HOW TO LAND A STEARMAN BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS

Fully Restored AAC PT-17 Stearman

In this age of “Fly-by-Wire,” it seems almost reactionary to go back in time when we learned to fly by the “seat of our pants.”  The fearless pioneers of the First Aero Squadron certainly were accomplished at that fine art of flying by feel and sight, particularly since they had next to no instruments inside their open air cockpits to help them out.  As it was often well put for many years after they came back from the “Great War to End all Wars” (WWI), “Flying was an art that requires a keen sense of spacial orientation, feel and sight.”

US Navy version of the Stearman   CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO SEE IT FULL SIZE AND IN HIGH RESOLUTION.

That’s how your Webmaster learned to fly in 1944, but more on that in a later post.  Although I sometimes used a Stearman to fly aerobatics back then, I much preferred the much rarer biplane, the Waco UPF-7 (see below), which was both easier to land and far more maneuverable in the air.

Brand new Waco YMF-5 (UPF-7)

The Waco is so beautiful a classic of that bygone era, that they have been reproducing brand new Wacos now for years.  Although not tagged the UPF-7, they are just a later version, which looks the same. The new designation is Waco YMF-5. They are being manufactured in Battle Creek, MI.  Take a peek at their impressive website right here.

Not let’s get into the official US NAVAL Training film, entitled “Military Flight Training – PRIMARY FLIGHT TRAINING – LANDINGS”  . . . or HOW TO LAND A STEARMAN.  This film is 13:03 long.  CLICK ON THE VIDEO PHOTO TO START IT GOING . . . AND ON THE LOWER RIGHT CORNER’S ‘OPEN-TO-FULL-SIZE’ TO ENJOY IT IN FULL SCALE.

Below is another US Navy Flight Training film from 1945 with the indomitable Stearman once again its central figure. This last film is longer, 34:47 minutes.  Most of those Navy Stearmans were painted a bright yellow from propeller to tail, and wing tip to wing tip.

This bright color was not just practical, insofar as it made them easier to see when airborne, but it also led them to be given the nickname of the “YELLOW PERIL!”  To start them, a ground crew had to stand on the lower wing and energetically crank (just like many automobile of the day – which had hand cranks for starting) the Inertial Starter until the flywheel came up to enough speed to turn over the big radial 225 HP engine.

At the airport at which I worked, which was only miles from Glenview Naval Air Station (NAS), I was often saddled with that task of cranking the Stearman’s Inertial Starter.  A lot of healthy exercise.  Often, on their first solo flight, the new Navy pilots would land at our civilian airport to grab a cup of coffee at our restaurant.  Although the Navy frowned on this practice, the happy new aviators couldn’t seem to pass up the opportunity to have some extra fun . . . and good hot cup of “Java.”

After WWII, these ships were widely sold across the country, mostly for use as crop dusters, but many went into civilian hands in General Aviation, much as did the Jenny’s of WWI.  Most every Air Show had at least one Stearman with a Twin Wasp 450 HP engine hanging up front to give extraordinarily capabilities at aerobatics.  Crop dusters across the globe still use this WWII biplane as their principal aerial applicator.  Here below is some interesting data on the various models of this classic Military Training Biplane.

STEARMAN VARIANTS

(Data from: United States Navy aircraft since 1911, Boeing aircraft since 1916)

The U.S. Army Air Forces ‘Kaydet’ had three different designations based on its power plant:

PT-13 with a Lycoming R-680 engine. Production was 2,141 in total for all models.

PT-13 Initial production, R-680-B4B engine, 26 built

PT-13A R-680-7 engine, 92 delivered 1937–38, Model A-75

PT-13B R-680-11 engine, 255 delivered 1939–40

PT-13C Six PT-13Bs were modified for instrument flying.

PT-13D PT-13As equipped with the R-680-17 engine, 353 delivered, Model E-75

PT-17 With a Continental R-670-5 engine, 3,519 were delivered.

PT-17A 18 PT-17s were equipped with blind-flying instrumentation.

PT-17B Three PT-17s were equipped with agricultural spraying equipment for pest control.

PT-18 PT-13 with a Jacobs R-755 engine, 150 built

PT-18A Six PT-18s were fitted with blind-flying instrumentation.

PT-27 Canadian PT-17: This designation was given to 300 aircraft supplied under Lend-Lease to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The U.S. Navy had several versions, including:

NS Up to 61 delivered, powered by surplus 220 hp (164 kW) Wright J-5 Whirlwind

N2S Known colloquially as the “Yellow Peril” from its overall-yellow paint scheme

N2S-1 R-670-14 engine, 250 delivered to the U.S. Navy

N2S-2 R-680-8 engine, 125 delivered to the U.S. Navy

N2S-3 R-670-4 engine, 1,875 delivered to the U.S. Navy

N2S-4 99 U.S. Army aircraft diverted to the U.S. Navy, plus 577 newly built aircraft

N2S-5 R-680-17 engine, 1,450 delivered to the U.S. Navy

Stearman 70 Original prototype, powered by 215 hp (160 kW) Lycoming radial engine, temporary designation XPT-943 for evaluation

Model 73 Initial production version, 61 built for U.S. Navy as NS plus export variants

Model 73L3 Version for the Philippines, powered by 200 hp (150 kW) R-680-4 or R-680C1 engines, seven built

Model A73B1 Seven aircraft for Cuban Air Force powered by 235 hp (175 kW) Wright R-790 Whirlwind, delivered 1939–1940[7]

Model A73L3 Improved version for the Philippines, three built[8]

Stearman 75 (or X75) Evaluated by the U.S. Army as a primary trainer, the X75L3 became the PT-13 prototype. Variants of the 75 formed the PT-17 family.

Stearman 76 Export trainer and armed versions of the 75

Stearman 90 and 91 (or X90 ano X91) productionized metal-frame version, became the XBT-17

Stearman XPT-943 The X70 evaluated at Wright Field

 

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