Aircraft Review

February 1998 Issue

T3A Firefly

A questionable fuel system, handling quirks and three fatal accidents raise serious doubts about the T3A.


In the world of high-stakes defense contracts, it’s not unusual to see the military say one thing and do another. But when the Air Force selected the British-made Slingsby Firefly to replace its aging fleet of Cessna T-41s six years ago, even some industry insiders were baffled.

Slingsby’s initial entry was so wide of the contract specifications—it was 50 knots slower than specified and had fabric control surfaces, a throwback to the Air Force’s biplane days—that it wasn’t even flight tested against other aircraft from Mooney, Stoddard-Hamilton, Saab and SIAI Marchetti.

Yet in one of the greatest come-from-behind stories in light aircraft history, Slingsby feverishly r...

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