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North American Aviation NA-16-2K (NA-33) Details


The NA-16-2K (also known by its NAA "charge code" or "accounting code" of NA-33) was selected by the RAAF for production by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. Following a number of modifications to meet RAAF requirements, the production aircraft became known as the Wirraway.



CAC ordered one NA-16-2K aircraft for comparative tests against the fixed-gear NA-16-1A aircraft.

The NA-16-2K was constructed in 1937 by NAA in their factory at Inglewood, California with the construction number 33-388.

The NA-16-2K featured many differences in comparison to the NA-16-1A:

  • Retractable landing gear, which also required a 12" wider centre-section span;
  • Geared Pratt & Whitney R-1340 S1H1-G engine driving a three-bladed propeller at 66.6% of the crankshaft speed;
  • Curved windscreen;
  • Bomb slips under the centre-section allowing for four 100 lb bombs or ten 25 lb practice bombs to be fitted;
  • Flush-faired landing lights in both wings

This photo shows the NA-16-2K in California prior to it's delivery to Australia.

Image copyright expired, courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum archive.

Another view of the NA-16-2K in California prior to delivery. It is displayed with four 100 pound Mk. 1 practice bombs fitted under the centre-section of the wing, highlighting it's "basic combat" capability.

Image copyright expired, courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum archive.

The NA-16-2K arrived in Australia in November 1937. Since it was easier to refer to the plane by its charge code (NA-33) than its model designation (NA-16-2K) it became known in Australia as the NA-33.

During December 1937 the NA-16-2K was evaluated in a series of trials to determine its performance in comparison to the NA-16-1A which had arrived in Australia 3 months earlier.

Following its delivery to the RAAF in November 1938, the aircraft's history can be traced from its service card. The entries in italics below are taken directly from the service card for A20-2.

8/11/1938 Received No. 1 Aircraft Depot (Laverton) ex CAC. Order number A.33916.

Here the NA-16-2K is shown at Point Cook following it's transfer to the RAAF which took place on November 8th, 1938.

Note the RAAF serial number repeated on the rudder.

Image copyright expired, courtesy of the AWM archive.

15/06/1939 Forced landing with little damage (1 Squadron)

22/08/1939 Attached to 12 Squadron temporarily

29/08/1939 NA 33 from 1Sqn arrived Richmond (A50)

31/08/1939 Allocated to 22 Squadron ex 1 Sqadron

12/09/1939 Landed with wheels retracted. Sustained damage.

12/09/1939 NA 33 (A20-2) flown by F/O J. Burgess and (instructing) and F/O F. Wootten (pupil) landed with wheels retracted. No injury to pilots. Aircraft sustained badly damaged airscrew, cowling, flaps and undercarriage.

18/09/1939 Awaiting decision on repair method

14/10/1939 To No. 2 Aircraft Depot for repairs ex 22 Squadron

23/10/1939 Issued TD Laverton ex 2AD for instructional purposes

31/10/1939 Received 2AD ex ARS without engine.

20/11/1939 Received Laverton without engine. No advice on change of allotment

15/04/1940 At engineering School. Engine returned to CAC

18/06/1940 Approved to be converted to Wirraway Instructional Airframe #1.

Here A20-2 can be seen among a collection of instructional airframes at No. 1 Engineering School, at the Melbourne Showgrounds in Ascot Vale. The aircraft is in the row on the left, partly hidden by Bristol Bulldog A12-1.

Image copyright expired, courtesy of the AWM archive.

As an instructional airframe, the NA-16-2K was eventually stripped down to enable trainees to learn its construction and systems.

Note the single forward-firing machine gun in front of the windscreen and casing ejection chute just aft of the firewall. Some references suggest that the NA-16-2K was armed with a single "wing gun", but this is not the case.

The hydraulic ram for retracting and extending the undercarriage can be seen protruding out from the end rib of the wing centre-section.

Image copyright expired, courtesy of the Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

The NA-16-2K also did its share of raising support for the war effort. Here it is paraded on show through Melbourne city streets sans wings and engine in support of the 4th Liberty Loan Appeal on October 29th 1943.

Image copyright expired, courtesy of the Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

Here is another photo of the NA-16-2K during its career as an instructional airframe, now painted in camouflage colours.

In this photo an instructor is showing a group of trainee riggers how to grease the top hinge point of the tail-wheel oleo strut.

Note that the negative has been reversed in this photo, so the serial number A20-2 is reversed.

Image copyright expired, courtesy of the AWM archives.

20/03/1945 Converted to components.

Additional internet information sources

You can find more information regarding the NA-16-2K on these websites:


A selection of books, magazine articles and newspaper articles related to the NA-16-2K:

  • Hagedorn, Dan. North American NA-16 / AT-6 / SNJ. North Branch, MN: Specialty Press, 1997. ISBN 0-933424-84-1
  • Smith, Peter Charles. North American T-6 SNJ, Harvard & Wirraway - A Pictorial Record. Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK: The Crowood Press, 2000. ISBN 1-86126-382-1
  • Wackett, Lawrence Aircraft Pioneer - An Autobiography.Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1972. ISBN 0207123780
  • Wilson, Stewart. Wirraway, Boomerang & CA-15 in Australian Service. Sydney, Aerospace, 1991. ISBN 0-958797-88-9
  • Vella, Joe. From Fisherman's Bend - The Aircraft of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Air Enthusiast magazine, No. 61 January/February 1996
  • Vella, Joe. The Genesis of the Wirraway, Aviation Heritage - The Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia, Volume 23 Number 1, 1983.




1000. MUNITIONS PARADE FOR LOAN TODAY. (1943, October 29). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 3. Retrieved August 19, 2012, from


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First created 17/05/2012  last updated 19/06/2012