Air Zoo’s PT-23 – The Story of a Restoration

Fairchild PT-23HO_N52020 (6)_Star & Bar_Left Wing, Top

Other than the engine used, the Fairchild PT-23 is almost identical to its sister, the PT-19. The PT-23 has the round, puggish nose housing a 220hp Continental W-670 radial engine, while the PT-19 featured an aquiline nose enclosing the 175hp straight six Ranger L-440. Interestingly, the Howard Aircraft Corporation built the museum’s Fairchild under license in 1943. According to Project Supervisor Ward, “Fairchild only built two of the planes.” Subcontractors built the rest, because Fairchild was too busy building AT-21 Gunners and UC-61 Forwards, not to mention designing the revolutionary C-82 Packet. Ward also indicated that Howard itself outsourced subassembly manufacture to other manufactures. “The center section of the wing was built by Wicks Organ Company. The outer wing panels as we know were built by McKee Door Company.” The restoration crew found inspection stamps proving this on wing parts when they first dismantled the aircraft. Other manufacturers had to operate in a similar manner in order to meet the needs of the U.S. Army Air Force Training Command.

Aeronca, The St.Louis Airplane Co., Fleet Aircraft, and even a Brazilian firm all built versions of the PT-23. There were several different variants, but the major differences were separated by engine-type under the following designations PT-19, PT-23, PT-26 and the Cornell. The Cornell was essentially a PT-26 with an enclosed cockpit and built exclusively in Canada. Total production for all variants combined reached 8,130. But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s back up a bit and take a closer look at this particular aircraft.

PT-23 #291 is missing its logbooks from the war years, but independent investigation shows the aircraft served as a primary trainer at Stuttgart Army Air Field in Stuttgart, Arkansas along with hundreds of other examples. It is possible that the late Darl Watters flew her while there. A low wing monoplane with very wide landing gear, the Cornell was ideal for teaching cadets how to fly, and especially how to land. The PT-23 was gentle and forgiving to its students. It did have a temper, however, and if you stepped on the brakes too hard, she’d nose over onto her back. There is a roll-over pylon between cockpits to help protect the crew in such emergencies. Having been produced near the end of the war, #291 did not receive the garish orange-yellow paint like the typical biplane “Yellow Perils” used by the Navy and Army Air Force. Instead, the manufacturer left her in the silver dope undercoat applied directly to the wood and fabric. (CLICK BELOW FOR THE NEXT PAGE).

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