THE TEXAN PEOPLE
Sharing a ramp with Stallion 51 in Kissimmee, Warbird Adventures offers its clientele a first-class flight training/warbird experience and from the get-go clients are in the driver’s seat. Pilot or not, the adventurer will be in front of one of its T-6/SNJ Texans with a highly experienced instructor in the back.
The owner of the operation, Thom Richard, well-known Reno racer, says, “I started the company, January 7, 1998 with one SNJ-6, which we still have. That grew to three, and we keep them busy. We’ve flown over 40,000 customers—about half of which were pilots but all received flight instruction. The rest are buffs and are flying with us for a variety of reasons. Some want to recapture something from their youth. Others want to see what it is like to fly a warbird, and make no mistake, the Texan may be a trainer, but it’s just as much of a warbird as most of the others. Everything about the experience is exactly the same as in a fighter except the airspeed numbers aren’t as high. We can do some aerobatics, if wanted, or make the flight as smooth as glass. That’s all up to the customer.
“Those customers who are pilots also come for a variety of reasons. Some just want the proficiency. Others have never flown a tailwheel and want to learn. Others are preparing to fly a fighter of some kind. During WW II, the Texan was the last airplane a student flew before they climbed into a fighter, and almost all current warbird pilots go the same route.
“We are an FAR [Federal Aviation Regulation] Part 61 flight school, so we’re the same as the local Cessna flying school and do all of our training the same way. It’s just that our aircraft are a little different.”
An advantage to the Texan is that the cost is much lower to both buy and operate than any single-seat fighter, which makes its warbird experience within reach of more people.
“SOME WANT TO RECAPTURE SOMETHING FROM THEIR YOUTH. OTHERS WANT TO SEE WHAT IT IS LIKE TO FLY A WARBIRD, AND MAKE NO MISTAKE, THE TEXAN MAY BE A TRAINER, BUT IT’S JUST AS MUCH OF A WARBIRD AS MOST OF THE OTHERS.” —THOM RICHARD, WARBIRD ADVENTURES
Warbird Adventures keeps its three T-6 Texans in the air almost constantly, and pilot or nonpilot, all who fly with the company occupy the front seat on every flight. (Photos by Mike Killian)