An aerodynamic marvel
The year 1939 would put forth a radically new Primary Trainer, hence the abbreviation “PT”. The new PT for the aeronautical basic training of Air Force pilots was supposed to replace the agile yet resistant and thus relatively slow biplanes with a faster machine.
The PT-19 was the breakthrough for the Fairchild Aviation Corporation in establishing a monoplane as a military training plane. This tandem two-seater was the first low wing airplane to be flown by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC, the predecessor of the United States Air Force), the British Royal Air Force (RAF), and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). It was the alternative draft to the heavier and more demanding Boeing Stearman PT-17 that was also used as trainers. In the year of its maiden flight the trainer won in many aeronautical disciplines at an Air Corps competition and outshone more than a dozenother trainers. None of them were able to compete with the first-class airplane performance of the PT-19. This could be attributed to the aerodynamic quality of the PT-19 – more precisely its lower drag thanks to the slim nose (cowling), the seamless mergence of the underside of the body and airfoil and above all the absence of braces and cross-ties. It is therefore not astonishing that more than 7,000 units of the PT-19 were produced and sold in the following years.
The first series of the PT-19 in 1940 used a motor of the Ranger Aircraft Engine Division that was produced by Fairchild. The initial version of the 170 kg 6-cylinder inverted inline engine type L-440 with its air-cooled hanging cylinders boasted 175 hp. Thanks to the compact design of the motor, the engine compartment, or nose, could be constructed in an extremely slim fashion. This allowed for a huge aerodynamic advantage compared with large radial engines which caused greater drag.
The later PT-19 models saw further stages of expansion, also with regards to the motor. Starting with the third generation of motors (Ranger L-440-3) the engine output would continually increase to 200 hp.
The Flying Bulls PT-19 was mobilized for the US Army in 1943. It bears the identification Fairchild PT-19 M-62A and is the model using the 200 hp strong fifth generation Ranger-440-5. In 1952, the tail wheel airplane that was called “beautiful” by many was bought by two avid private pilots and has ever since only been flown by civilians. 55 years after its dispatch the PT-19 became the property of a European who finally brought the gem to the Old World. The open two-seater flew in Great Britain until the Flying Bulls acquired it in 2007.
An extensive restoration brought back the fresh look and beauty of the old lady´s youth not with standing the fact that she turned 66 the year the complex and laborious renovation was completed. The entire avionics were replaced, the original instruments restored, all pipes exchanged, the motor underwent a perfect overhaul, and last but not least the original varnish of the training plane that it was in the 1940s was brought back to life.
The PT-19 is a trainer in which many a pilot has learned how to fly. Thanks to its good-natured flight qualities and its construction as a low wing airplane (the body of a low wing sits on the airfoil) it is easier to launch and land than the biplane trainers that had been in use until then and that had neither allowed for a good view up nor down during takeoff or landing. The Fairchild with its 200 hp motor managed 115 knots (212 kilometers per hour), making it the fastest and certainly the most economic primary trainer of its time.