PEACHTREE CITY, GA. (Nov 20, 2023) – Eighty years ago this week, Fairchild PT-19A, serial number 42-83511, touched down at Moton Field in Alabama to begin work as a trainer for the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. The same plane, newly restored this year by volunteers at Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Airbase Georgia, now boasts a sparkling silver livery and is in the final stage of completion, ready to offer rides to the public in 2024.
“This historic aircraft has flown for Airbase Georgia for many years, but the leadership team decided it was time to take it apart and inspect, restore and repaint it,” said Airbase Leader Joel Perkins. “Re-skinning the aircraft with fabric and applying an authentic paint scheme took a lot of time, but our members were committed to restoring and preserving a piece of aviation history.”
This PT-19A was accepted by the United States Army Air Forces on Nov.16, 1943 and was used stateside for training. It was declared surplus in 1945 with a total of 445 hours of military time. After several civil owners and restorations, CAF Airbase Georgia acquired the airplane in 2006. It had been modified with a closed cockpit like the later model PT-26, to allow flying in inclement weather. It flew throughout the Southeast at airshows and fly-ins until it was brought back to the shop for restoration in 2022.
When the Fairchild PT-19 was designed, it provided a more advanced type of aircraft. Speeds were higher and wing loading more closely approximated that of combat aircraft, with flight characteristics demanding more precision and care. Its virtues were that it was inexpensive, simple to maintain and, most of all, virtually viceless. The PT-19 truly lived up to its nickname, the “Cradle of Heroes”. It was one of a handful of primary trainer designs that were the first stop on a cadet’s way to becoming a combat pilot. Thousands of the PT-19 series were rapidly integrated into the U.S. and Commonwealth training programs, serving throughout World War II and beyond.
The PT-19 series was developed when the U.S. Army Air Corps first ordered the aircraft in 1940 as part of its expansion program. The cantilever, low-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear and tailwheel design was based on a two-place, tandem seating, open cockpit arrangement. The simple but rugged construction included a fabric-covered, welded steel tube fuselage. The remainder of the aircraft used plywood construction, with a plywood-sheathed center section, outer wing panels and tail assembly.