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Harvard

North American Texan / Harvard KF488


One of the most well known training aircraft, the Texan was developed by North American Aviation in California from its BT-9 trainer of 1935. The sturdy, all metal Texan featured improvements to make it more representative of fighters then in use with the US Army Air Corps, the main difference being the fitting of a retractable undercarriage. The large cockpit gave an excellent view for pilot and trainee, and the 550 hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine gave fighter like performance. Its direct drive propeller with near supersonic tip speed gave the Texan a distinctive rasping note. Designated AT-6 (Advance Trainer) by the USAAC, production was additionally undertaken from 1940 in the North American factory in Dallas, which also produced the Texan for the US Navy under the designation SNJ.

With the threat of war looming in Europe, the RAF were on the lookout for new aircraft to supplement production for what would be a hard pressed home aircraft industry. In June 1938 an order was placed for 200 Texans, which in RAF service were known as the Harvard. The first was delivered to Britain in December 1938, and so a number of pilots were trained on the new type prior to the outbreak of war. Canada also purchased large numbers of Harvards, and in due course production (eventually to total 1800) was undertaken by Noorduyn Aviation in Montreal as the AT-16 to speed up deliveries to the RAF & RCAF.

Following the outbreak of war in Europe, the Americans greatly increased their orders for Texans. As well as their own pilots, large numbers of RAF pilots were trained in America - the weather proving better than at home!

Of the 16,000 built until 1945, many thousands remained in service with the USAF, who instigated a major rebuilding programme to update about 2000 of the trainers as T-6G Texans, with many being delivered to 'US friendly' countries. These rebuilds were undertaken both by North American and Noorduyn. The RAF had 1000 Harvards at the end of the war, and the finals ones remained in service until 1955. Many USAF, RAF and RCAF aircraft were to spend many more flying years with air forces in all parts of the world, with South Africa - the last major user - keeping their Harvards in service until 1998.

Many Texans / Harvards are still flying today in the hands of enthusiasts as low cost 'warbirds', and can still be seen actively flown at air shows around the world.

Reconstruction of the Museum's Harvard commenced in 2000, being built up from a collection of parts from various sources. The rear fuselage is ex-RAF, the fin ex-Royal Navy, another part was marked as a US Navy SNJ and the wings are ex Italian. As such, it is being repainted as KF388 to represent what we believe is the most substantial part of the fuselage and one of the many Harvards that served with the RAF.

Technical data

Wing span 42 ft/12.81 m
Length 29 ft / 8.95m
Max weight 5300 lb / 2405 kg
Service ceiling 21,500 ft / 6555 m
Max speed 205 mph / 330 kmh
Engine 550 hp P & W R-1340AN Wasp