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Of all the aircraft in Planes of Fame Air Museum’s collection at Chino Airport in Southern California, the Museum’s North American SNJ-5 Texan has turned out to be one of the most reliable and hardest-working over the years. After its initial service with the US Navy, the Texan is now used by the museum as an advanced trainer for most of its pilots as they work their way up to the "heavy metal", as a stable platform for air-to-air photography, as a reliable general-purpose "hack" and even to star in Hollywood film and television productions from time to time.

Carrying the Bureau Number 90790, this Texan was first accepted by the Navy on October 12, 1944 at Dallas, Texas and immediately flown to San Diego, California. By October 26, 1944, it had been moved to Seattle, Washington and, until November 1956, served with a variety of units including CASU-7, VS-50, USS Yorktown, CASU-7A and FASRON 9. Between December 1946 and February 1947 the aircraft was reconditioned at NAS Pensacola, Florida, and then placed in storage at Glynco, Georgia, until the summer of 1948.

Returned to service in July 1948, the Texan then operated from a number of installations, including: NARTU Anacostia, Washington DC; NAS Pensacola, Florida; Suntley, Florida; Monterey, California; San Diego, California; NAS Miramar, California; and NAS Alameda, California. From January to October 1954, it was at Kwajalein for the atomic bomb tests, and from then until April 1956 it served at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii.

Struck off charge on January 26, 1956 with a total of 3,311hr on the airframe, the aircraft was placed in custody of FASRON-117 at Barbers Point before eventually winding up at NAS North Island, California in August 1961.

Acquired by Planes of Fame Air Museum in 1961, the Texan was restored to flying condition by Bob Nightingale and Bob Oltersdorf and registered as N3375G. For the next eight or nine years, it averaged only about 10hr flying per year. However, as the pace of the Museum’s flying activities increased and it became necessary to train young pilots to fly the warbirds, the Texan was put to greater use. Furthermore, as the museum became involved in movie productions, the aircraft also became a film star — although it seldom portrayed an SNJ or an AT-6 on the screen.

In 1977, the Texan was modified with a singleseat cockpit and pointed tailcone fairing to resemble a Japanese Zero (the cockpit canopy actually came from the museum’s Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero which was not flyable at that time), for use in the Blacksheep Squadron television series. After use in that series, and in spite of having been returned to its standard two-seat configuration, the aircraft still portrayed Japanese Zero fighters in the 1979 television mini-series Pearl and in one of the episodes of the television mini-series War and remembrance which was filmed in Hawaii in June 1987. Interestingly enough, the same aircraft also played the part of a USN Douglas SBD Dauntless in another episode of War and remembrance which was filmed at Pensacola in August 1987. Apparently, the only time that the Texan played the part of the trainer that it actually is, was in the film Space, made in 1985.


SPECIFICATIONS


Status: Flyable Length: 29 ft. 6 in.
Manufacturer: North American Height: 11 ft. 9 in.
Year: 1939 Maximum Speed: 205 mph
Model: SNJ-5 Texan Cruise Speed: 170 mph
Serial Number: 90790 Power Plant: 1-550hp Pratt & Whitney R1430-AN-1 Wasp
air-cooled engine
Crew: 1 or 2 Range: 750 miles
Max T/O Weight: 5,300 lb. Service Ceiling: 21,500 ft.
Span: 42 ft. 0 in. Armament: None


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