the NASA fleet of T-38A aircraft.
Now the Good Part of the Story
With an empty Playmate cooler tucked neatly in place, Fred contacts Keesler AFB approach control and requests a straight in approach to runway 21 while still climbing out from KSC in Florida. As he gets closer to Mississippi to his surprise he is told by the Tower that T-38s are not approved for landing at Keesler. Fred being quick witted, asks the Tower to place a local telephone call to his Mom and pass along a message to ‘call the General and have him meet me at the base of the Tower’. Can you see where this is going?
While Fred is lining up his T-38A on a 40 mile straight in for runway 21, the Base Commander, a 2-Star General, and personal friend of the family, is on his way to the Tower. He arrives just in time to hear an Airman 1st Class telling the T-38 for the 3rd time he cannot land at Kessler. Here is how I heard the General told the story to our local CAP group one day.
“Yes, that is all true, and I do respect our technical teams, but I had to explain to my Tower operator, eyeball to eyeball that day: Son, if our Commander-in-Chief has approved Fred Haise to fly an approach and land on the moon, he sure as hell is approved to land a T-38 on my runway. Are we clear?”
After that little incident it seems that any NASA T-38A was immediately approved for a straight-in approach and landing on the runway of their choice at Keesler AFB. I was also told that after a few landings, Fred didn’t even shut down the engines, just taxied to the base of the tower, and someone was waiting with the iced down shrimp, opened the special storage area, slid in the cooler, closed the miniature door and gave the pilot the thumbs up and off the Houston he went - usually straight out over the water for a priority landing at Ellington AFB in Texas.
The MILVIZ T-38A Talon – Jet Trainer
The development team for the Milviz T-38A reads like the Who’s Who of Flight Simulation plus a couple of real world T-38 pilots for flight testing and development. Before anyone asks, yes, Bernt Stolle did his magic on the FDE and Gunnar van der Meeren was in charge of the paint shop. Flight manual editor extraordinaire, Ken Stallings, another real world flight instructor and plane owner wrote the book.
This one is a dead ringer for the real deal. All numbers match that can be matched. Any Air Force manual you choose to use will work with this one, but it comes with the full blown 241 page T-38A Operating Handbook with operations, equipment, systems, performance data, checklists, etc. and a separate 10 page Quick Start Guide.
This Quick Start is all most of us really need, a full color cover, a military type overview, very explicit how to and what to do for pre-flight, start, taxi, takeoff, slow flight, acrobatics, penetration, approach and landing in 5 ½ pages. Two pages of photos to show you what you just read, then two pages of checklists – numbers and procedures. How simple do you want it?
FSX or P3Dv2
Both the Lionheart Creations Learjet 24B and the Milviz T-38A support both flight simulators. The LHC edition includes both installers for one price. Milviz gives you a choice of either or both, choose wisely.
Where to Buy?
You can purchase the LHC Learjet 24B at many of your favorite flightsim shops. Sim market, PC Aviator, paypal at LHC, FlightSimStore AU. Price $34.95 Download
The Milviz T-38A can be purchased at Flight1.com with their 30 return policy or directly from Milviz at a discount. Price $39.99/$34.99 Download
Lionheart Creations Learjet 24B.
LJ24B is packed full of neat features. From its rare fuel system with transfer controls, to its riveted airframe skins, to its elaborate instrument panel crammed full with instrumentation and switches, to its nice, leather clad rear cabin complete with either passengers or air freight.
LHC has created a flying 2D panel as well as 2D popup sub-panels, such as Electrical System and Engines, Audio Panel, Fuel Management Panel and other popups. The LJ24B features the stock FS GPS but has a nifty new method of adding your 3rd party GNS/GTN unit. One click changeout.
Ultra high resolution 4096 Graphics on exterior and some interior textures. Super detailed instrument panel with almost all gauges operational. Air Freight version with cargo that can be hidden and 8 Paint schemes with various interior themes including a run hard Freighter.
This package is 500 megs in size to download. This is half a Gigabyte folks so consider yourself warned.
System requirements: This is an exotic package with much software coding and extreme (radical resolution) graphics. The intensity of resources needed might be too high on older, slower computers. Please make sure you can run a high end add-on aircraft on your computer 'before' you purchase this plane. (As said by LHC)
Milviz T-38A Talon - Jet Trainer
I think the Milviz website has it correct here. Now you can experience the joy of flying this historic aircraft, complete with the accurate replication of those same buffet sounds and vibrations that many thousands of pilots around the world came to regard as the jet speaking to them. Military Visualizations has spared no effort or expense to tune the flight model to extract every possible element of reality. How realistic is it? Two real-world T-38 pilots have given it their personal seals of approval, devoting hundreds of hours to wring out the design.
The interior cockpit is faithful down to the last switch! Even the translucent gear handle operates and looks like the real thing. If the gear fails to extend normally, simply pull the alternate gear handle just like in the real jet and let gravity do its job!
But, they did not stop there! What good is a great jet without a world to fly it in! With that fact in mind, MilViz created realistic ground support equipment, as well as AI traffic and realistically customized military airbases where these jets were based! You can fly in a world alive around you! This makes a huge difference folks.
System requirements: Requires FSX Acceleration. It is also designed for newer systems. Minimum requirements are 2.6 Core 2 Duo, 512mb Video Card and 510 megs of free disk space. The F1 version of this product is not compatible with P3D V2+ but Milviz has just completed the P3Dv2 update, check their site.
What can I do with these high flying, high speed aircraft?
The Milviz T-38A supports multiplayer so you can fly formation with your buddies, or perform precision flight maneuvers while flying the Thunderbirds livery. You can also fly cross-country flights at previously unattainable speeds or you can just go fly. You can fly higher and faster than even the new Learjet 24B pilots and that is really fast.
You are limited to one passenger and a toothbrush in the T-38 but you can also fly like NASA pilots, test pilots, and Astronauts by flying chase or other research type flights. You can stage dog flights similar to Top Gun action.
You can install the Milviz provided AI traffic and fly around as a spotter and keep track of which liveries you can find.
With the Lionheart Creations Learjet 24B you can act the part of corporate pilot and fly 2, 3, or 4 passengers around the country in style or you can add the smoke feature and act like Clay Lacy and fly the Lear at airshows around the world. I like the idea of recreating some of the World Records back in the mid -1960s when the Lear was young. You can try to meet or beat the Coast to Coast USA record with one stop each way during the same day or even the Around the World speed record.
Of course, you can always just go fly. You can also practice approaches and pattern work to gain proficiency at these higher approach and landing speeds.
Enjoy either or both. Same basic engine, two completely different flying experiences.