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The mighty T-6 Texan, one of Vance AFB's greatest pilot trainers

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Bolinger & Airman 1st Class Christian Soto
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. - As the Air Force prepares to celebrate its 75th birthday, Team Vance invites our friends and neighbors in Enid, America, to celebrate the base’s more than 80 years of training the world's best pilots.

Over the coming weeks, and leading up to our own Air Force Birthday Ball, we will be taking a close look at the types of aircraft that have roared through the skies of Northwest Oklahoma, many of which can be seen up close at the Air Park just north of the Hairston Main Gate in front of the Vance Visitor Center.  

This trip through time, will begin with the T-6 Texan, the name sake of the T-6A Texan II turbo-prop aircraft that today's student pilots fly as part of the Undergraduate Pilot Training 2.5 program. 

Vance pilots flew the T-6 as an initial training aircraft from 1948-1953. 

Widely known as the "Texan," the T-6 is a single engine aircraft made famous in World War II as an attack fighter and trainer, said Daniel LeClair, the 71st Flying Training Wing historian, who holds a doctorate in history and has a passion for the past. It was also used as a bomber, but that was not how it was designed. 

Designed by North American Aviation, the aircraft was flown by U.S. Army Air Forces, the U.S. Navy, the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom, and the Canadian Air Force in World War II.  

It is powered by 600 horse power radial engine made by Pratt & Whitney. According to Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II, the Texan had a max speed of 208 mph and wing span of 42 feet. 

Outfitted with three 7.62mm machine guns, the T-6 was flown by the militaries of 64 different countries into the 1970s. 

The two-seat aircraft has been featured in movies and airshows since the war, and in the September 1944 issue of “The Sportsman Pilot,” U.S. Army Air Force Capt. Paul K. Jones stated, "The Six is a plane that can do anything a fighter can do - and even more. Naturally not as fast, she makes up for speed in her ease of handling and her maneuverability. She's a war machine, yes, but more than that she's a flyer's airplane. Rolls, Immelmans, loops, spins, snaps, vertical rolls - she can do anything - and do it beautifully.
“For actual combat, more guns, more speed and more power is needed. But for the sheer joy of flying-give me an AT-6,” stated Jones.

You can get up close to a real T-6 Texan from Vance’s past at the Air Park, just outside the main gate. Look for the bright yellow bird nestled among all the other trainers on display.