Prototype Yale emerges at Oshkosh

The prototype NA-64 Yale on the trainer line at Oshkosh. NIGEL HITCHMAN

One of the highlights of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture show at Oshkosh, Wisconsin on 22-28 July was the irst appearance of the prototype North American NA-64 Yale since it lew in June 2017 following restoration by owner Mark Cyrier and his team in Fort Worth, Texas. The historic machine wears the experimental registration NX13397 on the in, and ‘NAA 64 P2 No 1’ on the rudder, just as it did on 12 February 1940 when it made its maiden test light at Inglewood, California. It went on to serve with No 12 Communications Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force at Rockcliffe, Ontario during the war, before being sold off as surplus in September 1946.

The NA-64 was a development of the NA-57 trainer, a Wright R-975- powered machine with fabric-covered fuselage, 230 of which were ordered for the French Armée de l’Air in February 1939. Eight months later, as part of a hurried re-equipment programme, France ordered 200 examples of the NA-64, a type whose improvements over the NA-57 included an all-metal fuselage, and redesigned wings and empennage; the R-975 engine was retained. In March 1940 — a month after the maiden light of NX13397 — a further order for 30 aircraft was received from the French naval air arm, the Aéronautique Navale, but only 111 of the 230 examples destined for France actually arrived there, about 100 of these subsequently being pressed into service by the Luftwaffe as trainers.

A total of 119 aircraft out of the French order were diverted to the RCAF, being delivered during August-September 1940 as Yale MkIs. The majority of the Yales went to No 1 Service Flying Training School stationed at Camp Borden, serving as advanced trainers until the North American Harvard became available in greater numbers. After that the Yales were converted into wireless trainers, the rear cockpit being stripped out for the installation of radio equipment. It is said that, due to the extra weight in the back, these aircraft lew in a nosehigh attitude, which could lead to engine overheating.

In September 1946 RCAF 3464/NX13397 was struck off charge with 1,570 hours in the logbook, and became one of 36 Yales acquired by eccentric collector Ernie Simmonds, who trucked it to his farm at Tillsonburg, Ontario. It remained there, in external storage along with seven Fairey Swordish and many antique cars, trucks and farm equipment, until the collection was auctioned off in September 1970. Acquired by well-known B-25/B-17 restorer Tom Reilly in 1975, RCAF 3464 passed through the hands of several more owners before being purchased by Mark Cyrier in June 2015 from an owner in Del Rio, Texas.

Following a 380-mile road trip to Fort Worth, a restoration effort soon began, the Yale lying again two years later.

Among the prizewinners at Oshkosh was Bruce Eames of Houston, Texas, who picked up the World War II Grand Champion Trophy for P-51C Mustang N6555B, which irst lew on 17 October 2017 and is painted as 42-103585 Lope’s Hope (see News, Aeroplane December 2017). World War II Reserve Grand Champion went to Michael Potter for his Gatineau, Québec-based Spitire IX, TE294/C-GYQQ, with another British aeroplane, the ex-Air Atlantique Classic Flight Meteor T7 WA591/ NX313Q — now operated by the Detroit-based World Heritage Air Museum — taking the Judges’ Choice, Classic Jet award. The Best Bomber Trophy went to the Greatest Generation Air Museum’s Douglas B-26K Counter Invader 64-17679/N4988N Special Kay, making its irst Oshkosh appearance after lying up from Meacham Field, Fort Worth.

A low-slung countenance from the Best Bomber award-winner, B-26K Counter Invader 64-17679/ N4988N Special Kay. NIGEL HITCHMAN