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CoolPix - Vintage Military: Curtiss-Wright AT-9 (Racy Trainer!)

(click pic for hi-res)

 Nearly 800 of these cute little Curtiss-Wright AT-9's (Advanced Trainer) were built between 1941 and 1943 for the purpose of getting new pilots up to speed with the more demanding larger twin engine aircraft such as the Martin B-26 Marauder and the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. The goal was to produce a small aircraft that could be challenging enough to make sure the pilots were ready. It seems the AT-9 was plenty challenging all right... so much so that some pilots thought they maybe should have learned in the front line airplanes first! Only two examples of the AT-9 remain today, which kinda points to the military's feeling that it wasn't a good airplane to make available to the public like they did with so many other aircraft.

 To me, the AT-9 'Jeep' is an extremely good looking design. The beautifully shaped nose section with the great looking windshield really sets the tone for the airplane. The smoothly integrated doors with streamlined hinges make really cool details. And, with only two seats and two, 295hp Lycoming R-680 radial engines, it just seems like it would have to be fun (challenging) to fly. With the short nose and the engines set well forward, the prop discs aren't very far apart... I always think that looks awesome. And then it sits nice and proud on that main gear and has plenty of other curves in the right places to simply make a great looking flying machine.

 It's interesting that the prototype had a steel tube and fabric fuselage, but the production airplanes had an all metal, stressed skin fuselage like is seen here. The only fully intact example of the airplane is on display at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. I'm looking forward to going over there this winter to get loads of pictures and details on the AT-9, and as many of the other airplanes as I can while I'm there. You can expect a lot of great detailed posts to come out of that trip!

 I'm considering putting together an AirPigz avgeek meetup at the Air Force Museum (Dayton, Ohio) for sometime in late January or February. It's a phenomenal facility, and admission is free - you can't beat that! I'll have more details posted later, but if you're interested in finding out more about the chance to meet up, send me an email at and I'll include you in the discussion that will help us pick a date that works well for as many people as possible.

 I don't know about you, but I can hear that AT-9 calling my name!


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Reader Comments (8)

I was one of the lucky flying cadets to be trained in the AT-9's for advanced training in multi engined aircraft at Blytheville, Arkansas.I graduated in 44D. This little aircraft was a sweetheart! We were told there were only three or four airfields in the counrtry using this aircraft for cadets. To fly this baby you had to be on top of it every second, because it was unforgiviing; but after learning its characteristics and idiosyncrasies it was a delight to fly! Having been trained in the At-9, the transition to B-17's was a "piece of cake" as the Brits used to say; and the B -17, after flying in combat over Germany, although terrifying at times, always brought us home to England....RTS

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Sanborn

See above testimonial....RTS

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Sanborn

Richard Sanborn- Thanx for the input on how the AT-9 flew... and it's great to hear that while it was unforgiving, it was also a delight! There's something about the way it looks that seems to suggest that it would be that way. Thanx again for sharing your personal experience with it : )

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMartt (admin)

I happened to be at Douglas Army Air Base in l943,in fact graduated Class 43G on July 26,1943.A group of us pilots went to Tempe Air Base and picked up about 30 AT9 aircraft and flew them back to Douglas.
At that time Iwas an instrument instructor in UC 78 aircraft. We then proceeded to teach instrument flying in AT 9"s.
If any one reads these comments and was at Douglas at that period of WW2,I would certainly want to hear from you.

November 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTony Bovinich

I was fortunate to have a man who had been sent to the US from England for flight training on the Lend/Lease program. I believe he had advanced flight time in P-38s before being sent to the Yuma Army Air Base to be an instructor, being retained in the US as part of the Lend /Lease program stipulations. He didn't like it but I bene-
fitted. (Flight Officer Roger Hegger, I think)

The Cessna UC-78 (AT-17) was the most used plane at Yuma at the time. It seems that most of the instructors didn't like or were afraid of the AT-9. My instructor loved them. He checked out all five of his students in AT-9s very soon. He frequently booked three of them for a training period, two students in each of two planes, and flew with the fifth student in the third plane. We would all take off and practice formation flying as we climbed to 10,000 above the summer heat of the base. At 10,000 feet he would signal us to follow in train and then he led us on a merry chase throught the gaps between the tall summer cumulus clouds. It was almost like buzzing objects on the ground.

True, you had to keep on your toes - flying the AT-9 was different than flying the AT-17 in which I also spent considerable time. I also checked out in the AT-6 which was used for instrument training and gunnery practice (I succeeded in shooting a hole in both blades on one mission, simplifying the crew chief's duties to drill a hole in the opposite blade and removing the burrs to balance the prop). I remember experiencing the start of a stall when turning to final approach in the AT-9 - part of its higher speed characteristics.

That experience at Yuma was very beneficial to me in later service. I didn't have any trouble understanding the British and Australian flyers I later encountered. Flying so many different planes during training gave me confidence when I started flying B-25s. Buzzing clouds prepared me for minimum altitude bombing and strafing missions in the southwest Pacific. I finished at Yuma in the class of 43-H in August, 1943.

I would love any contact with former AT-9 men and low level bombing and strafing pilots.

July 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Gunn

One plane shown a lot is T-58 of which I built a 60" model of. Does anyone know where that plane was based?

July 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Oldham

Can we post photos on this page?

July 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Oldham

I'm looking at a color photo of an AT-9 with the numbers A-420. Where would that plane have been statiioned?

July 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Oldham

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