Slingsby T67M Mk.II Firefly

The RF-6 was designed by RenÚ Fournier and first flew on 12 March 1974. An all-wooden construction, it featured a high aspect-ratio wing echoing his earlier motorglider designs. Fournier set up his own factory at Nitray to manufacture the design, but after only around 40 had been built, the exercise proved financially unviable, and he was forced to close down production. A four-seat version was under development by Sportavia as the RF-6C, but this demonstrated serious stability problems that eventually led to an almost complete redesign as the Sportavia RS-180.

In 1981, Fournier sold the development rights of the RF-6B to Slingsby who renamed it the T67. The earliest examples, the T67A, were virtually identical to the Fournier-built aircraft, but the design was soon revised to replace the wooden structure with one of composite material. Slingsby produced several versions developing the airframe and adding progressively larger engines. The Slingsby T67M, aimed at the military (hence "M") training market, was the first to include a constant speed propellor and inverted fuel and oil systems. Over 250 aircraft have been built, mainly the T67M260 and closely related T3A variants. Although operated successfully in the United Kingdom and Canada, the program would end in disaster in the United States because of fatal crashes following engine failures. The type was meant to not only replace the Cessna T-41 introductory trainer, but meet the Enhanced Flight Screening Program (EFSP) requirements. The US Air Force has no replacement for this type as it no longer provides training to non-fliers. The aircraft were eventually declared in excess of need in the early 2000s.

The largest Firefly operator was the USAF, where it was given the designation T-3A Firefly. The Firefly was selected in 1992 to replace the T-41 aircraft for the command's Enhanced Flight Screening Program, which would include aerobatic maneuvers. From 1993 to 1995, 113 aircraft were purchased and delivered to Hondo Municipal Airport, Texas, and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

The Commander of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) stood down the entire T-3A fleet in July 1997 as a result of uncommanded engine stoppages during flight and ground operations. A major factor driving the decision were the three T-3A Class A mishaps in 1995, 1996 and 1997. Three Air Force Academy cadets and three instructors were killed in T-3A crashes attributed to spin recovery procedures and engine malfunctions. The British-built planes had been purchased for $32 million, and $10 million was spent on fixes to make them airworthy after grounding. "The Air Force found the cost of getting the aircraft or any of the aircraft's components in airworthy condition for resale was prohibitive" and "In September 1999, the chief of staff of the Air Force approved termination of the T-3A EFSP, and AETC declared all T-3A aircraft excess to the command's needs. In 2000, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force requested a new mission be found for the T-3A; however, a study completed in 2002 did not recommend a follow-on mission." [2] "The remaining T-3A aircraft were then stored without maintenance at the Air Force Academy and the Hondo Airport. In the 2002 to 2003 timeframe, the 53 aircraft at the Air Force Academy were disassembled, crated and trucked to Hondo."[3] On September 9, 2006, it was announced the remaining 53 (114 were originally purchased) disassembled T-3 aircraft, which had been declared in excess need for over 6 years, would be scrapped.





Specifications


Power Plant 180 HP Lycoming O-360-A1A
Width 30' 7"
Length 24' 7"
Wing Surface 131.5 sq ft
Gross Weight 2470 lbs
Empty Weight 1345 lbs
Seats 4 seats
Maximum Speed 196 mph
Cruising Speed 184 mph
Service Ceiling 18.200 ft
Range 1090 SM