25 Nov 2002 - Updated style and
format. Resized some photos.
25 Sep 2003 - Added a Texan anecdote from Jim Kaneski
16 May 2009 - Added additional photos.
The Cavanaugh Flight Museum, at the Addison Airport (ADS), offers rides in a few of their vintage aircraft. I used some Christmas gift cash this year to arrange a ride in the AT-6 on 31 Dec 2001.
This aircraft type, in many variations, saw active service in the Army and Navy starting in the 1930s. It continued to serve the US Air Force until at least late 1955, as the T-6.
The huge radial engine and the "greenhouse" canopy are distinguishing features of the Texan. I had seen this airplane before, as it flew formation with the B-24 I was riding in. (See "Bomber Flight!" for aerial photos.)
Once I buckled on a parachute, I climbed into the back seat of the plane and secured my seat belts. I kept my feet on the floorboards to keep from interfering with the rudder pedals. Pilot Kevin Raulie took the front seat. He started the engine and once it was warm enough, we taxied out (temperature was low 30s with a wind chill in the teens). This is a tail dragger, so you have to weave side to side as you taxi in order to see what is in front of you. Here is the view looking out the rear of the plane.
When the tower cleared us, we took off to the north on runway 33. We were airborne in a short distance, and Kevin raised the landing gear and continued to gain airspeed just a short distance off the runway. Then we zoomed to altitude in a steep climb. We saw the closed airport at Frisco, and a large information technology company in Plano. Then we continued north to a safe area for aerobatics.
A roll was first. Nose down to pick up some airspeed, then at 150 KIAS pull back past level and around we go. We probably experienced 1.5 or 2 Gs. A loop was next. Climb first, to gain some altitude. Then nose down until you reach 170 KIAS and pull back on the stick ... until you see ground again. Not bad, about 3.5 or 4 Gs this time! Kevin threw in a couple wingovers, just for fun. Our final maneuver was a Cuban Eight; which is a combination of loops and half rolls. Wow!
We returned to Addison in conventional flight -- except for the 360 overhead approach. Lined up on the runway, but too high to land, we flew over the end of the runway and then broke hard to the left, making a descending 360-degree turn which brought us back in line with the runway at a proper landing altitude.
Throughout the flight, I was aware of how drafty an enclosed plane could be! I guess it wouldn't be that noticeable in the summer, but on a winter day you sure felt the cold on your legs. I also noticed that the sliding cockpit canopy vibrated and rattled quite a bit in flight. It was also a tighter fit than I expected; I frequently smacked my headset against the side windows when turning to look around.
After we taxied back to the Museum ramp, Kevin shut down the engine. I was surprised to hear a loud whirring noise that continued after the engine was quiet. Kevin explained that was the sound of the gyros spinning down. Fascinating.
Another great flight experience with the Cavanaugh Flight Museum. Their PT-19 is currently in pieces for a complete rebuild -- maybe in a year or two it will be available for flights. If so, I'll be back!
I received the following real-life T-6 story from Jim Kaneski:
"I was lucky enough to be in class 56-R and as such we were the last to get the Terrible Texan at Hondo. The T-28s were on station in late '55 and took over in Feb '56. It was a challenge to fly the T-6. As you know it was an advanced plane in W.W.II. We got into it after 22 hours in the PA-18 cub. One neat story about things at Hondo. At the cadet club they only had a beer bar but that did the job. I'm sure the officers club had a full bar. Anyway, at the cadet club you couldn't sit on a bar stool until you soloed the T-6. Boy, did we look up to the guys who were able to sit while we stood at the bar. They were proven heroes to the newer cadets. That was a HUGE milestone in our lives. So maybe you can catch a little feeling about what it was like to finally solo the beast. After landing you were carted off to the water trough and tossed in amid lots of whoops/hollers. But the best was a little later when you climbed on a bar stool in your wet flight suit and ordered a beer. I still keep that date in my day-timer now: 15 Sep '55. I always try to have a beer on that day. Boy, were those the Good Old Days." - Jim Kaneski
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