The Planes

About Harvards

The Harvard began life as a North American Aviation designed aircraft around 1934, commonly identified in the USA as the  AT-6 Texan (Advanced Trainer).  The term Harvard was coined by the RAF in England, and is generally referred to by all of the commonwealth countries, including Canada. Early Harvard models were built in California by North American Aviation, while the later Harvards were built under license by Canadian Car & Foundry (Thunder Bay) and Noorduyn Aviation (Montreal).  Many Harvards served under the British Commonweath Air Training Plan (BCATP) in Canada.

The Harvard is powerd by a Pratt & Whitney R-1340, 600 hp supercharged radial engine.  The propeller is 9 ft in diameter;  the combination of a radial engine and propeller tips that exceed the speed of sound is what produces the Harvard’s distinctive roar.

Originally used as advanced trainers by the RCAF for the purposes of night, formation, aerobatic, light bombing and gunnery (later rocketry), they earned the nicknames of ‘The Pilot Maker’ and ‘Yellow Peril’.  A common military saying was simply, “If you could fly a Harvard well, you could fly anything”;  a testament to the Harvard’s suitability to it’s role as trainer.

David’s Harvard Mk4

This Harvard Mk 4, CCF 4-34, was built by the Canadian Car & Foundry company in Thunder Bay, and rolled off the production line in 1952.

The RCAF assigned the Harvard s/n 20243, and was delivered to the No. 4 Flying Training School initially at Calgary, and then at Penhold, Alberta where it remained for its military life.  The plane was moved to Saskatoon 1965 and sold in July 1967. New owners Art Knutsen and Al Myers registered the aircraft with civil registration C-FVYF, and flew the aircraft around Saskatchewan until 1981.

Wayne Watson purchased the aircraft and brought it to Alberta in September 1981. Wayne flew the Harvard well and often, usually with other members of the Western Warbirds Association during the 1980s and 1990s.

Interestingly, this Harvard was never “restored”, but has been re-painted over its lifetime, and the engine was overhauled in 2003. Other parts have been overhauled or replaced as required. With the exception of the radio equipment, this Harvard is completely original (the old, heavy radios were removed and replaced with modern radios for safety reasons)!

David has flown this Harvard since 1985, and bought the plane from his father in 2009.  Today, this Harvard lives in Ponoka – in the same hangar as its best buddy – Drew’s Harvard Mk 2.  In fact, the two Yellow Thunder Harvards have shared a hangar since approximately 1984.

Drew’s Harvard Mk IIb

This Harvard was a United Kingdom contribution to the BCATP, and was built for the RCAF in Inglewood, California in 1942.  The RCAF assigned this Harvard with s/n 3776 where it served as an advanced flight trainer – preparing students to be competent in the skills required as a fighter pilot.

During the war, Harvard 3776 was flown by No. 2 Service Flying Training School (Uplands, ON).  Post-war, 3776 was flown by No. 1 Flying Training School (Centralia, ON).  Harvard 3776 suffered a category B training accident in 1948 after an engine failure, and was repaired (airframe was reset to zero hours).  Harvard 3776 was struck off strength in 1960, and given the civilian registration CF-PST.

CF-PST exchanged hands several times before being purchased by Don McTaggart in 1976.  Mr. McTaggart flew the airplane with his friends in the Western Warbirds through the 1980’s.  Mr. McTaggart based PST in Camrose, Alberta where he flew numerour formation flights with his friends, including Drew’s father Wayne Watson.  On Mr. McTaggart’s birthday, and retirement from flying, he sold PST to Drew Watson.

CF-PST can still be found flying alongside his old friend, C-FVYF, in the Ponoka, Alberta area and at Airshows in Western Canada.

CF-PST has never been restored.  Amazingly, because of its long term storage, this Harvard has a total airframe time of a mere 1200 hours!  With the exception of PST’s radios, the cockpit still looks just like it did in the 1940’s.

Harvard Mk IIb and Mk 4 Differences

Pilots sometimes wonder what the difference is between a Harvard Mk IIb and a Mark 4.  In reality, despite being built 11 years apart by two different factories, the airframes are nearly identical.  Most differences are inside the cockpit – here is a short summary:

  • Canopy:  Th canopy is the easiest way to tell a Mk II from a Mk 4.  The Mk II canopy has twice as many window side panels as the Mk 4.  The centre ‘mullions’ not found on the Mk 4 act as emergency egress (they have pull handles to remove the window).  On the Mk 4, the glass itself is pushed out for emergency egress.
  • Electrical:  The Mk II uses 12-volt electrical system, and the Mk 4 uses 24 volts.
  • Hydraulic:  The Mk II uses a manual push lever to engage the hydraulic pump;  on the Mk 4, the pump is engaged automatically (via gear/flap selector).
  • Instruments and Switches:  The Mk II was assembled to RAF requirements, which involved different placement of instruments and most notably switches that move in the direction “opposite” to North America (up is OFF).
  • Flap and Gear handles:  Early Harvard trainees displayed a frequent tendency to retract the gear shortly after landing, because early Mk II Harvards used very similar handles for flap/gear.  When a student had landed and selected flaps up, they would sometimes select gear up in error.  This resulted in a user-interface design change in the Mk 4 to change the shape and re-locate these two handles.

These are the most notable differences.  Talk to us at our next airshow if you want more details!