The T-6 aircraft is considered to be one of the foremost military trainers in history. It was used extensively as a trainer during World War II, not only by the United States Army Air Force and Navy, but also by the Royal Air Force (RAF). Known as the “SNJ” by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force used the designation AT-6. For U.S. airmen, almost half of their required training hours were often completed in the cockpit of the T-6 Texan.
The majority of World War II military aircraft had a rear third wheel versus a tricycle gear configuration that utilized a forward nose wheel. Known as “taildraggers,” these aircraft could be initially difficult to control because any crosswind or improper technique by the pilot could cause the plane to crash. This presented a problem for pilots who were learning how to fly in advance of entering the war. It was expensive and impractical to train in the more advanced and challenging aircraft then used in combat.
The T-6 was also a tail dragger but it was easier and friendlier to learn on than the airplanes the pilots would eventually fly, such as the Wildcat or Mustang. For this reason, the T-6 airplane was known as “The Pilot Maker.”
The AT-6A was a modification of an earlier version of the T-6, but with a more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-1340-49 Wasp radial engine. Another modified version, known as the AT-6B was adapted specifically for gunnery training. The engine used was eventually installed on all T-6 planes in production. Canada and the RAF also made modifications that resulted in additional designation variations.
The T-6 also served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars as forward air controllers which were known as “Mosquitoes”. Of the more than 17,000 T-6 Texans produced, approximately 350 remain operational. Some are used as aerobatic planes. Some specifications of the T-6 include:
Maximum speed: 208 mph
Cruise speed: 145 mph
Range: 730 miles
Ceiling: 24,200 ft
Length: 29 ft
Wingspan: 42 ft
Height: 11 ft 8 in
Maximum weight: 5,617 lb
Empty weight: 4,158 lb
Engine(s): one 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN-1 Wasp radial engine
Crew: one or two
Armament: one .30 machine gun
Contractor: North American Aviation
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