Home Base: Bellingham, WA
Operation: Western and Central USA
Wing Span: 42' 0"
Length: 29' 6"
Height: 11' 9"
Max Speed: 240 mph
Gross Weight: 5,300 lbs
Power Plant: Pratt & Whitney R1340-AN-1
Fuel Capacity: 110 gallons
Mark Kandianis' North American SNJ-4 Texan
Mark Kandianis is the owner and operator of this 1942 North American SNJ-4 Texan which is available for airshows, flybys and film.
One of the most recognized aircraft series of all time, the ruggedly handsome Texan family of advanced training and multi-purpose designs all share a common ancestor: the NA-16 of 1935. Developed to compete in an Army Air Corps competition for the Basic Trainer specification, the first production variants received the designation BT-9. As the lineage evolved, the designations progressed through BT-9A, BT-9B, BT-9C, Y1BT-10, BT-14, BC-1 and BC-1A (for Basic Combat, a relatively short-lived category of trainer), all for the Air Corps, and finally the NJ-1 and SNJ-1 for the U.S. Navy. Most of these variants had fixed (non-retractable) landing gear but, starting with the Air Corp BC-2, the definitive shape of the aircraft, which has become so familiar worldwide, emerged. The United States Army Air Corps (later the U.S. Army Air Forces), Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and an incredible array of foreign export purchasers saw the emergence of an alphabet of type designations through subsequent refinements. Although differing only in equipment, they all appeared to the observer to have the same classic lines, even though the development ranged from AT-6, AT-6A, AT-6B, AT-6D, XAT-6E, AT-6F, and T-6G for the USAAF and USAF. The utilized the SNJ-2, SNJ-3, SNJ-4, SNJ-5, SNJ-6, SNJ-7, and SNJ-8 variations. In British Commonwealth nations, the designation was Harvard. In the United States, it bore the official nickname of Texan.
By the end of World War Two, almost every Allied nation with an air arm employed some variant of the NA-16, AT-6, SNJ or Harvard. Although characterized as an advanced trainer by most, the aircraft could mount both machine guns and light bombs. In at least one instance, an Australian variant, known as the Wirraway, demonstrated that it could reasonably emulate a fighter, when it successfully engaged a Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M Zero in air combat. The type became essential to military aviation in Latin America, where its versatility was legendary. After the end of World War Two, arguably more pilots trained on Texan variants than any other single series type. The Texan soldiered on post-war, seeing action during the Korean Conflict and contributing to the evolution of the Forward Air Controller concept. North American remanufactured hundreds of Texans into the T-6G configuration to meet post-war Air Force and foreign operator requirements. In some nations, Texans and Harvards remained in service until the 1980s, making it one of the longest-lived aircraft designs in aviation history. Today, T-6s are by far the most common warbird type seen at air shows worldwide, and have prompted the creation of a dedicated interest group - the North American Trainer Association (NATA).
Aviation cadets honed many of the skills required for combat on the Texan, including instrument flying, formation flying, navigation, radio communication, gunnery, and operation of an aircraft with "complex" features such as variable pitch propellers, retractable landing gear, and flaps. By the time most students began training on the Texan, they had already passed the "weed-out" stage of primary flight training. Students would usually have already acquired 80-100 hours of flight time on primary trainers such as the Army Air Force PT-13 or the Navy N3N and N2S (see NASM collection for both).
In 1943, a batch extending from BuAer 51350 to 51676 rolled off the assembly line at the North American Aviation factory near Dallas, Texas. It was unusual in having all-wood stabilizers and rear fuselages. In 1942, fears of wartime shortages of strategic metals such as aluminum dictated this construction. Only certain AT-6Cs and SNJ-4 variants shared this feature.
It spite of its intensive use (or abuse) at the hands of hundreds of cadet pilots, the aircraft suffered only relatively minor accidents throughout its service life, although the logbooks record numerous scrapes and scratches. Other than the service modifications prescribed during its service life, it remains a stock example in almost every respect, and an ideal representative of "the pilot maker" series that served the Allied cause so well.
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