Commonly called the Stearman, this aircraft was known by several names and designations depending on the contract, country, and engine type fitted. It was one of the major primary trainer types used by the United States and its Allies before and during the Second World War.
This beautiful 1942 photograph from the NASM Rudy Arnold collection illustrates some of the major designations. Furthest from the camera is a Royal Canadian Air Force PT-27, the Canadians called them Kaydets. Next is a USAAC PT-17, which is almost touching wingtips with a Navy N2S-3. Nearest is a PT-17 in Chinese Air Force markings.
The American pilot training program was a massive undertaking and utilized almost 10,000 Stearmans along with several other types. Here a group of Navy instructors and trainees walks along the apron at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas.
Pilots of the Morning Wing get their flying assignments by class. The leather flight jackets were a status symbol. Undoubtedly hot in the Texas sun, they would be needed in the Stearman’s open cockpits.
Sailors wait atop the upper wings to fuel the aircraft in turn. The Stearman was a rugged design, fully aerobatic and simple to produce and maintain.
One of the more derisive nicknames for the aircraft was the “Yellow Peril”. This swarm of N2S and similar N3N trainers taxiing for take-off at NAS Corpus Christi would certainly represent a significant hazard to air navigation once aloft!
This early 1943 photo shows USAAF PT-17s in overall aluminum dope. U.S. aircraft had previously carried the national insignia in six positions, but the insignia under the port and over the starboard upper wing were removed at the start of 1943. The removal job was perhaps a little overzealous on the higher aircraft, the “ARMY” lettering has also been painted over leaving only the “U.S.”. (NASM Hans Groenhoff collection)
A clear view of the undersides as this Army Stearman banks away. The single-strut landing gear is shown to good advantage. (NASM Hans Groenhoff collection)
The Stearman found its way into the civilian market, and they were sold off by the hundreds as surplus after the war. Their robust construction and simplicity make them very popular, often with the same pilots who had earlier learned to fly at their controls. Here a Stearman is being used for crop dusting, the forward pilot position having been converted into a hopper for the payload. (NASM Hans Groenhoff collection)
An atmospheric scene and an excellent diorama subject. Several Stearmans are still flying today, with many more preserved in museums. (NASM Hans Groenhoff collection)