AT-6A “Texan” Airplane

The Pilot Maker

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The AT-6 airplane, known as the “Texan,” was one of the most important aircraft trainers of all time. Used to train several hundred thousand pilots — both male and female — in 34 different countries over a period of 25 years, it remains a popular warbird aircraft used for airshow demonstrations and static displays.

In 1938, before the U.S. entered World War II, North American Aviation began producing a series of AT-6 models for England and Canada, two countries already involved in the conflict. In 1940, the U.S. Army Air Corps ordered AT-6s to train fighter pilots for night flying. The U.S. Navy soon began ordering a version called the SNJ. When the U.S. went to war in 1941, the nation urgently recruited hundreds of  thousands of new military pilots. The need for training aircraft was so great that a sprawling North American Aviation factory was quickly built in Dallas. By 1945, the plant had produced over 4,000 AT-6s. About 1,800 of these were the AT-6A model – the model on display at the Bullock. The AT-6A features a 600 HP Pratt & Whitney R-1340-49 radial engine, a variable-pitch propeller, and retractable main landing gear.

The North American T-6 Texan was known as “the pilot maker” because of its important role in preparing pilots for combat. The advanced trainer AT-6 was designed as a transition trainer between basic trainers and first-line tactical aircraft. Although not as fast as a fighter, it was easy to maintain and repair, had more maneuverability, and was easier to handle. It could roll, loop, and spin, and was designed to give the best possible training in all types of tactics, from ground strafing to bombardment and aerial dogfighting. It contained bomb racks, blind flying instrumentation, gun and standard cameras, fixed and flexible guns, in addition to other devices that military pilots had to operate.

Approximately 16,000 variant T-6 trainers were built by North American and other manufacturers between 1937 and the early 1950s.

Pratt & Whitney R-1340-49 Wasp engine

The AT-6A was powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-1340-49 Wasp radial engine. The Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp was an aircraft engine of the reciprocating (or piston) type that was widely used in American aircraft from the 1920s onward. It was the Pratt & Whitney aircraft company's first engine, and the first of the famed Wasp series, a family of air-cooled radial piston engines developed in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. It was a single-row, nine-cylinder, air-cooled, radial design, and displaced 1,344 cubic inches (22 L); bore and stroke were both 5.75 in (146 mm). A total of 34,966 engines were produced.

In addition to powering the AT-6, it was used in numerous types of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, as well as in the K-class blimp. In 2016, it received designation as a Historic Engineering Landmark from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.


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AT-6A “Texan” Airplane Artifact from Dallas
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