Flying on the step in a U.S. Air Force T-38

U.S. Air Force T-38, credit wikiWings
U.S. Air Force T-38, credit wikiWings
In a letter to AOPA Pilot, Charles Thornburgh says all airplanes are not equal in regard to flying on the step. His experience occurred on a cross-country flight in a T-38 in 1974. Here’s an excerpt from his description:

“We were flying from our home base of Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to Homestead AFB, Florida, with a stop in Houston for gas. We were able to take off and climb with our two-ship straight to our cruising altitude of FL470 or FL490 (can’t remember which).

After we leveled off, the power was set for cruise. We spent a few minutes level at Mach 0.91, and then gently, without losing Mach, eased up 200 feet. We then nosed over and descended 400 feet, all the while not touching the power. As we then slowly returned to our cruise altitude, we noticed our speed was now Mach 0.93, where it remained.  I thought it was pretty slick. Maybe you can borrow a T-38 and check it out!”



AOPA Pilot, “Letters from our May 2016 Issue,” Charles Thornburgh, Pooler Georgia, July 2016, pg. 12,

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