North American AT-6 Harvard (Texan)


 The Harvard was an American designed two-seat general-purpose military monoplane with tandem cockpits and sliding enclosures. In the training variant there were dual controls, with the rear control quickly removable. The Harvard was the British and Canadian designation for the North American AT-6 Texan, and was built by the Noorduyn Aviation Limited of Montreal and the Canadian Car & Foundry under license from North American Aviation, Inc. The AT-6 terminology ranged from the Texan in the United States Army Air Force, the SNJ in the United States Navy and the Harvard in Canadian, Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm service. This family of trainers is easily the most widely built trainer of all time.

The genesis of the Harvard began with a 1934 US contract for a primary trainer to meet an US Army Air Corps requirement. The first prototype, the North American NA-16 which first flew on 1 April 1935  evolved into the AT-6 Texan. This aircraft was produced in several variants, with several powerplants ranging from 400 to 600hp. Production of the BT-9 type for the US Army Air Corps started in 1936 with a contract for 95 and this series was again ordered in 1937 with a contract for 248. In 1937 the addition of retractable undercarriage, a Pratt and Whitney R-1340 powerplant and some other refinements to the airframe produced a recognisable Harvard. The AT-6 was first produced in 1939 and was similar to (and eventually replaced) the BC-1A basic combat trainer in the US when the basic combat classification was abandoned. Several series of AT-6 advanced trainers were built over the next few years, development continued with the replacement of fabric with metal, and other refinements.

The AT-6A (US Navy designation SNJ-3), had a Pratt and Whitney R-1340-AN1 engine. The major change in the AT-6C (SNJ-4 and Harvard IIA) was in the materials used for construction. Because of possible materials shortages, theC model was redesigned to eliminate aluminum alloy and high alloy steels. Considerable use was made of low alloy steel and plywood in this model. When the expected shortages did not develop, the aircraft reverted to the standard structure. The D model had the standard structure with an R-1340-AN1 engine and a 24 volt electrical system

More than 17,000 Harvards were eventually built in the US or under license in Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and Sweden. 2,610 Harvard IIB's were built in Canada by Noorduyn Aviation Limited, and 555 Harvard Mk IV by the Canadian Car and Foundry in the 1950s. Many remained in service in military air arms for over twenty years after the end of WWII, finally serving in a total of more than 40 airforces around the world.

South Africa was the last air force to use the Harvard after 55 years service, from 1940-1995. They are still regarded as National Treasues in South Africa, and a notice to this effect was published recently in the South Africa 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....."

Harvard 7051 of the SAAF (South Africa)

The Fleet Air Arm acquired a total of 236 Harvards from 1943 till at least 1955. Prior to that time Fleet Air Arm crews used the Harvard trainer as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, EATS (also called the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, BCATP in Canada). The initial responsibility for establishing, administering and operating this complex plan was placed upon the shoulders of the RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF and SAAF from 1940. The Fleet Air Arm did not acquire its own squadron aircraft until 1943.

The Harvard was selected as the favoured trainer aircraft in Canada, Australia and New Zealand as part of the EATS or BCATP, and trained many Fleet Air Arm personnel. The BCATP evolved following a meeting of Government representatives from United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in Ottawa, and signed an agreement to set up the Plan in December 1939, converting Canada into what President Roosevelt later termed "the aerodrome of democracy." It was only after the signing of the Lend- Lease agreement by Great Britain could the Harvard be delivered to the countries partaking in the scheme. First to receive the Harvard MKI was Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and then three found there way into South Africa by 1940. The first schools opened in Canada in April 1940, and by 24 November 1940 the first trainees from the Scheme arrived in the UK. In total 137,000 aircrew came to Canada from all corners of the globe to earn their wings in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Harvards began arriving in numbers in South Africa in 1942.

One of the main training schools was at the RCAF Station, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, where the Royal Navy had the eastern side of the airfield whilst the RCAF flew anti-submarine patrols in Cansos from the other side of the field.

The Harvard first saw direct service with FAA squadrons in June 1943 with 793 squadron at Mackinnon Road. From then on the number of aircraft built up through mid 1944 onwards. Some of these aircraft were ex SAAF Harvards (eg EX643, EZ178 etc). The final FAA Harvard was payed off in January 1955 with Harvard FE697 as part of the Hong Kong Auxilliary air force.

Fleet Air Arm history
    Total FAA 1939-1945:        236
    First delivered to RN:          1943 (although under the BCATP Harvards were used from 1940)
    First squadron 1939-1945:    795 sqdn
    Operational squadron:           None
    Last served with RN            1955

North American AT-6C Harvard IIAs
Serial Numbers: EX100 EX846
Total 9

North American AT-6D Harvard IIIs
Serial Numbers EX847 EZ458
Total 129

North American AT-16 Harvard IIB
Serail Numbers: FE276-FH166
Total 11

North American AT-16 Harvard IIB
Serial Numbers: FS661-FT460
Total 3

North American AT-6D Harvard III
Serial Numbers: FT955-FT974
Total 20

North American AT-16 Harvard IIB
Serial Numbers: FX198 FX497
Total 2

North American SNJ-4 Harvard under Acquisition No. BAC/n-1990 for the Royal Navy
Serial Numbers: KE305-KE309
Total 5

North American AT-16 Harvard IIBs
Serial Numbers: KF100 KF999
Total 57

Aircraft Type:
North American AT-6 Harvard
Primary Role:
Combat trainer 
First Flight: 
1 April 1935 as the NA16 prototype
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
1943-1955 (with FAA air crew 1940 onwards under the BCATP)
North American Aviation Inc., Los Angeles Municipal Airport, Inglewood, California, U.S.A. 
Canadian Car & Foundry
Noorduyn Aviation Limited, Montreal, Canada
One 600hp Pratt &Whitney R-1340-AN-1 engine
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Span : 12.8m (42'0ft) 
Length : 8.99m (29'6ft) 
Height : 3.56m (11'8ft)
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
empty : 1,938kg (4,271lb) 
max : 2,546kg (6,617lb)
max speed : 341km/h (212mph) 
max climb : 1,643ft/min (8.3m/sec) 
ceiling : 24,750ft (7338m) 
range : 1400km (870miles)
782,784,789,794,795, 797,798,799
Battle honours:
None with FAA
Additional references and notes:
Battle Honours and Operational History
 None with the FAA

Surviving aircraft and relics
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Preserved Harvard in RCAF markings

New Zealand preserved Harvard ZK-ENG / NZ1078

Associations and reunions
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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