The North American Harvard was designed as an advanced trainer and first flew in 1935. It was designed with advanced features such as variable pitch propeller and retractable undercarriage to prepare the pilots of the US Navy and USAF for advanced fighters such as the P40 Kittyhawk and P51 Mustang. Known as the “pilot maker”, many thousands of trainee pilots learnt to treat the Harvard with respect given its ability to “bite” the unwary. Over 15,000 AT6 Harvards (or Texan as it was known in the US) were built. They continued to serve as frontline aircraft with many small air forces well after the war. The South African Air Force operated large numbers of Harvards right up to 1984.
The RNZAF operated Harvards from 1941 through to 1977. In WW2 they were used as an advanced trainer for pilots who had completed initial training on the Tiger Moth. This Harvard was built in 1942 and shipped directly to New Zealand for the RNZAF, NZ1037 was one of 212 Harvards used for pilot training throughout the war and right through to 1977. After WW2 Harvards were used for both ab initio and advanced pilot training as well as communications and other duties. The retirement of the RNZAF Harvards in 1977 provided surplus aircraft which became the basis of the Warbirds community in New Zealand and today around 14 Harvards remain airworthy in NZ.
This Harvard served at a number of RNZAF Bases and finished its days at Ohakea with 14 Squadron used as a FAC (Forward Air Control) aircraft for cooperation with the Army. It has maintained a continuous flying history since 1942.
NZ 1037/ZK-ENA -construction number 41-33565 – US serial 88-12036 – between 1941 and 1944 the RNZAF took delivery of 202 Harvards and in service the aircraft accumulated approximately 1.5 million hours flying time. Of the 202 RNZAF Harvards, 69 were lost in accidents, 70 sold for scrap, 17 converted to instructional airframes and 19 reduced to spares. When the aircraft was retired from the RNZAF in June 1977, 18 had remained in operational use, 2 had passed to the RNZAF Museum and a further 7 had remained in storage. NZ 1037, was originally allocated to the RAF as serial EX592 from RAF/FAA lend-lease allocations. It was redirected to the RNZAF and shipped to New Zealand on “Vessel 27” in April 1943 and assembled at Hobsonville then being bought on charge RNZAF 20 April 1943.
Allocated to the Central Flying School, Tauranga early 1944. With No.2 (Territorial Air Force) Squadron 19 December 1950 -16 September 1955. Allocated then to station strength at Ohakea. Used in June 1952 for an Air Weapons Course held at Ohakea. Thirty seventh and final Mk IIA to be converted to Mk 2A* between August 1954 and May 1957. In use with New Zealand Army as FAC aircraft during 1970’s and then put into storage at Wigram in 1973. Reactivated with 14 Squadron, Ohakea January 1974.
During its 34 year career with the RNZAF, NZ1037 was involved in three ground accidents. On the 19th June 1945 it collided with NZ1024 whilst taxying. On the 29th March 1952, its wing tip connected with a hangar at Ohakea. Finally on the 10th March 1956 it managed to collide with a marker light at Whenuapai. Declared surplus to requirements and sold by Government Stores Board tender number 022108 to J. Mathewson, Ranfurly, Otago on 05 July 1978. Registered as ZK-ENA on 20 June 1978 and then to W. Mathewson, Ranfurly on 17 April 1997. Purchased by Ray Hanna, John Lamont and Brendan Throw in July 2005. Purchased by ITL Aviation in November 2006