North American (Noorduyn) Harvard Mk IIB
Derived from the 1935 NA-16 prototype, the North American NA-26 design was first flown in 1938. This aircraft was designated the Basic Combat Trainer, BC-1. The aircraft was known as the T-6 in the USA and as the Harvard in service with the British Commonwealth air forces. In all, more than 20,000 airframes were built in California, Texas, Montreal (by Noorduyn), Fort Frances, Ontario (by Canadian Car and Foundry), and in Australia as the Wirraway.
The first Harvard Mk II used by the RCAF was delivered to Camp Borden in the summer of 1940. It was an anglicized version of the AT-6A, the differences being a lengthened exhaust stack, a fixed rear canopy section, an altered instrument panel and a British style control column. The Mk II was also fitted with the capability to hold a .303 calibre air operated machine gun on the starboard wing and a cine-camera in the port wing, with a gun-sight for the front cockpit. The plane was equipped with hardpoints under the wings in order to carry 8 practice bombs. The N.A. Harvard Mk.II was one of the most important single engine training aircraft of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. It was known as "the pilot maker" because of its important role in preparing pilots for combat.
After World War 2 the Mk.II Harvard was relegated to armament training and reserve squadron use, as the more modern Mk.IV came along. At the end of WW2, Harvard Mk.II's were used for Naval training in Nova Scotia. The approval for a Canadian Fleet Air Arm was not given by the government of the day until 1946. In January of 1947 Harvard Mk.II's began arriving in Dartmouth Nova Scotia for their stint as training aircraft for the newly formed Canadian Naval Air Arm. Much of the training was on gunnery exercises to prepare pilots for the deflection shots necessary with the gyro gun-sight of the Supermarine Seafire. Harvard Mk.II's were the planes chosen again for the training task. The course was similar to the one used to train RCAF pilots, with the exception of gunnery and formation training which was done on Seafires. The Museum’s Harvard served with 400 Squadron, RCN at Dartmouth, NS.
One of the museum's most impressive artifacts is the Harvard. It is one of the Canadian-built Mk IIB models, built by Noorduyn Aviation in Montreal. Dr. Potter purchased the Harvard from previous owner Brian Beard and donated it to the Museum. In the mid-1980's the Harvard had belonged to Dr. Rolf Yri who used the call letters YRI. It went to the U.S. for a short time before being brought back to Canada. The letters YRI are still incorporated as squadron markings on the side of the aircraft. This aircraft is flown on a regular basis.
(Photo credits: C. Hutchins)