FAIRCHILD (HOWARD) PT-23 CORNELL
Sometimes an aircraft restoration requires such a great investment of one’s self that it is hard to know where the heart stops and the project begins. This is the story of an affair of the heart. Anyone connected with aviation can understand the restorers fidelity to this mistress of a machine. When Greg Ward signed on as an Air Zoo Airframe & Power-Plant-Mechanic in 1988, he knew he was joining a team that had a strong reputation for first-rate restorations. It was an award-winning quality as seen in the resurrection of the Air Zoo’s P-47 Thunderbolt, F6F Hellcat and F7F Tigercat. As low man on the totem pole, Greg helped where he could with the ongoing projects, until he finally received his own project to supervise. Greg’s new mistress was a World War II primary trainer: Fairchild PT-23 Cornell serial #291. This project would consume a major portion of his professional life.
While the PT-23 is certainly not as charismatic as the WWII fighters and bombers the Air Zoo has restored, it is just as romantic. The joy of flying an open-cockpit aircraft can never be equaled by trips in the enclosed confines of faster craft. And though the Cornell is a somewhat primitive looking aeroplane; to a cadet pilot she was a heavenly body, and one to be respected. This simple monoplane with its blunted nose was much more important than any potential combat plane in the cadet’s future. If a pilot couldn’t master the -23, he need not worry about becoming a bomber driver or fighter jock. He would wash out of flight school and probably end up as bombardier, navigator, radio operator or air gunner. They were all important jobs, but didn’t carry the excitement or glory that came with being a pilot. Whatever the case, he had to pull everything he could out of this little trainer before transitioning into something more powerful and sophisticated like the Vultee BT-13 Valiant. (CLICK BELOW FOR THE NEXT PAGE).