The Fairchild PT-19 was used as a trainer during WWII. I’m a proud sponsor of the 1943 PT-19A owned by the Houston Wing of the Commemorative Air Force and finally got to fly it for the first time recently.

There were 7,700 PT-19s built, and most were used by the U.S. Army Air Corps, Royal Canadian Air Force, and Royal Air Force. Within that total, there were 3,181 of the PT-19A model, which has a 200hp Ranger L-440-3 inverted inline six. The inline engine gave the pilot much better visibility over the nose than the larger radial engine of the original PT-19 model. Many of the PT-19s were ferried by and used as trainers with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), which gives them an extra special meaning for me.

It’s a work of art just sitting still!

Before I set foot in the plane, I studied the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) so I could get to know its systems, speeds, and normal operations. I was highly amused by the POH even before opening the cover! It came in the mail and was much thinner than any modern airplane POH. For example, Big Chief’s POH is about 350 full-size pages. The PT-19 POH covers four different models and is 38 pages total, so if you exclude the pages devoted to the other three models, there’s about 27 pages for the PT-19A. Oh to revisit the age when airplanes were simpler!

Another notable item in the PT-19 POH was in the Weight & Balance calculation tables. There were sections for “bomb installation(s)”, “torpedo installation”, and “ammunition”. Since I’ve only flown post-war airplanes until now, this was a new sight for me!

Weight & Balance page from the POH

Once I got my hot little hands on the controls, I can easily see why it was used as a trainer. It’s very docile in flight, and the wide main gear means landings are quite forgivable. The only thing I could find that I wasn’t crazy about was that with full flaps, there’s no lift, only drag, so you’d be lucky to get any climb at all out of it with two people (even with my small frame as one person). It’s because of this that many PT-19 pilots land with no flaps, just in case they need to go around and don’t want to have to deal with retracting the flaps. But it more than makes up for that with something that I’m WILDLY crazy about! It has adjustable rudder pedals! That means that my just-under-five-feet-tall body could actually reach full rudder deflection without having to use a cushion behind me that is wider than I am! Why don’t ALL planes have adjustable rudder pedals? I had to have a custom seat cushion made for Big Chief so I could reach them. Oh and did I mention I finally had a real reason to wear a flying helmet? Open cockpit, baby!

Putting on my flying helmet! Photo by Jeremy Wright

 

A proud PT-19 sponsor and pilot!