Stearman PT-13 & PT-17 Kaydet
U.S. Primary Trainer

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One of the Ghost Squadron's Kaydets.

Image source: The Confederate Air Force Ghost Squadron CD-ROM produced by Corel. Photos by Bill Crump.

One of the best known two-place, open cockpit biplanes of World War II was the Stearman PT-13 and PT-17 Kaydet primary trainer. Many Army Air Corps student pilots flew for the first time at the controls of a Kaydet, learning the basics of flight before passing on to the larger and heavier BT basic and AT advanced trainers.

First ordered in 1937, the PT-13 was powered with a Lycoming radial engine of 215 hp, increased in later models to 225 hp. The open cockpit was thought to allow student pilots a better "feel" for flying, as they could sense changes in airflow on the sides of their faces if the aircraft were not keep straight or coordinated in turns.

Without radios or electric systems, these PTs were fitted with a simple one-way voice tube intercom system called a Gosport tube, through which the instructor could speak to the student, but the student could only listen.

Painted a bright chrome yellow and blue for high visibility, hundreds of these primary trainers filled the air at training bases all over the southern and western U.S. during the war. Trained pilots were often warned to stay clear of these "Yellow Perils"!

A change to a Continental engine of 220 hp resulted in a change in designation to PT-17, with first deliveries in 1940. This was the most produced version, with almost 3,000 built for the Army Air Corps and many more for the U.S. Navy as N2S trainers.

This Ghost Squadron aircraft was originally produced as a PT-17, as it is marked, but at some point a Lycoming engine was fitted to the airframe, making it appear like an earlier PT-13. Keeping 50 year old airplane flying requires a lot of time, sweat and money, and often a little bit of ingenuity!

Some of the Stearman design were built for the Royal Canadian Air Force as PT-27s, and a few were fitted with Jacobs R-755 radial engines for the Air Corp and called PT-18s.

Today, these classic biplanes still provide aviators old and new with the feel of the wind in their faces.


Pilot and Passenger/Instructor

One Lycoming R-680 Engine
Single-row 9 cylinder Air-cooled Radial
225 hp @ 2,100 rpm


One Continental R-670 Engine
Single-row 7 cylinder Air-cooled Radial
220 hp @ 2,075 rpm

Max. Speed 135 mph @ sea level
Cruise Speed 96 mph
Landing Speed 52 mph

Climb to 10,000 ft in 17.3 minutes
Service Ceiling 13,200 ft

Length 24' 9"
Height 9' 8"
Wing Span 32' 2"

Max. Weight 2,635 lbs
Empty Weight 1,931 lbs

Normal Fuel 43 gallons

Normal Range 505 miles


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All material not specifically credited is Copyright by Randy Wilson.