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North American Harvard

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The Harvard was based on a number of North American trainer aircraft. Used to train thousands of pilots during the Second World War it wouldn't be until 1955 that the type was eventually retired by the Royal Air Force. In total just over 6,000 North American Harvard aircraft were produced.

Quick Facts
Sorry, no image available
First flight
28th September 1938
Entered service
3rd December 1938
Total built

Front view
Harvard front view photo
Side view
Harvard side view photo
Rear view
Harvard rear view photo

With the Royal Air Force undergoing rapid expansion in the late 1930s there was a need for more trained pilots and therefore more training aircraft. This lead to the British Purchasing Commission ordering 200, later being increased to 400, North American BC-1 trainers during June 1938. Although these would be fitted with British equipment and known as the Harvard Mk I.

The first flight of the Harvard took place on the 28th September 1938. The Mk I was powered by the 600-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-S3H1 engine giving the aircraft a top speed of 180 mph, range of 850 miles and a service ceiling of 24,000 ft. No armament was installed. It would be No. 3 Flying Training School that received the first examples to enter service on the 3rd December 1938.

Based on the North American AT-6 the Harvard Mk II followed and featured a number of changes including a triangular shaped fin. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine it had a top speed of 205 mph, range of 750 miles and a service ceiling of 23,000 ft. No armament was installed. There were also two sub variants. The Harvard Mk IIA was based on the AT-6C and the AT-16 formed the basis for the Harvard Mk IIB.

The Harvard Mk III was powered by a 550-hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine and this was based on the AT-6D. Its top speed and range was the same as its predecessor, although it had a slightly lower service ceiling of 22,000 ft. It was unarmed.

The final variant was the Harvard Mk IV. This was fitted with a 600-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN-1 engine which gave the aircraft a top speed of 180 mph, range of 800 miles and a service ceiling of 22,400 ft as with other training variants this was unarmed.

The Harvard remained in service training Royal Air Force pilots until the 23rd March 1955. Another major user of the type was the Royal Canadian Air Force who retired theirs in 1966. In total 6,101 Harvards were built.

Technical Details

Click on the aircraft image to view a larger version.

Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Harvard Mk I 180 mph 850 miles 24,000 ft none
Harvard Mk II 205 mph 750 miles 23,000 ft none
Harvard Mk III 205 mph 750 miles 22,000 ft none
Harvard Mk IV 180 mph 800 miles 22,400 ft none


Click on a photo to view a larger version.
Harvard Mk II Harvard Mk IIB
Harvard Mk III
Harvard Mk IV

See This Aircraft

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Harvard Mk IIB Bournemouth Aviation Museum
Harvard Mk III Fleet Air Arm Museum
Harvard Mk IIB Imperial War Museum, Duxford
Harvard Mk IV
Harvard Mk IIB Royal Air Force Museum, London

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