The grandfather of
all these aircraft was designed to specs the United States government issued for
a new trainer in 1934. Lee Atwood at GENERAL AVIATION in Dundalk, Maryland rose
to the challenge with an aircraft known as the NA-16. (The Company's named
changed from General Aviation to NORTH AMERICAN at this time, so it was "NA
rather than "GA") First flown in 1935, it was a cantilever, low-wing
monoplane, with an all-metal structure. The fuselage was fabric covered, the
dual cockpits were still open to the elements and the landing gear were fixed,
but the design did have an all metal, stressed-skin wing with flush riveting.
The powerplant was a Wright R-975 WHIRLWIND RADIAL with 400 horsepower.
The USAAF liked it, but
requested a few changes. The cockpits were to be enclosed, the landing gear was
to be faired and the engine became a PRATT & WHITNEY R-1340 WASP with 600
horsepower. This became the NA-18. The prototype was eventually sold to
In late 1935, the design
was officially adopted by the USAAF as the BT-9. They placed an order for 42
units. Most of these aircraft were delivered with the Wright Whirlwind engine,
and were fitted with flaps - a first on a trainer.
The company then moved
to Inglewood, California, to a site now covered by Los Angeles International
The real lineage
of the Harvard began in 1937 with a USAAF competition to develop a basic
trainer. The requirements were for a type capable of basic instruction as well
as simulating the controls and feel of an actual combat aircraft. It also had to
be able to carry guns and bombs as necessary.
North American's new design was based on
their NA-16, but was vastly improved. It incorporated the Wasp engine, A
Hamilton Standard variable pitch prop, a hydraulic system to power the flaps and
the new inward-folding retractable landing gear. Later a stressed skin fuselage,
a new rudder and angular wingtips were added. This prototype (called the NA-26)
won the competition. It went into production as the BC-1. (BC for "basic
The Royal Air Force initially ordered several
hundred of this variant, with British instruments and radios, in 1938. The Brits
coined the name "HARVARD" for it. (by which name it would become known
in all the commonwealth countries....except for Australia, where it was called
the "WIRRAWAY") This version retroactively became known as the MK I.
In 1940, the USAAF changed the designation to
AT or advanced trainer, so the American machine became the AT-6. The U.S. Navy
version was called the SNJ.
Even with their huge new 2,000,000 square
foot plant, North American couldn't keep up with the wartime demand so a
new factory was built in Dallas, leading, after 1942 to the AT-6 being called
Beginning in January, 1940 The HARVARD MkIIB
version was built under license by NOORDYN of Montreal, Canada for the Royal
Canadian Air Force, the RAF and the USAAF. Ultimately 2,557 Harvards were
After the war the MK IV version was built by
CANADIAN CAR AND FOUNDRY.
All in all, some 21,342 aircraft of the NA-16
series were built.
SPECIFICATIONS (HARVARD MK II)
POWERPLANT: Supercharged PRATT & WHITNEY
R-1340-S3H1 radial piston engine, developing 600 hp @ 2250 rpm
PERFORMANCE: MAXIMUM SPEED: 156 knots; INITIAL CLIMB
RATE: 1,359 ft/minute; RANGE: 740 miles; ENDURANCE: 8 hours; SERVICE CEILING:
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 30 gallons/ hr @ 10,000 ft.
WEIGHT: 3,995 lbs empty, maximum take-off: 5,750 lbs.
LENGTH: 28' 11" SPAN: 42' HEIGHT:9'
HARVARD AIRCRAFT ASSOCIATION
CANADIAN HARVARD AIRCRAFT ASSOCIATION website