>> WITH EAA’S DIRECTOR of aircraft operations, Sean Elliott, in the
back seat, I eased the T- 6 onto the runway for my first touchdown.
Not bad, I thought. I had cut my pilot teeth on taildraggers, a
Cessna 140, but I had never flown one of the larger, heavier tailwheel airplanes. Maybe the much feared and revered T- 6 “pilot
maker” wasn’t going to be so different after all.
But Sean, though he was complimentary on my landing, wasn’t
so sure I was on top of the big World War II-era trainer. “Good
job,” he said, “but you need to anticipate any swerve or change in
direction and be ready for it.” Gee, I thought the airplane had
rolled out nice and straight.
The next time around I dropped the T- 6 onto its main wheels
with a thud. The drop was only inches, but it was enough to
excite the airplane’s natural tendency to swap ends, and the T- 6
darted for the ditch. Between Sean and me—mostly Sean—we
stayed on the wide Oshkosh runway after a swerve or two—
maybe three. Like many thousands of pilots since the late 1930s,
the T- 6 had taught me an important lesson in directional control
and anticipation. It also taught me a good dose of humility.
Flying hundreds of hours in a light taildragger 40 years ago may
be good training for most flying, but is not nearly enough to
make me T- 6 ready.
The North American T- 6 was built in huge numbers during
World War II, and even in the following years, with more than
18,000 built. Nobody knows an exact number because the airplane
had many variants and different manufacturing sites. It also had at
least three model group
names—Texan for the Army
AT- 6, SNJ for the Navy, and Harvard
for the United Kingdom forces.