Air & Space Airshow Spotter’s Guide

Fun facts about the airplanes you’ll see on the summer circuit.

North American T-6 (AT-6) Texan

North American T-6 (AT-6) Texan
(Illustrations by Harry Whitver)
How to recognize: Snub nose, low wing, greenhouse canopy, often in its original silver coat.

Claim to fame at airshows: The four-ship Aeroshell Aerobatic Team flies flies a program that shows why the T-6 was chosen as the primary trainer for pilots headed for aerial combat: easy and quick rolls, high bank turns, and impressive rate of climb.

Claim to fame in service: Several hundred thousand pilots in 34 nations trained in some variant of the T-6, beginning with nearly all of the Allied countries of World War II through the Korean War. Though far slower than a fighter, the Texan could provide training in nearly any maneuver from the Immelmann to the snap roll, ground strafing to dogfights, to blind flight and reconnaissance. Its airframe and equipment were easy to maintain and repair.

Mission: Besides serving as a trainer, the Texan saw action in missions during World War II for both the US and its Allies, earning the nickname in various roles or countries as the Pilot Maker; Old Growler; Window Breaker; J-Bird (when flying as the SNJ); and the Mosquito (as a Korean war USAF LT-6G Forward Air Control aircraft).

Performance and specifications: Top speed of the T-6 Texan is 205 mph from its 550-hp air-cooled Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, at 5,000 ft altitude. The Texan has retractable landing gear, and a 42-ft wingspan.

Main variants: First flight of the original AT-6 (AT means advanced trainer) Texan was on September 28, 1938, and more than 17,000 aircraft were eventually produced with some variation to the original. The model AT-6A refined the fuel tanks, The British flew the Texan and called it the Harvard, while the US Navy flew the aircraft under its own designation SNJ, the most common models being the SNJ-4, 5 and 6. In 1948, the designation AT-6 was changed to simply, T-6. In May 2000, the USAF introduced the T-6A Texan II for joint primary pilot training (JPPT).

Links:
Aeroshell Aerobatic Team

USAF Fact Sheet

Warbird Alley

Boeing Aircraft

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