If you witness a skull and crossbones flying overhead, it isn’t sky pirates. What it might be is the T-6 Texan II outfitted in livery honoring the 14th Flying Training Wing First Assignment Instructor Pilots (FAIP) for their work in creating elite USAF pilots. 

Painted aircraft, traditionally through nose art, has been around since shortly after the first fixed-wing airplane entered combat. WWI saw shark’s teeth artwork and aircraft nicknames painted on the nose and fuselage of fighter planes. Nose art boomed during WWII, and aircraft artwork quickly became a way to express camaraderie and cooperation among pilots and ground crews. Today, as with the 14th FTW FAIPs, wing insignias honor achievements among flight programs and military branches, and foster unity in teams promoting aerospace innovation and advancement. 

Greenwood Aerospace is a nationally-recognized, award-winning aerospace company that provides supplies and support for government aerospace programs. With over 41 years of experience in government procurement, we know how to meet your needs on time and within budget. We offer all clients our expert services, including:

By contracting us for all your flight program requirements, your program can streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and remain competitive in the fast-paced aerospace sector. 

In this article, we explore:

  • The beginnings of the T-6 Texan II
  • Preparing pilots for the T-6 Texan II in UPT and Flight School
  • Basic specifications of the T-6 Texan II
  • What Greenwood Aerospace offers your flight program

The Beechcraft T-6 Texan II is becoming the pilot training aircraft for Air Forces across the world. Discover all of Greenwood Aerospace’s services for this versatile aircraft. 

The Beginnings of the Texan II: A Brief History

The Texan II came out of a long process of finding a replacement for the Cessna T-37 Tweet. The Tweet went into service in 1957 and served an incredible 52 years until it was finally retired in 2009. The Tweet was an incredible airframe, which was also pressed into service as an observation platform and close air support (CAS) aircraft in Vietnam. But you can’t say enough great things about a jet that ushered in the jet age and provided pilots for four of five Air Force fighter generations.  

But it was undoubtedly getting long in the tooth by the 21st Century. The avionics desperately needed modernization, reflecting the cockpits of line aircraft in the fleet. Also, no matter how small, a twin-engine jet will always cost more in operational expenses than a comparable turboprop, especially a single-engine turboprop. The T-6 Texan II checked these boxes. It is more fuel efficient, more powerful, and did away with the “steam gauges” still used in the Tweet.

So, why did the Navy do away with the T-34C Turbo Mentor? Similar reasons. The Mentor was a great aircraft, but it was getting old. Aircraft that are subjected to aerobatics day in and day out for decades deteriorate; there is nothing you can do about it. They just break down over time. Also, you reach a point of diminishing returns when you realize how much it will cost to strip each aircraft down and install all-new avionics. 

In a move that may surprise most veterans, the two branches (recall that Navy Flight School also trains all USMC and Coast Guard pilots) settled on a common airframe for their primary flight instruction purposes.

Two pilots sit in a T-6 Texan II as grounds crew services the wing.

Undergraduate Pilot Training & Navy Flight School

First, what exactly is Undergraduate Pilot Training? Navy Flight School seems common sense. There is no difference. It is just a difference in nomenclature. The two services are aiming at doing the same thing: producing competent pilots to replenish their respective fleets. Every year, each branch of service has a quota of pilot slots that must be filled to keep up with mission readiness. 

The slots are highly competitive, but that does not mean you are home-free once you earn a slot. The washout rate for Air Force UPT is about seventeen percent, so just shy of one-in-five will not finish with their silver wings. Navy Flight School is higher, at one-quarter of all students washing out. To be fair, this is a good thing. As a Naval Aviator, you don’t have ten thousand feet of pavement at your disposal, so they should be better. This isn’t saying the Air Force isn’t as good; it’s just pointing out that no form of flying is more dangerous than Navy aviation.    

Who Uses the Texan II?

The Texan II is the primary flight training aircraft for the U.S. Air Force UPT and Navy Flight Training. Once the primary stage is complete, pilots move on to either a fighter/bomber track, which operates the T-38 Talon, or the heavy track, which flies the Raytheon T-1A Jayhawk, which is little more than a Hawker 400.

The Navy is a little different. Their intermediate tracks either head over the T-45 Goshawk for fighter tracks, or the T-44 Pegasus, a King Air A100.

Two T-6 Texan IIs compete in an air show, decorated in red and gold sponsor livery, smoke billowing from their engines as they fly parallel to one another

How About Foreign Allies?

Several foreign allies have switched to the T-6, including the UK, Argentina, Mexico, Greece, Israel, and New Zealand, to name a few. Canada also made the switch, although they coined it with the name CT-156 Harvard II. 

How About the Competition?

Ironically enough, Beechcraft wiped out much of the competition because the T-6A is a highly modified Pilatus PC-9. In fact, it is actually the Beech Pilatus PC-9 Mk. 2. The Pilatus PC-7 and PC-9 are certainly the stiffest competition if a company can compete against itself. The PC-9 is used by several countries, including Australia (since retired and moved on to the PC-21), Colombia, Thailand, and of course, Switzerland. The UK operated the Shorts Tucano T1, which is a similar design. All of the close competitors post similar marks for horsepower and overall design; none of the modern designs are archaic to the level of the T-37 being replaced by the T-6. 

T-6 Texan II: Let’s Talk Specs & Performance

By 2018, the T-6 was one of only two aircraft conducting Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR), or Light Air Support (LAS), missions for the United States Air Force. Its prowess in mission capability has rendered most other similar aircraft—CONUS and OCONUS—obsolete. Let’s take a closer look at what specs and performance abilities drive the T-6 Texan II program.

Power for the Texan II is provided by the always robust Pratt & Whitney PT6A, with this version being the -68 rated at 1,100. According to P&W, the A-68 fall into the “large” category for the PT6A, making it one of the highest-performance engines in the family. 

For a frame of reference, the original T-6 Texan used a 600hp R-1340-9 radial engine, yet the Texan II only weighs about 600 lbs more empty. The performance is staggering, with the new Texan boasting cruise speeds double that of the original Texan. It’s hard to compare notes since they are completely different designs.

A T-6 Texan II with USAF insignia prepares for takeoff

Other important specs of the T-6 Texan II are:

  • 33.5 feet wingspan
  • 33.4 feet length
  • 10.7 feet height
  • 6,500 pound weight
  • 320 mph maximum speed
  • 900 nautical mile range
  • Tandem ejection seats
  • $4.372 million cost per aircraft

Besides the old design, the Tweet had one serious limitation: fuel burn and duration. The Tweet carried 309 gallons or so, which is roughly double that of the T-6, and burned an astounding 132  gph-186 gph, depending on cruise speed. That is about two or three times the fuel consumption of the PT6A in the T-6, which varies around 50 gph, depending on how it is used. 

Low Maintenance & High Value

The PT6A is the most popular turboprop engine of all time, and that is not diminishing. The T-6 uses this great engine, which is a common powerplant with the King Air/C-12 Huron series. This reduces overall costs since they will share some common parts. We want to help you set up your logistics train for your T-6 operations, C-12 operations, or whatever else you operate. The PT6A is famous for its high MC rates and long durations between overhauls, but as with all machines, it will eventually fail. 

What Greenwood Aerospace Offers Your Flight Program

Government Procurement, operated by Greenwood Aerospace, is your one-stop shop for setting up a reliable supply chain, building preventative maintenance kits, or even providing Program Management. Whatever your aerospace needs, we are positioned to help you. Give us a call today, and we’ll see how we can help you out!

Interested in learning more about government and military aircraft? Check out these News articles next: 

  1. Army Fixed-Wing Aviation: An Overview
  2. C-12 Huron: Let’s Talk Models, Users, and Differences
  3. All About the RC-12X Guardrail
  4. Discover the Features of Army Fixed Wing ISR Platforms