T-6 Texan: The Immortal Pilot Trainer
By William Jesse
Publisher: Osprey Publishing 1991 128 Pages
PDF 11 MB
Undoubtedly the most famous trainer of World War 2, the North American Aviation Company's T-6 Texan was developed to meet the requirements of a United States Army Air Corps Basic Trainer competition held in 1935. North American called their design the NA-16, although it would become known throughout its lifetime by many other names and model numbers. It became the world's most popular and versatile single-engined training aircraft, more than 21,000 aeroplanes being built by North American, and under licence in four countries. The Army Air Corps was not alone in choosing the Texan as its new trainer, the US Navy soon realizing its potential and adapting the design to its needs, calling their version the SNJ. Canadian and British forces also obtained the aircraft, naming their version the Harvard, with a large number of these being built under licence in Canada.
The NA-16, and its variants, served with many of the world's air forces, and was responsible for the training of hundreds of thousands of American and Allied airmen. It was a veteran of three wars, and on some occasions, armed with rockets and machine guns, saw service as a light combat aircraft.
After World War 2, large numbers of Texans were either sold to foreign armed forces or disposed of on the civilian market. Initially too expensive to operate privately as sport planes, T-6s were used as skywriters, crop dusters, mail carriers and air racers throughout the 1950s and 60s. A spate of epic war films in the late 1960s and early 70s also saw the T-6 become a Hollywood film star, the humble trainer performing admirably as an A6M Zero in Tora, Tora, Tora and Baa, Baa, Blacksheep.
Today, more than 50 years after the design came off the drawing boards at North American Aviation, these aircraft are still highly visible. Some are used by the South African Air Force, many are still flown in air races, but most are seen in the warbird movement. The staple performer at many an airshow, the venerable T-6/Harvard is a firm favourite with aviation enthusiasts the world over, its relative simplicity ensuring that more and more 'Pilot Makers' appear on the civil registers every year.