The North American T-6 Texan was known as "the pilot maker" because of its important role in preparing pilots for combat. The T-6 was the classroom for most of the Allied pilots who flew in World War II. The T-6 trained several hundred thousand pilots from the United States and many other countries for over three decades. A total of 15,495 of the planes were made. Although not as fast as a fighter, it was very manueverable and challenging enough to fly making it a great transition aircraft for the powerful and sophistacated fighters that would follow. The AT-6 was easy to maintain and repair and allowed pilots to train in all types of tactics, from ground strafing to bombardment and aerial dogfighting.
The AT-6 was the final generation of a line of trainers built by North American Aviation for the Army Air Corps in the 1930s. The original aircraft, the NA-18, had fixed landing gear and featured fabric covering on the fuselage. Minor changes to the airframe design followed over the years, but the basic NA-18 configuration remained virtually static until the Navy became interested in procuring a new trainer in 1938. The Navy called for a series of modifications to include an all-metal fuselage, retractable landing gear and an engine with more power. What resulted was the SNJ and the Army took notice. After evaluating the improvements and requesting its own changes to the tail design, the Army ordered 177 under the designation AT-6 (Advanced Trainer). The Navy fitted a tail hook to its SNJ-5C aircraft for carrier qualifications as well.
The T-6 Texan would continue to train pilots of foreign air forces until the early 1990s when South Africa retired the legendary trainer. Over 50 countries would use the T-6 as a trainer, forward air controller or light attack aircraft over its distinguished service career.
The LSFM’s T-6 is an SNJ-5, the Navy variant of the trainer and was purchased from Hank Moretti of Rhode Island in 2007. The Museum’s trainer is painted in a 1950s color scheme of the 147th Fighter Group of the Texas Air National Guard based in Houston, TX. Flight experiences are available aboard the T-6 Texan. Please visit the museum webpage or feel free to contact the museum with any questions or to reserve your flight.