North American Harvard: The origins of the Harvard can be traced back over 70 years to 1934 when the US Army Air Corps announced that they were looking for a new training aircraft. In response, North American Aviation developed the NA-16 as a private venture in the hope of securing a contract. This was a cantilever low wing monoplane with a mixture of metal and fabric covering an all-metal construction. It had fixed landing gear, a tandem, two seat open cockpit and power was provided by an un-cowled, nine cylinder 400 hp Wright R-975 Whirlwind radial engine driving a two-blade propeller. On April 1, 1935, test pilot Eddie Allen took the prototype up for its first flight and 21 days later, it was flown at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio for evaluation by the USAAC. A production order, incorporating a number of changes requested by the USAAC (including an enclosed cockpit) was issued shortly after as the BT-9 (Basic Trainer 9). North American began work on a pre-production model of the BT-9, the NA-18, which incorporated the requested changes. The most noticeable differences between this aircraft and the NA-16 were the enclosed cockpit and the addition of streamlined fairings on the main gear. The original Wright engine was replaced by a 550 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340-41 Wasp, but this was changed to a 400 hp Wright R-975-5 Whirlwind engine on the production version of the BT-9 (NA-19), the first of which flew on April 15, 1936.
The BT-9 entered USAAC service in 1936 and export orders soon followed. This led to a seemingly confusing system by North American of giving the aircraft a model number and a charge number such as the 550 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340 powered NA-16-1A (NA-32 - charge number) that was supplied as a pattern aircraft to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation or the NA-16-2A (NA-42) and NA-16-2H (NA-20) supplied to Honduras. Apart from some minor alterations (and the more powerful engine for the NA-32), these aircraft were the same as the BT-9. The US Navy also operated the BT-9 as the 500 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340-6 powered NJ-1 (NA-28).
A year after the BT-9 entered service, the USAAC issued Circular Proposal 37-220 calling for a combat training aircraft that could carry armament and equipment similar to that found in operational aircraft and also duplicate their handling characteristics. This led North American to develop the NA-26 prototype, essentially a BT-9 with retractable landing gear and a 550 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340-47 Wasp engine driving a Hamilton Standard variable pitch propeller. The wing centre section was widened by 12 inches to allow for the inward folding landing gear without losing any ground clearance and faired housings were installed at the wing roots so the gear could be retracted to lie flush with the underside of the wing. A hydraulic system operated by an engine pump was introduced to operate the landing gear as well as replacing the manual system used to operate the flaps on the BT-9. This was controlled in a rather interesting (for want of a better word) manner by a series of selector valves and a control button. It worked by selecting the required action, landing gear up for example, and then pressing the control button. The hydraulic fluid (which normally flowed freely around the system) was then forced into the selected valve, completing the action. In recognition of the aircraft's intended role as a combat trainer, provision was made for 0.3 in Colt-Browning machine guns to be mounted in the nose cowling and wings as well as on a flexible mount in the rear cockpit.
In March 1937, the NA-26 was test flown by the USAAC at Wright Field and three months later, an initial order was placed for the aircraft as the BC-1 (Basic Combat Trainer 1). Given the company designation NA-36, around 170 BC-1s were eventually built with 30 being converted to BC-1I instrument trainers. The Royal Air Force, who were desperately seeking large numbers of training aircraft, also showed an interest in the BC-1. Unable to source locally produced aircraft in sufficient numbers, they placed an order in June 1938 for 400 unarmed BC-1s, fitted with British instrumentation and radios as well as bucket seats to accommodate seat pack type parachutes. These were given the model number NA-16-1E and the charge number NA-49 but were better known by their British name, the Harvard Mk.I (named after the famous American university). The first Harvard (serial no. N7000) was delivered to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath on December 3, 1938 so that a series of tests could be carried out and pilot's notes prepared. The type entered RAF service in January 1939 with No.12 FTS (Flying Training School) at Spittlegate (later renamed RAF Spitalgate due to a typing error) at Grantham, Lincolnshire. The Royal Canadian Air Force, also lacking any modern training aircraft, placed an order for the Harvard Mk.I but on the much more modest scale of two batches of 15. The RCAF Harvards, also designated NA-16-1Es by North American, received the charge number NA-61 and were the same as those delivered to the RAF, apart from the chosen paint scheme and the addition of a long "winter" exhaust following their introduction into service. Canada's cold winters would sometimes make the Harvard difficult to start and it was not uncommon for pilots to over prime the engine when it didn't kick over on the first attempt. This would result in a spectacular burst of flame from the standard, short exhaust when the engine did finally start and in some instances, the fuselage would catch fire as a result. The long exhaust, which ran down the side of the nose to the front of the cockpit safely channelled any wayward flames away from the fuselage and had the added bonus of adding warmth to what was normally a very cold cockpit. The modification was subsequently applied to RAF Harvards as well.
The first RCAF Harvard was accepted on July 20, 1939. By this stage, however, the Harvard Mk.I / BC-1 was already obsolete. Previously, in 1938, North American had designed a prototype light attack version of the BC-1, the NA-44. It was armed with four fixed 0.3 in machine guns and one on a flexible mount in the rear cockpit and bomb racks under the wings and fuselage. In order to provide adequate performance, an 775 hp Wright R-1820-FS2 Cyclone engine driving a three-blade propeller was fitted while structural changes included replacing the steel tube and fabric rear fuselage with a semi-monocoque, all aluminium stressed skin structure and widening the wing centre section by a further 12 inches to accommodate integral fuel tanks. This model was later exported to several countries as the NA-69 and NA-72 as well as being used by the USAAC as the A-27. In addition, the last three BC-1s were built to standard similar to the NA-44. They were powered by a 550 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340-45 engine and incorporated further improvements such as all metal stressed skin construction used throughout, a more angular vertical stabiliser and redesigned, "squared off" wings. These three aircraft, known as NA-54s by North American, received the USAAC designation BC-2. Following some further airframe modifications and the replacement of the three-blade propeller with a two-blade one, the NA-54 became the NA-55 and was ordered by the USAAC as the BC-1A.
In 1940, the USAAC resurrected the advanced trainer category (which hadn't been used since 1927) and consequently, the last nine BC-1As ordered became AT-6s. Further orders for the AT-6 (now known as the NA-59 by North American) were placed as well as an anglicised version, the Harvard Mk.II (NA-66). A further variant, the NA-64, was also produced for France with 200 being ordered for the Armée de l'Air and 30 for the Aéronavale. Powered by a 450 hp Wright R-975-E3 Whirlwind engine, this model was a mixture of old and new incorporating features from the AT-6 (fuselage construction etc) while retaining the wing plan-form of the BC-1 and the fixed gear of the BT-9. This order was to supplement a previous order for 230 NA-57s, basically a French version of the BT-9, but after only 111 had been delivered, France fell to the Germans. Many of the surviving NA-57s and NA-64s were put to use by the Luftwaffe in either the training role or for type conversion for pilots prior to testing captured American aircraft. The remaining 119 NA-64s were diverted to the RCAF where they became known as the Yale.
By 1940, North American had received large contracts for the Mustang I and B-25 Mitchell. Despite increasing the size of their factory at Mines Field, Inglewood, California (now part of Los Angeles International airport) they were unable to keep up with demand for all three aircraft. Consequently, towards the end of 1940 they began building a new 1,000,000 square foot factory at Hensley Field, a USAAC reserve base 11 miles southwest of Dallas, Texas. Construction of the AT-6 and Harvard series began at the new factory with the aircraft produced there (with the exception of the Harvard) being given the name Texan, a name that was later applied to the aircraft built in Inglewood as well. In addition to the aircraft built in the United States and Australia's CAC Wirraway trainer and (later) Boomerang fighter (developed from the NA-32), production was carried out under licence in a number of other countries.
Between 1938 and 1939, ASJA, the aircraft department of AB Svenska Järnvägsverkstäderna (Swedish Railway Workshops Ltd) produced a version of the NA-16 that was operated by the Svenska Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force) as the Sk.14. In 1940, ASJA became part of Svenska Aeroplan A.B. (SAAB) and production of the Sk.14 continued followed by the Sk.14A powered by the Italian made 500 hp Piaggio P.VIIRC.35. Japan also produced their own version of the NA-16 after the Imperial Japanese Navy received two aircraft, the NA-37 and NA-47, for evaluation purposes in 1937. Watanabe Tekkosho Kabushiki Kaisha (the Watanabe Iron Works Ltd) began building an armed version of the aircraft in 1941 as the 600 hp Nakajima Kotobuki 2 KAI powered Watanabe K10W1 "Oak". After 26 had been constructed, production was taken over by Nippon Hikoki Kabushiki Kaisha (Japanese Aeroplane Co. Ltd) with a further 150 being built.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, development of the AT-6 line continued with the AT-6A (NA-77). This model was fitted with a 550 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340-49 engine and the integral fuel tanks were replaced by removable aluminium ones. The US Navy also operated the AT-6A as the SNJ-3 and the tail hook equipped SNJ-3C (the previous NJ-1 had become the SNJ-1 then SNJ-2 in conjunction with developments of the USAAC aircraft). Power for the naval aircraft was provided by either the R-1340-49 or a 600 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340-AN-1 Wasp. The latter engine also powered the AT-6B (NA-84), a gunnery-training version of the AT-6A armed with up to four 0.3 in Colt-Browning machine guns.
With wartime aircraft production accelerating in 1940 and 1941, concern over shortages of strategic materials, particularly aluminium, led the US government to ask manufacturers to use as much non-strategic material in aircraft not destined for combat roles. As early as 1940, North American had fitted stainless steel wings and tail surfaces to a BC-1A. However, the addition of chromium and nickel (used in the manufacture of stainless steel) to the strategic materials list meant that North American had to abandon this approach. Eventually, they settled on a combination of wood and spot welded, low-alloy steel sheet. This led to the NA-88 with the low-alloy steel being used for parts of the fuselage, the wings, centre section, vertical stabiliser and control surfaces. Mahogany plywood was used for the floorboards, side panels of the forward fuselage and entire rear fuselage. The first NA-88 rolled out of North American's Dallas plant in April 1941 and in June (the same month that the USAAC became the US Army Air Force) an order was placed for 5,370 NA-88s as the AT-6C, 2,400 of which were to go to the US Navy as the SNJ-4. Commonwealth countries also received the NA-88 as the Harvard Mk.IIA. Thankfully, the threatened shortages never eventuated so after 2,970 AT-6Cs had been delivered, construction reverted back to the all-metal and aluminium of the AT-6A. Still given the model number NA-88, by North American, this variant introduced a 24 volt electrical system (with the exception of the Yale, previous models had a 12 volt system) and could be fitted with three 0.3 in Colt-Browning machine guns for gunnery training. It entered service as the AT-6D, SNJ-5 and Harvard Mk.III. The last 800 AT-6Ds were fitted with a clear-view rear canopy and had a strengthened, redesigned rear fuselage and wings permitting sustained aerobatic manoeuvres of up to 6g. They were given the model number NA-121 and subsequent orders were placed for this variant as the AT-6F and SNJ-6.
Outside of the United States, the largest manufacturer of the aircraft was Canada. In August 1938, Noorduyn Aviation Ltd of Montreal, Quebec, had signed a deal with North American to build the NA-16 under licence. At the time, there was no real official interest being shown in producing the aircraft in Canada. However, with that country being chosen as the location of the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) the following year, large numbers of Harvards were needed for student pilots who had progressed from basic trainers such as the de Havilland DH82A Tiger Moth. North American was unable to supply the number of aircraft required and the US Government's Neutrality Act, which prohibited the aerial delivery of aircraft to any belligerent nation, made delivery to Canada difficult. Aircraft that had been ordered by Canada had to be flown to Sweetgrass, Montana and then literally pushed across the border by civilians into Coutts, Alberta. This method was far from ideal when it was realised that thousands of aircraft would be needed, so in January 1940, the RCAF placed an initial order with Noorduyn for locally built Harvards. The first Canadian Harvard (RCAF 3034), designated the Harvard Mk.IIB, was completed exactly a year after the contract had been placed and by January 31, 1941, it was ready for delivery. The Canadian aircraft differed little from the AT-6A and, unlike those in RAF service, it had American instruments and radios.
On March 11, 1941, the US government brought in the Lend-Lease act as a way of supplying equipment to allied nations while still remaining neutral. Basically, this worked by having the US Government purchase the goods from the manufacturer and then lend (or lease, at an affordable price) them to the allies. At the end of the war, the US government would repossess the goods; any equipment not returned was either scrapped or paid for. This led to the USAAF placing several orders with Noorduyn totalling 1,800 aircraft on behalf of the RAF. As these aircraft were technically owned by the USAAF, they were given the designation AT-16 to differentiate them from those built in the United States but were known as Harvard Mk.IIBs in the RAF. Six hundred and thirty nine Noorduyn built, RAF Harvards ended up staying in Canada and by the time production of the series ended, 2,810 had been built.
The US Army Air Force became the US Air Force in 1948 and (among other changes) promptly dropped all the AT, BT and PT designations on their training aircraft, replacing them with a T designation. As a result, all the AT-6 series of aircraft still in service became T-6. The following year, work began on upgrading USAF T-6s and US Navy SNJs. They received an improved canopy, a revised cockpit layout, square-tipped propeller blades, F-51 (the USAF designation for the P-51 Mustang) style landing gear and flap-actuating levers, larger fuel capacity and relocated aerial masts. The naval aircraft were also fitted with a steerable tail wheel. This model, the NA-168, entered USAF service as the T-6D and the SNJ-7 and SNJ-7B (armed version) with the navy. Further rebuilds in 1950 added a 600 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340-AN-1 engine, even more fuel, further cockpit refinements and a steerable tail wheel as standard on all aircraft as well as several other improvements. Still known as the NA-168 by North American, they entered service as the T-6G and, in the case of 59 aircraft used for Forward Air Control and Army Observer roles in the Korean war, the LT-6G. The Canadian Car and Foundry Ltd, who had taken over Noorduyn Aviation in 1946, also produced a variant of the T-6G as the Harvard Mk.4 (the use of Roman numerals having been discontinued by this stage) for the RCAF and T-6J for USAF Mutual Aid Program.
From the NA-16 through to the T-6J, over 21,000 aircraft were built, although exact numbers vary depending on who you speak to or what you read. They saw service with the air forces of over 40 nations, training hundreds of thousands of pilots, navigators and gunners. The South African Air Force was the last user of the Harvard with the SAAF Central Flying School, Langebaanweg, finally retiring them in November 1995. In recognition of their service to that country, a notice was recently published in the South African Government Gazette stating "The National Monuments Commission hereby declares ten Harvard aircraft .... to be cultural treasures on account of the historical and technical importance thereof....." The Royal New Zealand Air Force was also a long time Harvard user operating 202 Mk.II, Mk.IIA, Mk.IIB and Mk.IIIs from 1941 until 1977 when they were finally replaced by the AESL CT/4B Air trainer.
Following their retirement from various air forces, many surplus T-6s and Harvards were quickly snapped up by private buyers worldwide. Not only did they form the nucleus of many Warbird movements, but they were also put to many other uses ranging from crop spraying to air racing. The famous National Championship Air Races held at Reno, Nevada, even has a special T-6 class race each year. One of the more interesting civilian roles the aircraft undertook was when Twentieth Century fox converted 31 to Japanese "Kate" torpedo bombers, "Val" dive bombers and "Zero" fighters for the movie "Tora, Tora, Tora". The attention to detail was such that a number of Japanese naval personnel who saw the aircraft on location believed them to be the real thing. At present, there are several thousand Texans and Harvards still in existence around the world including around 37 in New Zealand, including at least 16 airworthy examples. Their popularity and availability means that the distinctive howl of Hamilton Standard propeller tips in fine pitch breaking the sound barrier will be heard for some time to come.
Built as part of an order for 450 Harvard II’s, this aircraft was shipped to Southern Rhodesia.
Built by Noorduyn of Canada as part of an order for 733 aircraft. Initial deliveries were to the RCAF but mainly to India.
Built by Noorduyn of Canada as part of an order for 700 aircraft. Mainly delivered to the RIAF. Formally Ex-USAAF 43-12502 to 13201.
On the 25th of January 1949 the pilot of this aircraft took off from 612 Sqdn based at Dyce to ferry it to Honiley so the aircraft could be transferred to 63 Group CF. He took off in the early afternoon and landed at Acklington to refuel, by this time the weather had made a turn for the worse but he took off again and headed south. The visibility was too bad for him to have been allowed to take off from Acklington, but he was not stopped from doing so. When he approached the Dishforth area he was lost, flying on instruments he contacted Dishforth ATC for bearings to land there, they attempted to give him bearings but gave him incorrect information. After Dishforth ATC had vectored him across their airfield several times he still had not landed and his fuel was running low, Dishforth ATC ordered him to bale out. He reportedly landed near Topcliffe and his aircraft flew on for some time before crashing between Nether Silton and Over Silton at 18.10hrs. The aircraft was written off whilst the pilot was uninjured.
Blame on the crash was cast a number of ways, the pilot should not have taken off from Acklington because of the bad weather. Acklington's OC Flying was also to blame for allowing him to take off. Dishforths ATC was also blamed partly for giving incorrect bearings.
Pilot - PII N Loempel RAF, of Poland. OK.
Built as part of an order for 1600 aircraft although only 1259 completed. Many of these aircraft were delivered to the Middle East.
The Mustang, designed initially to meet a British requirement for fighter service in Europe, became the leading US fighter in the European Theatre of Operation during the final months of the war. The Mustang was designed and rolled out in 117 days. It was first flown on October 26, 1940. The P-51is the synergism of every contemporary advanced aerodynamic and structural design; primarily, it was the first fighter with a laminar wing design. As a result, it held an exceptional internal fuel capacity and low drag enabling it to fly an extended combat radius.
The RAF first flew the P-51 on July 27, 1942 as the MK I Mustang, of which 620 were ordered. Although the aircraft had great potential, it was limited by its Allison engine and relegated primarily to ground attack and reconnaissance roles.
The USAAF ordered 500 Mustangs, the first buy as A-36A dive-bombers in late 1942. With an Allison powered V-1710-87 engine, the aircraft demonstrated high power at low level; however, it was inefficient above 15,000 feet with it's single-stage supercharger. The aircraft wasn't really wanted for an attack role, but was employed as a means to maintain the production line while the merits of the airframe was being argued. The A-36A was named the "Apache", then later the "Invader" until the name "Mustang" stuck. The aircrafts were moderately successful in the Mediterranean area of operation; claiming its share of aerial victories against the Luftwaffe in air-to-air combat.
Cautiously, the USAAF ordered an initial 150 P-51s mounted with four 20 mm cannons. Thereafter, 310 P-51As were ordered, with a 1,200 hp V-1710-81 engine, and four 0.5-in machine guns with racks for two 500-lb bombs.
The British took a dramatic step that began to turn off the cautious attitude toward the Mustang by proposing the Merlin engine be fitted into the air frame. There was even discussion that the engine should be placed behind the cockpit, similar to the P-39 configuration. In 1942, with installation of the two-stage Merlin engines and four-bladed propellers, the Mustang performed extremely well, exceeding 400 mph; and, the transformation produced a fighter that could equal or outperform any other aircraft in the air at that time. North American developed plans to manufacture the P-51 with the license-built Merlin 61, the Packard V-1650-3 in-line engine.
The USAAF ordered 2,200 P-51Bs followed on by the P-51Cs. The aircrafts were mounted with six 0.5 machine guns. The P-51D variant was ordered in 1943 and was introduced with the bubble canopy and dorsal fin to control stability problems. Even though the Malcom hood, which enhanced visibility on the British Mustang Mk II and Mk III, was employed by the USAAF, it was the bubble canopy that became the standard feature of the P-51. Few P-51Ds were operated by the British as the Mustang Mk V. Later P-51Ds included an additional 85-gal fuel cell behind the pilot's seat. This enabled the Mustang's combat radius to extend from England to Berlin and back.
In an effort to lower the Mustang's weight, the P-51H variant came about with a taller tail, of which 555 were manufactured. This version came late into the war and flew missions from the Philippines prior to VJ day.
The P-51K was the
Dallas, Texas variant of the Inglewood, California
In combat, the Mustang proved to be significant in its role to wartime victory. The aircraft was employed throughout 40 USAAF fighter groups and 31 RAF squadrons. The P-51 Mustang's combat record is generally considered to consist of: 4,950 aerial victories, and 4,131 ground kills resulting in an 11:1 "kill ratio".
Delivered under the lend lease scheme as part of a batch of 450 aircraft formerly 44-11258 to RAF as Mustang IV KH666. Crashed on take off Hunsdon Apr 19, 1945. Camouflage and markings of this aircraft will be added when known.
Delivered under the lend lease scheme as part of a batch of 700 aircraft formerly 44-13223 to RAF as Mustang IV KM666. SOC Mar 28, 1946. Camouflage and markings of this aircraft will be added when known.
North American B-25: The B-25 was made immortal on April 18, 1942, when it became the first United States aircraft to bomb the Japanese mainland. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, sixteen Mitchells took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, flew 800 miles (1287 km) to Japan, and attacked their targets. Most made forced landings in China. They were the heaviest aircraft at the time to be flown from a ship at sea.
After the war, many B-25s were used as training aircraft. Between 1951 and 1954, 157 Mitchells were converted as flying classrooms for teaching the Hughes E-1 and E-5 fire control radar. They were also used as staff transport, utility, and navigator-trainer aircraft. The last B-25, a VIP transport, was retired from the USAF on May 21, 1960. Approximately 34 B-25 Mitchells remain flying today, most as warbirds, although at least one earns its keep in Hollywood as an aerial camera platform.
Nicknames: Billy's Bomber (after General Billy Mitchell); Bank (NATO code name for Russian Lend-Lease B-25s).
Two 1,700-hp Wright R-2600-92 Cyclone radial piston engines; Weight:
Empty 19,480 lbs., Max Takeoff 35,000 lbs.
Maximum Speed at 13,000 ft: 272mph; Ceiling: 24,200 ft.
Armament: 12 12.7-mm (0.5-inch) machine guns, 4,000 pounds of bombs
Number Built: 9,889
44-29487 to RAF as Mitchell III KJ666. SOC Jun 6, 1947
North American F-86 Sabre:
In 1944, North American Aviation submitted a design for a swept-wing day
fighter which could also be used as a dive-bomber or escort fighter. Two
prototype XP-86s were contracted in late 1944, but were not
built until after WWII due to the incorporation of several design
modifications which were prompted by German research data. The first XP-86
prototype flew on 1 October 1947, powered by a 3,750-pound thrust G.E. J35
engine. After it was re-engined with a more powerful G.E. J47 turbojet the
following spring, it was re-designated the YP-86A, and
exceeded the speed of sound in a shallow dive. The first production model
was initially designated the P-86A, but became the F-86A
in June 1948. By the time the new fighter entered US Air Force service in
1949, it had gained the name "Sabre."
Nicknames: Sabredog; Dog; Dogship (F-86D); Cheesefighter (Dutch F-86Ks, named after the former Amsterdam Superintendent of Police, a Mr. Kaasjager, whose name translated to "Cheesefighter" or "Cheesehunter").
Engine: One 7,500-pound thrust afterburning General Electric J47-GE-17B or -33 turbojet; Weight: Empty: 12,470 lbs., Max Takeoff: 17,100 lbs; Wing Span: 37ft. 1in; Length: 40ft. 4in; Height: 15ft. 0in.
Performance: Maximum Speed at Seal Level: 707 mph; Ceiling: 45,600 ft; Range: 835 miles
Armament: 24 69.9-mm (2.75-inch) air-to-air rockets
Number Built: 9,502
This aircraft were Canadian built supplied under MDAP (Mutual Defence Assistance Programme) as part of an order for 421 aircraft of which 371 were delivered. Ex19552, the aircraft was delivered on 04/05/1953, on completion of its RAF service it was returned to the USAF on 26/02/1957.
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