Deer Valley, AZ, USA (KDVT) - December 2009

The first of 22 ex-RAF Shorts Tucano T.1s acquired by RS Warbirds of Phoenix, Arizona in November 2008 have taken to the air.

Taken from storage at RAF Shawbury, the aircraft were shipped to the USA inside containers in specially-designed and built jigs.

Four have been assembled, of which two are now flying.

ZF168/N868RS has been restored to RAF condition and is still in its old 1 FTS colours. The paintwork has been tidied up, and it retains its original cockpit, but lacks ejection seats.

ZF200/N822RS meanwhile sports the 'lightning bolt' display colours from 2008 and has been fully customised inside and out, with such features as chrome exhaust stacks, wheel hubs and spinner plus a glass cockpit.

Next up after them will be ZF136/N885RS also still in its last RAF special livery.

RS Warbirds has full support from Bombardier and is also lucky enough to employ an engineer who helped introduce the Tucano to RAF service.

Initially, the company is only offering eight aircraft to civilian owners, with the rest being held back for possible future commercial use.

When pitted against what seems to be the most popular ex-military type in the USA at present, the L-39 Albatros, the Tucano beats it easily on all counts apart from flat-out speed.

Being more nimble, using about one-third of the fuel burn and able to fly from much shorter airfields than the L-39 makes the Tucano a very attractive proposition.

They hope to keep all the aircraft in their attractive authentic RAF colours unless a customer insists on a new paint scheme.

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[photo/serial list]