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Inaugural Flight for Production AT-6

Beechcraft Corporation carried out what it called the first flight of the first production AT-6 light attack aircraft on Aug. 20, 2013. The shark-toothed aircraft, which is the third AT-6 airframe built, took to the air for 15 minutes with Dr. Lionel “Alf” Alford, Beechcraft lead test pilot, in the front seat and J. D. O’Malley, chief pilot for Beechcraft Defense, in the back. Introduction of a third AT-6 airframe highlights the planemaker’s strong commitment to supplying its light attack aircraft to the world market.

Russ Bartlett, president of Beechcraft Defense Company, told Defense Media Network in an Aug. 21 telephone interview that the event was the airframe’s “celebratory first flight” – one for which, “we had the whole company shut down for an hour so everyone could watch.” Although a first-flight date is a key component in the history of an aircraft – like horsepower or wingspan – Bartlett wouldn’t say whether this airframe had gotten into the air on an earlier date.

Although a first-flight date is a key component in the history of an aircraft – like horsepower or wingspan – Bartlett wouldn’t say whether this airframe had gotten into the air on an earlier date.

The AT-6 lost to the A-29B Super Tucano in the U.S. Air Force’s Light Air Support (LAS) competition. The LAS program, to provide 20 aircraft to equip the Afghan air force, is currently in legislative limbo after a Senate subcommittee voted to withhold funding. What happens to LAS will depend on what happens with the budget process in Washington. The two aircraft are among light attack planes being considered by numerous air forces around the world.

Bartlett said Beechcraft hopes to be able to announce a launch customer for the AT-6 by the end of the calendar year. He also said that as of now, “We’re not sure who it’s going to be.”

Of the third AT-6 Bartlett said, “It’s a company-owned asset, but it’s a normal production aircraft. We have an actual production aircraft. It will be available to conduct training for our launch customer.”

Beechcraft earlier said it was making a fourth AT-6 airframe as well. Bartlett said, “We are ready to produce the number four aircraft but will wait” for the production order the planemaker anticipates.

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Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...