Maj. Bryce Turner, a test pilot from the U.S. Air Force 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, has achieved a historic feat by becoming the first Air Force pilot to fly the T-7A Red Hawk. On 28 June the aircraft lifted off at 11:51 a.m. CST during a test flight at the Boeing aircraft delivery center in St. Louis, Missouri.

The T-7A is a new pilot training system created specifically for the Air Force with the purpose of training future fighter and bomber pilots. The aircraft is the first digitally designed tactical aircraft, finessed using model-based systems engineering and 3D design tools. The aircraft will replace the 1950’s-era T-38 Talon, providing the next generation of warfighters the training capability needed to face current and emerging threats. The T-7A is affectionally christened ‘Red Hawk’ as a homage to the iconic Tuskegee Airmen.

The accomplishment of flying this aircraft adds another chapter to the Turner family's rich legacy of aviation firsts. As a third-generation Air Force fighter pilot, Turner follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, retired Lt. Col. Alexander Parker Turner, one of the first African American jet pilots in 1956, and his father, retired Col. Bryan Turner, the first African American F-22 pilot. His call sign, affectionally known as “Triple,” reflects these three generations of Airmen.

According to Turner, aircraft design has historically excluded many women and non-standard body types from becoming tactical pilots due to inadequate ejection seat dimensions. Turner has a personal connection to this issue from his great aunt, who was best friends with retired Lt. Col. Theresa Claiborne, the first African American female pilot in the Air Force. In addition to its agile design, the T-7A will accommodate a much broader range of physical dimensions in the cockpit. The re-designed cockpit and ejection seat represents a significant step towards inclusivity, while eliminating barriers that prevented many from pursuing tactical pilot training.

“To the next generation of aviators, I can safely say I am jealous,” Triple noted. “This aircraft’s performance, commitment to pilot safety and ground-based training system is something I could only dream of during my time in flight training. The T-7A performs like a fighter!”

An integrated team of 416th FLTS and Boeing personnel will continue initial flight testing of the T-7A in St. Louis before ferrying the aircraft to Edwards AFB later this year.