Look up this weekend to see the Double Vee

Courtesy
The Double Vee is the only authentic, fully restored aircraft in existence once utilized by the now-famous Tuskegee Airmen. This North American AT-6, purchased by Steve Cowell of Denver in August of 1997, is currently based at Front Range Airport.

Courtesy The Double Vee is the only authentic, fully restored aircraft in existence once utilized by the now-famous Tuskegee Airmen. This North American AT-6, purchased by Steve Cowell of Denver in August of 1997, is currently based at Front Range Airport.

While planes with names like Mustang, Corsair, Thunderbolt and Lightning won acclaim for their air victories during World War II, the pilots who became aces in them first had to learn to fly training aircraft.

One of the best trainers was the AT-6, a.k.a. "Double Vee."

It's the sole authentic, fully-restored plane in existence now.

It was utilized by the famous Tuskegee Airmen to hone skills in maneuvering and gunnery.

Double Vee was named to honor the campaign waged on two fronts by African-Americans.

It stood for double victory, one against the Axis powers and the other in battling prejudice at home.

An AT-6 will participate this weekend in the Kingman Air & Auto Show at Kingman Airport.

Show hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with gates opening to the public both days at 9 a.m.

Double Vee was fitted with a 600-horsepower Pratt & Whitney engine capable of operating at 24,000 feet and with a top speed of 240 mph. The AT-6 had a gross weight of 5,300 pounds.

Its height of 12 feet, 9-1/4 inches and length of 28 feet, 11-7/8 inches made for a wingspan of 42 feet, 1/4-inch.

North American Aircraft's manufacturing plant in Dallas, Texas, produced most of the roughly 15,000 AT-6/SNJ planes built.

It was the Tuskegee airmen with whom the plane became most closely affiliated.

In July 1941, the Army Air Force began a program in Alabama to train African-Americans as military pilots. Cadets completing primary training at Moton Field went to nearby Tuskegee Army Air Field to complete their flight training and transition to combat aircraft.

Early graduating classes trained as fighter pilots for the 99th Fighter Squadron and combat duty in North Africa.

Pilots that followed were assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, which flew missions with the 99th Squadron from bases in Italy.

The first AT-6, given a letter C designation, was received by the Army Air Force on March 27, 1943, and arrived three days later at Tuskegee.

In September 1943, a twin-engine training program for bomber pilots commenced at Tuskegee. However, the war ended before any of them got into combat.

By war's end, 992 men graduated from pilot training at Tuskegee, with 450 sent overseas for combat assignments. About 150 pilots died in training or combat.

The durable AT-6 remained part of the Air Force inventory until January 1956.

Kingman resident Ricky Johnson bought tickets in an online contest for a chance to fly on the AT-6 coming to Kingman Airport. He won the drawing and was notified last week.

He said he has long wanted to fly in a World-War-II-era plane, although he does not know how long the flight will last when he takes off at 7:30 a.m. today.

Johnson, who is retired, said he graduated from John Swett High School in Crockett, Calif., in 1966.

Several flyovers are scheduled today in Mohave County as vintage aircraft arrive for the weekend show.

A B-17 "Flying Fortress" and British Spitfire are expected to fly in formation around noon. Several other craft will arrive about 1 p.m.

The final flyover will be between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. when two B-25s and a Japanese Zero piloted by Jason Somes are in the Colorado River area.

NOTE: Internet information was used in compiling this report.