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PH-KLU North American AT-16 Harvard IIB c/n 14A-1187 - RCAF "XS-249" - Lelystad Airport in Holland - 13 May 2015 Lelystad Airport (EHLE)

The North American AT-16 Harvard IIB is a single-engined; two seat; low wing, advanced training aircraft with tandem cockpits and sliding enclosures and with a retractable undercarriage. Design and development of the North American T-6 series began with a 1934 US contract for a primary trainer to meet an US Army Air Corps requirement. The prototype of this primary trainer, the North American NA-16, a two-seat training aircraft with fixed undercarriage, first flew on 1 April 1935. The NA-16 was followed by a single preproduction aircraft, the NA-18, and finally by the NA-19 that first flew in April 1936 and entered sevice with the United States Army Air Corps as the BT-9 (basic trainer, type 9). The North American NA-26 was submitted as an entry for a USAAC "Basic Combat" aircraft competition in March 1937. The NA-26 design was derived from the North American BT-9, and had a retractable undercarriage, the more powerfull Pratt and Whitney R-1340 9 cylinder Wasp radial up front and some other refinements to the BT-9 airframe. The North American NA-26 prototype NX18990 was flying first on 11 February 1938. The North American NA-26 Basic Combat demonstrator NX18990 won the competition, and, in due course, with only minor modifications like the 600hp R-1340-47 engine, the NA-26 model entered production as Model NA-36 and 177 aircraft were supplied to the USAAC as the BC-1 (basic combat, type 1). The BC-1 was followed by the BC-1A (NA-55) with some airframe revisions (92 built); and a single BC-1B with a modified wing center-section. Thirty of the BC-1's were modified as BC-1I instrument trainers; and with the beginning of World War II 400 aircraft were ordered by the RAF as the Harvard I, an aircraft similar to BC-1 but without rear gun and with a 600hp R-1340-S3H1 engine. The US Navy received 16 modified aircraft, designated the SNJ-1, and a further 61 as the SNJ-2 with a different engine. The BC-1 was equipped with one nose-mounted .30-caliber machine gun that fired through the propeller and a second .30-caliber gun on a flexible mount in the rear cockpit. When the Basic Combat classification was abandoned, the BC-1A was redesignated AT-6. Originally designed by North American Aviation, as a Basic Combat aircraft, the T-6 is known by a variety of designations depending on the model and operating air force. The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) and USAAF designated it as the AT-6, the United States Navy the SNJ, and British Commonwealth air forces the Harvard, the name by which it is best known outside of the US. In all, more than 20,000 airframes with varoiuos various modifications were built by North American Aviation and under license from North American Aviation in California, Texas, Montreal (by Noorduyn Aviation), Fort William, Ontario (by Canadian Car & Foundry) and as the Wirraway in Australia (by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation). Starting in 1948, the new United States Air Force (USAF) designated it the T-6, with the USN following in 1962. It remains a popular warbird aircraft used for airshow demonstrations and static displays. It has also been used many times to simulate variousWorld War II aircraft.

The Dutch Government received in the years after WW II about 220 North American AT-6A Texan and North American / Noorduyn AT-16-ND Harvards for operations in the Netherlands. The North American AT-6A Texan aircraft went to the RLS at Gize-Rijen Air Base; the North American / Noorduyn AT-16-ND Harvard IIbs to the Nederlandse Militaire Luchtvaart, the aviation part of the Dutch Army. At least five of these AT-16ND Harvards mk.IIB's never entered service with the Nederlandse Militaire Luchtvaart as these aircraft were immediately stored and used for the provision of parts. On 11 March 1953, the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu) - Royal Netherlands Air Force became an independent division of the Armed Forces of the Netherlands. Up to 1962 the Dutch military used the Harvard primarily as a trainer for the Advanced Flying Training (VVO) and the flying instructors’ training (VIO) at Gilze-Rijen Air Base. On this aircraft the trainees acquired their Major Military Flying Certificate. These aircraft were recognizable by their conspicuous canary-yellow livery, with orange-red dayglow bands around their engine cowlings, fuselages and wing tips. Over the years, several aircraft were operated by the MLD (Netherlands Naval Aviation) on short term loans from the ML and later the Klu. Next to the aircraft used by the MLD; VVO and VIO, Harvard IIBs were stationed at most of the Dutch Air Force Bases and use as a Communication aircraft. A special task was there for a number of camouflaged Harvard IIBs, operating from the Deelen Air Base, that served as targets in the role of anti-aircraft attackers for anti-aircraft artillery. At the beginning of 1968 the last Harvard’s were withdrawn from use and handed over to the Depot Vliegtuig Materieel / DVM (Aircraft Materials Depot).

In 1943, the North American AT-16 Harvard IIB s/n 14A-1187 was built under license by Noorduyn Aviation Ltd., Montreal, Quebec, Canada, under USAAF serial 43-125888. The same year, the AT-16-ND was delivered under Lend-Lease arrangements to Great Britain and delivered to the RAF as Harvard IIb FT144, where it was on strenght till August 1946. On 1 Augustus 1946, Harvard IIb FT144 was transferred to the Nederlandse Militaire Luchtvaart, the aviation part of the Dutch Army. For training purposes, the MLD took over six Harvards on loan, including the North American AT-16 Harvard IIB s/n 14A-1187. These aircraft were assigned to the Combat Training at MVK Valkenburg at VGSQ-2, 4 and 5. On 27 August 1946, the Harvard IIb entered service with with the MLD (Netherlands Naval Aviation) as L-5 (12-06 is also given as the serial used in MLD service). On 14 April 1949, the Harvard IIb was returned to the Royal Netherlands Army Air Force / Nederlandse Militaire Luchtvaart, where it entered service as B-59. On 11 March 1953, the B-59 was transferred to the new established Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu) - Royal Netherlands Air Force. Ater the North American / Noorduyn AT-16-ND Harvard IIB B-59 was withdrawn from use by the Royal Netherlands Air Force, it was given in use to the Stichting Vliegsport Gilze-Rijen (SVGR) at Gilze-Rijen AFB. On 23 August 1974, the Harvard IIB was registered PH-KLU with Jack Thüring, the chairman of the SVGR and the aircraft was based at Gilze-Rijen AFB. In service with SVGR, Harvard IIB PH-KLU acted in two movies whereby not only the painting but also the appearance was changed: in 1976 the Harvard acted in the movie 'A Bridge to far' where it was converted as a look-a-like of a P-47C Thunderbolt painted in an American camouflage pattern, coded W-MX and as a Typhoon coded HF:S. After the recordings for ABTF ended the PH-KLU came back at Gilze-Rijen on 22 September 1977. Quite soon afterward, the PH-KLU was prepared for the movie 'Soldaat van Oranje' in which it acted in German Focke-Wulf 190 '7+-' colors. On 12 December 1978, the PH-KLU was registered with Anne Cor Groeneveld and based at Lelystad. In 1983, the PH-KLU was acting as Fokker D-XXI '234' in a documantery. On 29 August 1985, the PH-KLU flew the first World Trade Centers Air Race between Biggin Hill en Rotterdam painted in NMB Bank / 124 colors. In 1988, at the 75th anniversary of the KLu, the aircraft appeared as 'PH-KLU75'. On 7 December 1993, the PH-KLU was registered with N.P. Flick; C.H. de Blij and H. Martens; at that time the aircraft was part of the Pionier Hangar Collection at Lelystad. In 1995, the aircraft was repainted in yellow 'RCAF Station Moose Jaw' colors and marked XS249. On 23 April 1996, the PH-KLU was registered with C.H. de Blij; A.C.M. Pals and T.K. van der Meulen, as before the PH-KLU was operated out of Lelystad Airport. On 8 March 2001, the PH-KLU was registered with a Belgian owner, J.W. van der Flier and in 2008, the Harvard moved to Antwerp. In November 2014 the PH-KLU returned to the Netherlands with Vliegbedrijf Tom van der Meulen at Oostwold airfield (EHOW). At Oostwold, the Harvard is part of a growing fleet of vintage aircraft.
On 13 May 2015, the North American AT-16 Harvard IIB PH-KLU was seen in its ''RCAF Station Moose Jaw' 'XS249' colors at Lelystad Airport.

page last updated: 04-01-2021
Copyright © Jack Wolbrink, Emmen, the Netherlands

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