The 39th annual Sun ‘N Fun Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida has declared today “T-6 Texan Anniversary Day” as this year marks 75 years since this legendary trainer entered service. The North American T-6 Texan earned the moniker “Pilot Maker” because of all of the pilots who trained on it during World War Two and beyond and is still considered the best trainer to prepare pilots to take the controls of the North American P-51-Mustang or other high performance warbirds.
In many ways the Texan is more difficult plane to fly than the P-51 Mustang, particularly in ground handling and dealing with crosswinds which makes the Texan the perfect trainer as its unforgiving nature demands immediate and correct input during abnormal flight conditions, making automatic and second-nature the actions that can save a pilot’s life in a hairy situation.
The Texan name and purpose loomed large enough that it was applied to the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II which is used today by the United States Air Force and Navy for pilot training as well as being utilized as a basic trainer by the Royal Canadian Air Force, the German Air Force, the Greek Air Force, the Israeli Air Force and the Iraqi Air Force.
The decades that separate the designs of the original Texan and Texan II are immediately apparent at a quick glance. The Texan II, particularly in comparison with its namesake, is sleek and needle-like while the original T-6 Texan is the epitome of WWII-era fighter design, bulbous, substantial and muscular. Appearances aside, both planes serve as a good primer to flying the P-51 though the Texan II benefits from advances in aeronautical design and engineering and provides a flight experience that is actually closer to that of the P-51. The Texan II and the P-51 have very similar performance characteristics, gear, flaps, rotation speeds and best climb rate are the same and weight, horsepower, fuel capacity and wing area are strikingly similar.
Stallion 51 displayed their T-6 Texan, nicknamed “THANG” due to it’s original Territory of Hawaii Air National Guard markings, on the warbird ramp in front of the Mustang Corral. Their Texan of old is still in active use, providing those who want to experience the “sound of big and round” from inside of a WWII warbird cockpit during hands-on orientation flights. Stallion 51 also offers extensive check-out training for those who wish to own their own Texan or transition into a P-51 Mustang. Even at 75 years old, the T-6 Texan is still very much the “Pilot Maker.”