Wichita Falls_We told you it was coming, and now it's here. The new T-6 Texan II training plane landed at Sheppard Air Force Base Monday, completely changing the way pilots there train.
Pilots were training on the T-37 Tweet, but the Air Force says that plane's technology and avionics just isn't enough anymore. With the new T-6 Texan, pilots are launched into the 21st century. While the Air Force knows it's time for a change, letting go of the T-37 Tweet is bittersweet. She trained thousands of fighter pilots around the world, but couldn't keep up with modern technology. The new T-6 Texan II can.
The T-6 Texan was the Air Force's plane of choice during World War II. But then it was retired, and spent the last few decades training pilots on the T-37 Tweet. Today, they have brought the T-6 back into the mix, it's the T-6 Texan II. "There's not an air force pilot walking around today that hasn't been trained on the T-37," said Base Commander and Brigadier General Richard Devereaux. "The T-6 is the right thing for our air force and for NATO. It out climbs, accelerates faster, flies higher, faster, longer, out performs, and it's cheaper to operate. You just can't beat that."
The T-6 Texan II is the modern version of this original T-6 Texan -- which is actually the only Tuskegee Airmen aircraft in existence. Her owner Steve Cowell says seeing his plane next to it's new prodigy is an honor. "When I heard that they were naming the new trainer the Texan, at first I thought, 'Well I'm not so sure about that,'" Cowell said. "And then I thought, 'What an honor!' What a great honor to carry on the tradition of training the best fighter pilots in the world."
Unlike the T-37 Tweet with her twin jet engines, the T-6 Texan II has a single propeller, and one jet engine. "Which causes you to think about where you're going to land, and how you're doing," siad pilot Colonel David Peterson. "But it has am extremely high reliability rate, far higher than the T-37, or really, any other airplane in the Air Force inventory."
The original T-6 Texan flew for 65 years. Pilots have trusted the T-37 Tweet for decades. But they say the new T-6 Texan II is their favorite. "It's very easy to maintain, very reliable, advanced avionics, great fuel range, so we can maneuver if we need to, divert if the weather goes bad," Peterson said. "It's provides a lot of capability that we didn't have with the T-37."