1949 North American T-6 Texan
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.
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. [History by James A. Jensen]
Nicknames: Pilot Maker; Old Growler (USA); Window Breaker (UK); Mosquito (Korean war USAF LT-6G Forward Air Control aircraft); J-Bird (SNJ)
Engine: One 550-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN-1 radial piston engine
Weight: Empty 4,158 lbs., Max Takeoff 5,300 lbs.
Wing Span: 42ft. 0.25in.
Length: 29ft. 6in.
Height: 11ft. 9in.
Maximum Speed: 205 mph
Ceiling: 21,500 ft.
Range: 750 miles
Number Built: 17,000+
Number Still Airworthy: 350+