The Harvard G-NWHF is the latest aircraft to join the Navy Wings team. Primarily used to train our pilots she is the US version of the very successful Harvard family, dating back to the late 1930’s. There were over 17,000 of the generic type built, either as Harvards (built for British and Commonwealth air forces), SNJ’s with a deck hook for the US Navy or T6 Texans for the US Army.
Harvard G-NWHF was constructed as a Harvard 4 by Canadian Car and Foundry at Fort William (Thunder Bay), Ontario, Canada in 1954. It was ordered by the American Mutual Defence Aid Programme (MDAP) to enable the USAF to train pilots and aid in establishing a new West German Air Force as a part of NATO. It was factory painted in yellow overall training scheme with full USAF national markings and large TA- ‘buzz numbers’ applied as was normal in the period.
In 1966 it was passed on to the Forca Aerea Portuguesa and was flown on counter insurgency flights in Portuguese East Africa, now Mozambique. In 1989, it was one of six derelict Harvards from Mozambique moved to Thruxton, UK for restoration and one of three that made it through restoration to flight in the UK. It remained privately owned in the UK until being acquired by Navy Wings in 2020.
The Harvard is a firm favourite with many pilots and a considerable number of aircraft still fly, racing at Reno in the USA or displaying solo and with formation teams worldwide. It is recognised as the standard ‘stepping stone’ trainer for all larger engine warbirds. Neither Jet nor Helicopter disciplines lend themselves to piston engined tailwheel aircraft such as the Swordfish or Sea Fury.
The Harvard provides the prospective warbird pilot a little heavier piston handling experience and is invaluable as a training and assessment aircraft. It is quite twitchy on the runway with a reputation for ground looping and teaches pilots to notice the slightest movement in heading and correct it immediately before it becomes a problem.
Supercharged, with constant speed prop, retractable undercarriage, swinging under power and reasonable gyroscopic effect all help broaden the pilot’s experience beyond Navy Wings initial trainer, the de Havilland Chipmunk. Taking off and landing the Harvard from the back seat is not easy and the view not dissimilar to that from the bigger piston warbirds.