North American T-6 Weta

Gallery Article by Dave 'The Rat' Bailey on Jan 1 2018

Silly Week 2018



When the German Kriegsmarine surface raider Orion appeared in the waters near New Zealand in the winter of 1940, it was realised that increased anti-shipping capability was needed, and imports of such aircraft as the Douglas Dauntless had yet to arrive. A single Harvard was dispatched to the maintenance and overhaul depot at Woodbourne, near Blenheim, to investigate the practicality of conversion to a dive bombing role. 

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The conversion was not graceful, with expediency requiring a simple shortening of the canopy to allow for a single machine gun firing to the rear, two bombs attached to underwing mounts, and perforated dive brakes on the underside of the trailing edge. Test flights showed no undesirable tendencies, and the power of the P&W Wasp engine was more than sufficient to handle the encumbrances. 

A further three aircraft were converted, but despite a few 'scrambles' there was no actual combat, as the raiders chose to stay well offshore, and with the arrival of the Dauntless all airframes were converted back to trainer standard.

This model represents the first article, before the rearrangement of the radio aerial from the normal dorsal mounting to an underside configuration. While given no formal name, crews were known to refer to it as a Weta, which is a group of large, fierce-looking, native insects, often with numerous spiky protuberances.

Dave 'The Rat' Bailey

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Photos and text by Dave 'The Rat' Bailey