My Latest Flight: Beechcraft AT-6

AT-6 Texan19 June to 27 Oct 2012
Lionel Alford,Jr.

I’ve been flying like crazy–both the AT-6 and the Baron. I haven’t sat down to write about my flying experiences in the AT-6 for a couple of reasons. The first is that I’ve been leading an intensive flight test program for the certification of the aircraft. That means I’ve been flying the aircraft every day many times twice and three times a day. The second is that I’m afraid some of the flying might be uninteresting to many readers. It’s all flight test.

I’ll try to catch you up a little. In a military/FAA type certification program, you basically exercise the aircraft to the limits of the envelope and beyond. This can be pretty dicey flying because aircraft many times don’t do well outside or at the edges of their flight envelopes. I can report that the AT-6 is incredible even out where we don’t expect aviators to tread.

I recently flew the aircraft at 200 pounds above the normal envelope to achieve some longitudinal trim points. With the 1600 shaft horsepower engine, flight with a fully laden AT-6 is a breeze. In the configuration, it is really a hunting Coyote. We don’t fly around with active bombs or rockets; they are all inert, but they are externally and weight representative.

We also have been working around the usual winter cloudy weather. Because the aircraft has flight test equipment installed, you can’t take it wet (clouds etc.). I wouldn’t have any problems with it in weather, but the instrumentation boom on the aircraft would become useless for flight test until the mechanics can purge the water out of it. By the way, the AT-6 may be the only (or one of few) military type aircraft that have GPS WAAS and is capable of GPS WAAS approaches. That’s a great capability.

Recently, for test flights, I had the aircraft above the max altitude and above the max airspeed. The aircraft handled like a dream. It is the most carefree aircraft I have flown. It makes me smile just thinking of it’s capability and the easy which if can be flown. Anyone who is familiar with aircraft would love the way we have designed the flight systems.

Additionally, on many of our flights, we are limited on the amount of gas we can carry because the flight test boxes (weight and center of gravity) require a certain point for the flight tests. With the systems on board, I’ve felt comfortable taking the aircraft to very low fuel weights because I know it can and will get me home in a pinch. Also, we haven’t lost a sortie because of any system failures. In most aircraft that is a miracle, in the AT-6 it is routine.

Come to think of it, I haven’t lost a single sortie in my Baron due to maintenance since 2006 and it has been flying at least 100 to 200 hours a year.
I’ll try to keep you updated on the flying–and the flying is great.