I flew my first SNJ in 1945 during my Naval Cadet days during an orientation flight just after Japan surrendered. From the first instant I placed my right hand on the control stick and my left hand on the throttle/prop/mixture quadrant I knew that this airplane, an SNJ-6, had been built just for me. What an airplane! I was spoiled for the rest of my long life. Over the years I owned and rebuilt and sold a number of Texans. While I owned many airplanes over the years, the North American AT-6 and its close relatives remain my favorites.
The creation of the AT-6 resulted from, as so often happens in times of war, a combination of luck and necessity. North American had been building the BT-9, which sort of looked like the Texan but had a lower powered engine and fixed landing gear. The engineers knew that the design of the BT (basic trainer) had a lot more potential then as a basic trainer and redesigned it as what is now known as the AT-6 Texan.
To get there, they installed a powerful 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 cubic-inch nine-cylinder radial engine, a Hamilton Standard constant-speed propeller; they switched to a narrow inward retracting landing gear and covered the rear of the fuselage with sheet metal. And the Texan was born.
I always told folks that the Texan was great because it had three of the best families of components ever designed: airframe by North American, round engine by Pratt & Whitney and propeller by Hamilton Standard. The combo spelled reliability and ruggedness.
The Texan control system followed typical military thinking of the era. The controls consisted of a combination of push rod and cables along with bell cranks to change directions. All pivot points were ball-bearing smooth and there was zero slop in the control system. The ailerons had anti-servo tabs to remove the load under certain maneuvers. Before the Texan could be transferred to civilian ownership the servo tab had to be disabled. The first thing the new owner did was to hook it up again. The velvet smooth ailerons were one of the high points of flying a Texan. The anti-servo tab acted as an aileron assist, which greatly reduced the force needed to move the aileron. The FAA figured that civilian pilots might get into trouble with almost zero resistance ailerons.