The Dominican Air Force was created in 1930, and between then and 1943, approximately 15 different aircraft were operated. We can mention the Vought O2U Corsair, the Bellanca Peacemakers, the Fleet, and Curtiss Wright R-19, among others. Flight operations were limited, and the pilots, few. It was until 1943 when the growth of the Dominican Military Aviation really began, and it was also during this year, when the first North American AT-6 aircraft were received.
During the early part of the year, three Model C units were acquired, and were given the serials 6, 7 and 8; a few months later, three additional aircraft were received, these being Model C also, and were assigned the serials 13, 14 and 15.
The first fatal accident in the Dominican Military Aviation occurred in 1944, when Alfredo Fortaleza and his mechanic, perished when they crashed on AT-6 13, while on a military service flight over the contry’s South-Eastern coast.
Between 1944 and 1947, three more examples of the same type were acquired, for a total of 9 units; up until that time, the AT-6s were the main military aircraft in the country, this situation changed by the early 1947, when the first fighter aircraft were received.
Due to the need to train new pilots and with the projected growth for the Military Aviation in 1948, the services of a group of Brazilian mercenay pilots were contracted. These pilots were World War II veterans, and were in charge of the training of the Dominican pilots, in order to make transform them into fighter pilots.
The airplane chosen for this task were the AT-6s, but there were only 7 units airworthy, so 20 more were purchased, for a grand total of 27 units, these being a mix of B, C and D models.
The acquisition of these aircraft brought a change in the nomenclature of the two digit numbering system to a four digit sequential, with the first two digits indicating the type of aircraft, and the last two would be the sequential number within the type. The AT-6s were given serials ranging from 1301 through 1327.
One of the 20 newly purchased aircraft was in fact a NA-44, distinguishable for having a three-bladed propeller, and a more powerful engine than the other aircraft. This particular aircraft remained in service, until an accident in 1952.
Between 1948 and 1951, over 100 pilots completed their training on the AT-6s, and the contract with the Brazillians was concluded; from then on, Dominican personnel provided the training.
Serial numbers were changed again in 1950 for the AT-6s, and the 13 prefix was replace by the 10.
The number of airworthy AT-6s was reduced in 1953, since there were only 10 flyable aircraft, and for this and other reasons, a total of 40 new units were acquired in 1954, all of them with “0” flying hours on them. These were purchased from “Aerodex” in Miami, where the company had the aircraft in storage. After assembly, the AT-6s were flown to Santo Domingo, by Dominican pilots from different squadrons; each flight was guided by an AMD’s Catalina floatplane for navigation and rescue purposes. One of the AT-6s suffered an engine failure during the ferry flight, crashing in the Haitian coast, the pilot being rescued by the accompanying Catalina.
The Boieng PT-13 Stearmans and the Vultee BT-13s were withdrawn from service in 1956, leaving only the AT-6s for training. Between 1956 and 1963, about 15 aircraft were lost mainly due to accidents, most of them at the hands of cadets, leaving around 30 units available.
The first North American T-28s were acquired in 1964, and became the primary trainers, while the AT-6s would serve, again, as the advanced and transition trainers for pilots moving up to North American P-51 Mustangs or to the DeHavilland Vampires.
Between 1964 and 1972, the number of AT-6s in service declined considerably, to the point that by 1972 there were only about six examples in airworthy condition.
The Dominican Air Force purchased ten Beechcraft T-34B Mentor in 1979, to completely replace the remaining AT-6s and T-28s, so from this date on, it was very rare to see an AT-6 in flight; by 1982 there were only two examples in service. These were definitely withdrawn from service in 1984, when the P-51 Mustangs were sold, and the two surviving AT-6s were abandoned to the elements.
The Dominican Air Force commander ordered in 1988, that the two AT-6s were restored in order to preserve them, and to have them available to be flown during special activities and celebrations. One of the two flew several exhibition flights, while the restoration of the other was almost completed. Regrettably, the new air force commanding officers did not continue with the project, and the aircraft were abandoned again. Hurricane George destroyed them in 1988, and their remains were finally sold in the year 2000.
By Dax Roman