Thanks to the generosity of the team at Paul Bennet Airshows and Fleet Warbirds, I was lucky enough to be able to catch this beautiful T-6G Texan, flown by Lachie Onslow, on its way to the Wings Over Illawarra show back in April of this year (see our article; wings-over-illawarra-2016-a-great-success).
Having only seen VH-WHF for the first time at the Mudgee Wings Wheels and Wine show just the week before (see that article here) I was immediately taken by the beautiful colours worn by this machine which represents an aircraft flown by the US Air Force’s All Weather Flying Center in the late 1940s, with the attractive red and yellow trim being applied to many of the wide variety of types used by this unit. And It had looked absolutely stunning when displayed by Tim Dugan against the clear, blue sky at Mudgee.
The North American T-6 Texan (or Harvard in British / Commonwealth service) is the ubiquitous WWII training aircraft with more than 15,000 built and used by over 60 countries with some examples remaining in active use until as recently as the mid-1990s. With more than 350 still flying in civilian hands, the T-6 is one of the world’s most popular and affordable warbirds which has been seen by just about anyone who has attended an airshow.
Originally built as an AT-6 during WWII, the airframe was converted into the T-6G version in 1949 before serving with the fledgling United States Air Force (USAF). Sometime later the aircraft served in the Brazilian air force before being transferred to the Paraguayan air force in the mid-1970s, where it was retired from military service and put on the local civilian register in the early 1980s. It was then purchased and returned to the United States in 1991 where it flew for a few years with the registration N3172M before it was brought to Western Australia and given its Australian rego of VH-WHF in the mid-to-late ‘90s. Purchased by its current owners in 2012, the aircraft is now based out of Armidale where it forms part of Fleet Warbirds’ growing lineup.
Apart from spectacular displays at airshows, the team at Fleet Warbirds offer people the opportunity to experience a wide variety of scenic and adventure flights in their classic Boeing Stearman, the T-6 or even the power and speed of a jet in an L-39 and, thanks to a collaboration with Paul Bennet Airshows, the range of possibilities has grown to include some of their impressive fleet as well. And, for the pilots out there who may wonder what it like to fly some of these aviation classics, they offer the opportunity for type conversions onto the Stearman and T-6 too.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of weather and extreme smoke haze over Sydney on the day, there was only a very narrow window of only a couple of minutes where the sun was really out properly before the smoke haze and clouds closed in and ruined the light for the remainder of the trip down the coast to Illawarra, but the chance to see those beautiful colours against the sea, even briefly, was amazing.My sincere thanks to Lachie Onslow and Tim Dugan from Fleet Warbirds and the Paul Bennet Airshows team for this wonderful opportunity.