This 1943 PT-19 B, “Now or Never”, S/N 42-82719, was manufactured by Fairchild Aircraft, Hagerstown, Maryland and received by the USAAF on 20 May 1943. It was initially assigned on 29 May 1943 to the 9th Elementary Flying Training Detachment, 31st Flying Training Wing, operated by Pacific Air School, Inc., Fort Stockton Army Air Field (AAF), Texas. (This was a civilian contracted primary pilot school on Gibbs Field). Later, the plane was transferred to the 2550th AAF Base Unit (Contract Primary Pilot School) Coleman Flying School, Texas on 21 October 1944 where it was disposed as surplus.
Information provided by the AFHRA/ISR Maxwell AFB, AL.
Basic flight training in the United States, prior to World War II, was generally provided in light biplanes which tended to be slow, stable and tolerant of fledgling pilots. Thus the majority of U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) primary training in 1940 was still being done in biplanes like the Boeing-Stearman PT-13/17 series. However, given the increasingly high-performance nature of the world's combat aircraft, the Army reasoned that the primary training was too easy, giving the beginner a false sense of mastery that could, on the next leg up, slow down his learning, or even cause him to fail, when he was prematurely thrust into more demanding aircraft. Experienced instructors wanted the primary trainer to be a monoplane with higher wing loading that demanded more careful flying. Such reasoning led the USAAC to evaluate the Fairchild M62 two-seat monoplane in 1939.
In September l939, the M-62 won a fly-off at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio against 17 other designs and became the U.S. Army's primary trainer. Following its evaluation, the USAAC ordered 270 of the craft, with two open cockpits, known as the PT-19 "Cornell". It was powered by a Ranger L-440 six-cylinder, inverted, air-cooled inline engine of 175 horsepower. A little more than a year later, 12 PT-19s a week rolled out of Fairchild's Haggerstown, Maryland factory. After America's entry into World War II, Fairchild could no longer meet the demand for PT-19s so Howard Aircraft, St. Louis Aircraft, and Aeronca also began constructing PT-19s under license. Soon PT-19 airframes were produced faster than Ranger could build engines for them and Fairchild began fitting Continental radial engines to PT-19 frames, calling the new aircraft the PT-23. Fairchild developed a nearly identical variant of the PT-19, the PT-26, for the Royal Canadian Air Force that featured fully enclosed cockpits to help combat the cold Canadian climate. By the end of the war in 1945, a total of 8,130 PT-19s, PT-23s and PT-26s had been produced to serve in such places as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Norway, Latin America and Rhodesia.
With a wing loading factor roughly 43 percent higher than the Boeing-Stearman PT-13, the Fairchild had a higher stalling speed and required a good deal more care at low speed, making it exactly what the Army was looking for, a trainer that would more nearly resemble the fighter aircraft the trainees would eventually fly.
The success of American air power in World War II was based on two main factors: the quality of American aircraft used during the war and, more importantly, the quality of American pilots who flew those planes into combat. The Fairchild PT-19 Cornell was one of a handful of primary trainers designs that were the first stop on a cadet's way to becoming a combat pilot. Inexpensive, simple to maintain and, most of all, easy to fly, the PT-19 truly lived up to its nickname - the “Cradle of Heroes”.
Keep 'Em Flying!
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