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New training planes bring latest technology to Vance

Updated:
ENID, Okla. (AP) _ The first T-6A Texan IIs arrived at Vance Air Force Base, bringing in the newest technology and beginning the replacement of the primary training aircraft Vance pilots have used for 44 years.

Vance's wing commander, Col. Bryan J. Benson, who learned to fly in the T-37 Tweet in 1983, said though the plane named for its distinctive sound could fly many more years, pilots are ready for the advantages of the T-6.

``I'm sorry to see this day come and go, but it is, in fact, time'' to make the change, he said. ``(The T-6) is the most advanced primary trainer we've ever developed.''

During a ceremony Friday at the Enid base, the T-6 and T-37 flew together and the T-6 overtook the older aircraft, symbolizing the change.

The T-37, which took its first flight in 1955 and first arrived at Vance in 1961, was a dependable trainer, he said. It's unusual for a plane to last that long, but the T-6 will help pilot trainees think faster at an earlier point in their training, then transition more easily into advanced training, Benson said

Friday, Randolph Air Force Base pilots demonstrated the trainer's abilities.

The trainer can perform maneuvers such as barrel rolls smoothly, fly multiple times a day, sustain turn radius at less than 1,000 feet, reach a top speed of 350 mph and land in less than 2,000 feet of runway, providing access to areas where the T-37 couldn't land.

``The ability to repeat maneuvers is crucial in the training arena,'' said the demonstration narrator, Maj. Brian A. May of Lawton.

The T-6 is a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer in which crew members sit in tandem, one in front of the other. In the T-37 they sit side-by-side.

The T-6 has a 1,100-horsepower engine, can perform an initial climb at 3,100 feet per minute and reach 18,000 feet in less than six minutes.

It has a pressurized cockpit and air conditioning that make it more comfortable for pilots who fly sometimes three sorties a day to stay on schedule for graduation, Benson said. It can fly four hours without refueling and handles better in crosswinds, which are part of the Vance daily routine, he said.

It has a glass cockpit, meaning it has digital instruments displays instead of the round analog dials of the T-37 and, of course, the quieter engine. Benson joked that Mayor Ernie Currier may receive fewer noise complaints.

Vance has had up to 97 T-37s and will have 91 T-6s by December 2006, Benson said. There are 11 on base now and six more will arrive monthly until the transition is complete.

In May, the first group of Vance pilots will train in the new aircraft, and many pilots, Benson included, are already looking forward to flying the T-6.

``It's probably the biggest welcome a Texan's ever received in Oklahoma,'' he said.
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