This is a no-nonsense military aircraft. The cockpit is a cavernous pit. It is wide open. The metal parachute seat and controls are mounted on two metal rails with the naked belly way below. There is no upholstery, period, just green protective paint on everything.
Flying the Texan
The AT-6 is anything but a pussycat. Under certain circumstances, usually when flown by ham handed pilots, the SNJ would revolt and take over the flight controls, sending the airplane into unexpected wild gyrations that instantly taught the embarrassed and terrified pilot, “Hey dummy, that’s not the way I want to be flown.” Yes, it happened to me on more than one occasion.
My first Navy instructor told me that the SNJ flew like a big Cub and he was right. If you have flown a Cub, then you know what the rudder is for: it keeps the airplane from skidding around the sky. When tackling a Texan, modern pilots trained in Pipers or Cessnas are in for a rude awakening. After takeoff you can’t put your feet on the floor. You have to fly a Texan, not fly in a Texan. It demands smooth delicate inputs and will reward you with an immediate reaction to them.
Not that all Texan pilots are created equal. Go to any airshow and Texans of all ancestry land on their wheels. At this point I am going to get the airplane drivers upset and just say it: Pilots who learned the proper way to land an SNJ do not make wheel landings. That is just asking for it. The only time I would resort to a wheel landing was when the wind was gusting hard down the runway. Crosswinds were better handled by making a full stall landing. The trick of landing an SNJ was to stall the airplane about a foot above the runway and let it fall tail first for a perfect three-point low-speed contact with the runway. Then you better keep full control of your fire-breathing monster until the tie-down chains are securely attached. Asking this simple question can stop any arguments: “How do you do a wheel landing on a carrier?” End of discussion.
The first time I flew an SNJ I didn’t lock the tailwheel and when I opened the throttle the plane made two complete circles on the runway. My instructor responded with. “ Now, that was fun, suppose you lock the tailwheel first.” The visibility forward is very restricted due to the huge cowled radial engine and the tail-low stance while taxiing. This is biggest difference between modern aircraft and the Texan. Once in the air you will find that the Texan is one of the smoothest airplanes you will ever fly. Just think about turning or climbing and the plane seems to read your mind.