In the late 1980”s I talked to my good friend and pilot Harry Driver and told him we were going to buy a Harvard, Harry said “What’s a Harvard” and so began our journey to become fighter pilots.
I found an X RCAF Harvard MK II at “Courtesy Aircraft” in Chicago, Illinois; she was painted yellow RCAF SN 3275. What Harry and I now needed was someone to teach us to fly her. Flying a 5500 LB tail dragger with 600 HP engine is not the same as flying your average Cessna. We did not know it then, but Don “DOC” Payne would become our great friend and mentor who taught us to be confident and competent pilots. Wing Commander/Lt.Colonel Donald Payne DFC, AFC, CD, RCAF Joined the RCAF in 1942 at 18 flew in WW2, Korea, with NATO in Germany, retired in 1975. We had to work hard to meet his standards; DOC saved us and the airplane many times in early training. Harry and I agree that DOC could fly the box that airplane came in. Our first Harvard is now part of the Langley Museum of Flight.
In the mid 1990’s I had to go to South Africa to build a pulp mill for SAPPI. While there, I found a derelict AT6, and with the help of “Aero Rebuild” at Rand Airport they turned that pile of parts into a beautiful example of one of 265 AT6 the USAF had built in Canada as Harvard MK 4 M.
In 1952, the RCAF needed new trainers and asked North American Aviation if they could build 265 modified Harvards at Canadian Car and Foundry under licence. The USAF asked the RCAF if they would have 265 aircraft built for them, these became known as Harvard MK 4M. Ours was one of the last produced Sn CCF4-529. The USAF only kept a handful of these aircrafts and the remainder went to Germany, Japan, and Italy. Ours went to Germany as BF 064 and in the mid 1960’s she was sold to Portugal. She was armed and flew in Portuguese East Africa as 1740 until all the T-6 were abandoned on airfields at the end of the war in 1972. I have the military records for her and both air forces kept her original USAF Sn 52-8608 in their logs and now is painted USAF colors after a squadron in Korea. Both gear door covers are painted one side BF 604 the other 1740.
I take her to a few air shows, and Harry leads the November 11 Remembrance Day service in Duncan, BC. She is part of the Cascade Warbirds and is a great addition to any airshow, we feel very privileged to have saved this piece of history.