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by Randy Presley

The North American Trainer Association (NATA) is an organization that was founded in 1985 by L. P."Stoney" Stonich and his wife, Kathy. It was originally organized for members who owned North American AT-6/SNJ/Harvard aircraft. Later, they were asked to include the North American T-28's and later the TB-25 and TF-51 aircraft.

From the North American (NAA) factories first came the BC-1 that first flew in 1938 which was the forerunner of the AT-6. The AT-6/SNJ/Harvard was the main trainer for fighter pilots in WWII for the Army Air Corps (AT-6), U. S. Navy (SNJ) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (Harvard). The re-manufactured T-6G became the USAF primary trainer in 1951 lasting until 1958. No other trainer in history has been used by so many countries spanning the period from 1938 until 1996 when the Union of South Africa Air Force became the last air force in the world to finally retired their T-6 and Harvards. Of all types there were over 17,000 produced with a large number coming from the large NAA factory in Grand Prairie, TX located between Dallas and Ft. Worth. The many of the Harvards were produced in Canada.

There are over 500 flyable T-6's the United States and a large majority of these owners have joined the North American Trainer Association. The organization publishes a quarterly magazine, NATA Skylines, that contains a wealth of information about the NAA aircraft, related events, and information on formation training program which is conducted by the NATA.

Since 1987 this formation program has expanded to cover virtually all organizations who have members flying warbirds and they have joined together in a group known as FAST (Formation and Safety Training). The FAST program is recognized and accepted by the FAA. The FAA requires a FAST Formation Card in order to fly non-acrobatic formation in the waivered airspace of an air shows.

The present day air forces do not fly as much formation as you would see in the 1940's and 1950's. While most of the present day warbird owners may not have been former military pilots, those who have completed the NATA or other organization formation programs have become very professional. They have trained extensively to be able to present a picture and sound of the past showing the symmetry of a beautiful formation.