The Royal New Zealand Air Force has formally accepted its first Beechcraft T-6C Texan II trainers in a ceremony held at RNAZAF Ohakea on Friday afternoon.
So far four of the 11 T-6Cs on order for the RNZAF have been delivered, with the remaining seven aircraft due to be delivered in batches through until mid-2015. The formal handover of the first aircraft marks the completion of initial maintenance training in New Zealand and pilot training in the US, the RNZAF says.
“The T-6C Texans are specialist military aircraft built for the purpose of training military pilots how to fly. The T-6C will allow us to train our pilots more efficiently as they’ll use the same aircraft for their Wings course, compared to the two types of aircraft currently used,” Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley said in a statement.
“We’ll begin the first trainee pilot Wings course on the T-6C at the start of 2016 and these trainees will graduate at the end of that year.”
The handover ceremony included a T-6C handling display, a fire service water canon salute, and the handover of a ceremonial key to the aircraft.
The RNZAF also used the handover ceremony to launch a competition to rename the service’s aerobatic display team, which will re-equip with the T-6C. The current team, the Red Checkers, flies the CT-4E Airtrainer, which is being replaced by the T-6C.
“Our aerobatic team is one of the main ways the public see the Air Force flying. I’m encouraging people to put their name suggestions forward on our Air Force Facebook page,” said Air Vice-Marshal Yardley.
Some of the early names posted on the RNZAF’s Facebook page include “Kiwi Black”, “Black Arrows”, and “Skyblacks”.