No air-show is complete without the unmistakable sound of round engines and the nostalgia created by vintage T-6′s soldiering proudly in formation above the crowd. Flight of the Phoenix Escadrille operates out of Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum at Fox Stephens Field in Gilmer, Texas.
Fly Over North American Trainer Assn. (NATA) is the governing body for operations, safety and training for the WW II North American Aircraft Co. types, including the T-6 Texan, the T-28 Trojan, the B-25 Mitchell, and the P-51 Mustang.
Leader of the Escadrille is Steve Dean of Gilmer, a former Air Force T-38 instructor pilot and A-37 fighter pilot. He is president of a family lumber business in Gilmer and founder of Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum at Fox Stephens Field.
Fly Over T-6G 7725 came to the States directly from active duty in the South African Air Force in 1994 where it flew the Number Three position in South Africa’s version of the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels.
The T-6 Harvard aircraft has been designated as a National Treasure by the government of South Africa.
Fly Over Fly Over Escadrille Wingman is Carl Best, a commercial insurance executive from Plano. Carl is Element Leader and Deputy Team Leader. This pristine 1943 AT-6C was remanufactured as an AT-6G in 1951. It served the USAF at Georgia training fields until 1951,when it was declared surplus. Flying for owners in Alaska, California, and Michigan, she found a home in the Best family when Carl’s Dad Henry and his mother Dorothy bought her in 1966.
At the outset of WW II, all of Europe and the British Commonwealth, including Canada and South Africa called the T-6 the “Harvard”. Official nickname was “Texan”, derived from the fact that most of planes were built at North American Aviation in Dallas during the war.
The South African Air Force was the last Air Force in the world to operate the Harvard. In November1995, SAAF replaced the Harvard with the Swiss Pilatus PC-7.
Escadrille pilots meet the stringent performance standards of FAST, the official international safety and training Fly Over organization for warbird formation operations. In addition to holding appropriate FAA pilot ratings and medical certificates, each pilot must pass proficiency testing and re-certification annually. The T-6′s, which Fly Over were the mainstay of pilot training for the Allied Forces in WW II, must also adhere to strict FAA maintenance and safety criteria each year. . .silent testimony to the engineering, materials, and craftsmanship that went into the construction of these marvelous examples of 1937 aviation technology.