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Sanders Aeronautics' North American AT-6G Texan


 

Home Base: Ione, CA
Model: AT-6G
Wing Span:
42' 0"
Length: 29' 6"
Height: 11' 9"
Max Speed: 205 mph
Gross Weight: 5,300 lbs
Power Plant: Pratt & Whitney R1340-AN-1
Horsepower:
600

The North American T-6 Texan was known as "the pilot maker" because of its important role in preparing pilots for combat. Derived from the 1935 North American NA-16 prototype, a cantilever low-wing monoplane, the Texan filled the need for a basic combat trainer during WW II and beyond. The original order of 94 AT-6 Texans differed little from subsequent versions such as the AT-6A (1,847) which revised the fuel tanks or the AT-6D (4,388) and AT-6F (956) that strengthened as well as lightened the frame with the use of light alloys. In all, more than 17,000 airframes were designed to the Texan standards.

North American's rapid production of the T-6 Texan coincided with the wartime expansion of the United States air war commitment. As of 1940, the required flights hours for combat pilots earning their wings had been cut to just 200 during a shortened training period of seven months. Of those hours, 75 were logged in the AT-6.

U.S. Navy pilots flew the airplane extensively, under the SNJ designation, the most common of these being the SNJ-4, SNJ-5 and SNJ-6.

British interest in the Texan design was piqued as early as 1938 when it ordered 200 under the designation Harvard Mk I or "Harvard As Is" for service in Southern Rhodesia training under the Commonwealth Air Training Program. As the Harvard Mk I (5,000+) design was modeled after the early BC-1 design, the subsequent Harvard Mk II utilized the improvements of the AT-6 models. During 1944, the AT-6D design was adopted by the RAF and named the Harvard MK III. This version was used to train pilots in instrument training in the inclement British weather and for senior officers to log required airtime. Much to the chagrin of the Air Force High Command, the Harvard "hack" was often used for non-military activities like joy-riding and unofficial jaunts across the English countryside.

During 1946, the Canadian Car and Foundry company developed the Harvard Mk IV trainer to the specifications of the T-6G and produced 285 T-6Js under the same design for the USAF Mutual Aid Program. Designated the T-6G, the Texan saw major improvements in increased fuel capacity, an improved cockpit layout, as well as a steerable tailwheel. U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy forces in the Korean War modified the Texan under the LT-6G designation and employed it in battlefield surveillance.

During the Korean War and to a lesser extent, the Vietnam war, T-6's were pressed into service as forward air control aircraft. These aircraft were designated T-6 "Mosquito"s. The RAF used the Harvard in Kenya against the Mau Mau in the 1950s where they operated with 20 lb bombs and machine guns against the gangs. Some operations took place at altitudes around 20,000 ft.

Since the Second World War, the T-6 has been a regular participant at air shows, and was used in many movies. For example, in Tora! Tora! Tora! and The Final Countdown, converted single-seat T-6s painted in Japanese markings represent Mitsubishi Zeroes. The New Zealand Warbirds "Roaring 40s" aerobatic team use ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force Harvards.

Although the US retired the T-6 from active duty by the end of the 1950's, several nations, including Brazil, China, and Venezuela, utilized "the pilot maker" as their basic trainer well into the 1970's. Today, over 350 T-6 Texans remain in airworthy condition. Most of the former "hacks" are based in North America and are a reminder of the importance of simplicity in training and function.

A total of 20,110 Harvards/T-6s/SNJs were built between 1938 and 1954, 3,370 of them in Canada.

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