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T-6 Texan II officially begins Sheppard's replacement of T-37

  • Published
  • By John Ingle
  • 80th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs officer
The old workhorse trainer of the Air Force, the T-37B Tweet, officially began its march toward full retirement March 31 when the 80th Flying Training Wing "took the car keys" to its replacement, the T-6A Texan II.

Retired Rear Adm. James Maslowski, the vice president of government business for Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita, Kan., presented Col. David Petersen, 80th FTW commander, with a set of keys, a ceremonial gesture signifying the wing's acceptance of the first two trainers.

"We are pleased that you are beginning training in the T-6," Mr. Maslowski said, "but it also marks the end of a historical aircraft, the T-37." 

Sheppard currently has eight Texan IIs on its ramp, but will receive a total of 69 over the next 18 months. The wing has 74 T-37s at this time.

The two aircraft taxied up to a vintage AT-6 Texan a little after 3 p.m. Colonel Petersen piloted the first aircraft, with Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Steering Committee Chairman Air Commodore Peter Berlijn in the back seat. The second Texan II was piloted by Capt. Brian Wood, an instructor pilot at the 89th Flying Training Squadron. Italian Brig. Gen. Franco Marsiglia, the steering committee's incoming chairman, was also in the second aircraft.

The Tweet began service in the Air Force in 1956, but didn't arrive at Sheppard until 1966. It's been the primary introductory pilot training aircraft since. The side-by-side set up for the more than 50-year-old aircraft, while reliable, has antiquated avionics that doesn't provide a realistic approach for today's undergraduate pilot trainees.

"The avionics of the T-37, all the instrumentation, is from that era," Colonel Petersen said. "We've made great advancements in how we do our instrument flying and this airplane (the T-6) is really laid out like future cockpits would be."

The colonel said the tandem -- or front seat, back seat -- configuration and advanced instrumentation provides for an easy transition into the advanced pilot training aircraft, the T-38C Talon.

Another plus for pilot trainees in ENJJPT is the ability to "fly" numerous times before touching the aircraft. The advancement of flight simulation technologies provides realistic situations for student pilots in a controlled environment.

Royal Netherlands Air Force Air Commodore Berlijn said although the introduction of the Texan II into the program was primarily a decision by the U.S. Air Force, NATO countries participating in the program will benefit from the new training aircraft.

The air commodore said the arrival of the T-6A is an important milestone because it shows ENJJPT is "very healthy" and a "very good program."

"It's very much alive. It's very healthy," he said, "and it will be healthy in the future with great assistance like the T-6."

The T-6 was named the Texan because it was built in Grand Prairie, Texas. Like the Texan II, the original Texan was used as a primary trainer, but in the area of aerial combat maneuvers.

Sheppard received two Texan II aircraft in January to begin training Lier Siegler Services, Inc., maintainers. Instructor pilots at the wing are currently training on the aircraft and students should begin flying it in the fall.
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