The North American Aviation Harvard


Virtual Flight


SIMSA (Simulators South Africa) is a flight simulator club dedicated to fun aspects of civil-aviation flying, with simulation taking place by means of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2004, with additional scenery and aircraft tweaks applicable to South African conditions and history. The majesty of flight is well entrenched in the club’s operation, as is an inherent love of flying in many forms, all the while developing and challenging members’ understanding and abilities regarding airmanship.


Thus the T-6 Harvard lends itself extremely well to the club, allowing many novice pilots to accurately develop their skills with the forgiving aircraft, honing abilities and skills until able to pilot faster and more demanding aircraft. The favourite trainer of many airmen, the Harvard legacy South Africa is remarkable, and SIMSA is proud to have included this aircraft in the standard package of freely available upgrades for MSFS2004. The club requires accurate and highly detailed aircraft and scenery, in order to offer the virtual aviator an immersive and realistic experience, and the available T-6 aircraft are wonderful examples of this aspect of aviation.


The screenshots in this article show some of the examples used by SIMSA, with credits due to the many developers and creators of the programme enhancements, including Vasco Ferreira and Thinus Pretorius, Denis and Daniel da Silva, W Wright, Alphasim, Simviation and Avsim amongst many others.


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Flying the North American T-6 Harvard in Flight Simulator MSFS2004


Harvard Virtual Aviation 1 SIMSA


Screenshot: Mark Boucher: SIMSA


The North American Harvard Simulator Flying by SIMSA (Simulators South Africa)


On a clear crispy morning, the canopy open to the morning chill and the throb of the famous P&W radial, the familiar view from the symmetrical birdcage structure of the windscreen framing what was to be the largest challenge we had yet flown, we radio-confirmed with each other the exercise was not just a futile effort, but that we faced a real challenge in order to emulate the famous “Waterskiing-by-Harvard” event…


Dropping down to follow our formation leader, we  lined up in the 5- and 7-o-clock positions, took a last-moment bearing off the tree line across the glassy dam, with undercarriage dropped and the flap lever down ‘one’, we matched speed and confirmed contingency break-off tactics. Approaching at around 50’AGL, we dropped our charismatic silver and day-glo aircraft down towards the dark but still water surface and gingerly felt for the throbbing of the undercarriage off the water surface, feeling moisture building up between hand and joystick as adrenalin pumped through every vein and artery, anticipation of an event this epic being realised in these few seconds of perceived “absolute mania…”


Wheels skimmed the surface, spray plumed behind the tyres, a little bounce off the water’s surface a touch harder than imagined, but we managed to waterski 3 North American T-6 Harvards in formation, in our own small virtual-aviation way paying a tribute to the epic adventures of 4 brave and truly gifted South African pilots of the Flying Lions Aerobatic Team who actually performed this heroic event west of Johannesburg, which aired on national television (ZA) early in 2006.


Harvard Virtual Aviation 2 SIMSA

Screenshot: Mark Boucher: SIMSA

On another occasion, we chased a Dash 8 across the South African sky, noting that in an age of jet powered aircraft, the elegance of spinning propellers in flight still remains a wonderful experience through an open cockpit, the Harvard sound and feel being unique in many aspects. Like a well-fitting glove and a well-liked hat, the T-6 just seems to fit right, just seems to have that homely feeling, always seems to have a memory in it’s heart of just how you and the machine overcame that “moment” some time back, and lived to tell while no-one around actually noticed. Flying in formation with the Dash, few could imagine the moment of exhilaration when the sun caught the spinning propeller and danced an aviator’s delight across the sky as we experienced a rare moment high in the African sky.


Harvard Virtual Aviation 3 SIMSA


Screenshot: Mauri Mazzanti: SIMSA

The tragic tale of training Harvards crashing, including those who tragically flew into the mountains of the Western Cape in adverse weather many years earlier is a reminder of honoured pilots being compromised in the worst manner possible, and brings to the forefront of a pilot’s mind that these seemingly friendly aircraft can quickly become deadly. The well earned approach of “love-me-I’m-a- Texan/Harvard” fortunately overshadows the sad memories associated with the type, but even in our Simulator Club we remember and honour those that served to raise so many aviation aspects to the attention of authorities and fellow pilots alike, in order to allow us to develop as we have. For that reason, SIMSA continues to include and promote the T-6 Harvard as a trainer in which virtual pilots need to prove skills, navigation and flying ability before moving on to more advanced aircraft, just as so many great pilots have done.


Harvard Virtual Aviation 4 SIMSA


Screenshot: Mauri Mazzanti: SIMSA



Harvard Virtual Aviation 5 SIMSA


Screenshot: Mauri Mazzanti: SIMSA

By no means are these wonderful aircraft to be underestimated in MSFS2004; they are realistically depicted in many guises, including many versions from the SAAF, and after their service life with the SAAF, those in private hands in SA. Gratitude is owed to those many designers who made the aircraft models, liveries and panels which have been made freely available for so very many of us to enjoy the aircraft in fine detail. In addition, some pay-ware aircraft are available which are debatably better than any other, and which include some truly awesome sound-files, which are known to prompt an emotional moment or two from some hard-core pilots…


The accuracy of the MSFS2009 flight models are such that so very many of the real challenges of the aircraft (such as on cross-wind final approach) are replicated in great detail, the sounds in the cockpit almost eerie, and the views which a purpose built, mock-cockpit simulator from the front seat of this aircraft so intensely immersive that it easily elicits a tear from an aviator with a history of training in these magical old birds. While SIMSA is focused upon Civil Aviation Simulation, it is impossible to ignore the role which the T-6 Harvard has played in making South African Pilots so truly capable in the world of aviation.


Long Live the North American Harvard, and long live the Harvard tributes in Flight Simulator!


Harvard Virtual Aviation 6 SIMSA


Screenshot: Mark Boucher: SIMSA


Harvard Virtual Aviation 7 SIMSA


Screenshot: Steve Schwartz: SIMSA


Harvard Virtual Aviation 8 SIMSA


Screenshot: Steve Schwartz: SIMSA


Harvard Virtual Aviation 9 SIMSA


Screenshot: Mark Boucher: SIMSA


Harvard Virtual Aviation 10 SIMSA


Screenshot: Mauri Mazzanti: SIMSA


Harvard Virtual Aviation 11 SIMSA


Screenshot: Mauri Mazzanti: SIMSA