AT-6 Triple Nickel

By Grant Lannon

The T-6 in the flyby has the buzz numbers LTA-555 is known as “Triple Nickel” and is an AT-6C. This T-6 was delivered new from the North American factory in Dallas to the South African Air Force in 1943 through the Lend Lease program. It remained in South Africa until 1995. While there it was used as an advanced trainer, gunnery/bombing and air combat trainer, photo ship, weather scout and target towing aircraft. It originally had two 30 caliber machine guns on it and racks for 20# bombs and 5 inch Matra rockets. It was shipped to this country in a crate after being sold to its first private American owner in 1995. It was reassembled in McKinney, Texas and went through two other owners before being sold to the present owners three years ago.

Triple Nickel is in the colors of the airborne Forward Air Controllers of the Korean War who were known as Mosquitos. The Mosquitos directed air strikes by marking targets on the ground with white phosphorous rockets mounted under the wings of their T-6s and then directing the high speed fighter/bombers onto the enemy positions. They also carried an observer in the back seat and had radios which they used to communicate with the troops on the ground and the Tactical Air Control Center to obtain aircraft for the strikes. Fifty Mosquito pilots were killed during the war, 31 became prisoners of war, and 12 were declared missing and presumed dead. The actual LTA-555 was shot down in May of 1953 and destroyed. The two crewmembers were taken prisoner by the Chinese and spent three months in captivity before the armistice was signed and they were freed.