Boeing-Stearman PT-17 Kaydet

Among the important, War winning hardware we rarely consider are the all important trainers.

So let’s take a look at a well known Primary Trainer.

Lloyd Stearman formed his second aircraft company in 1927. Like so many other such companies he set up home base in Wichita, Kansas. After building a number of typical light civil aircraft the precursor of his Model 75 flew in 1934.
I don’t know the whole sequence of events; but it quickly became a popular trainer and a military trainer. That same year, 1934, Stearman Aircraft Corporation was purchased by Boeing (actually United Aircraft and Transport Corporation at the time) and operated as a semi-independent subsidiary. My guess would be this all had to do with getting capital to expand to meet demand.

The Kaydet was classified as a “PT” (Primary Trainer) because it had less than 400 horsepower, fixed landing gear, fixed pitch propeller and only elementary flight instruments. “Basic” and “Advanced” trainers added to all those components.

The most correct designation(s) for those aircraft most often known as “Stearman” today is actually quite involved. From Model 70 through 76 by the manufacturer. In USAAC (USAAF) service, depending on engine, it could be a PT-13, PT-17 or PT-18. In USN service it was an NS or N2S. In Canadian service simply a Kaydet.
Over 10000 of all versions were built and it remained in military service through the War years. Post-War it became popular as a crop duster, aerobatic performer and GA toy.
The most memorable quip I’ve seen on the type is that its easy to fly, but hard to fly well. That makes serious accidents uncommon, yet its good for identifying a pilot’s potential early in the process.
I’d also add as a personal aside, the airport I spent the longest at in my career, 22 years, always had at least one flyable Stearman in residence. They are a striking and beautiful sight amid the more modern types. Several years back a Stearman was on the schedule to perform at Thunder Over Michigan. It was right after an F-16 demo. I was wondering if people would even watch after all the noise and power that proceeded it. But it put on a captivating performance (sadly, I don’t recall the pilot’s name). The entire routine was within a few hundred yards of show center. It rolled, looped, spun, stalled, twisted and turned for 20 minutes without ever leaving a very narrow field of view. I’m so used to airshow performers doing fast passes across the field and demonstrating their maneuvers with a huge reserve of energy. But the Stearman just seemed to play and dance in front of us the whole time. It was a real standout of the afternoon.

There should be more wires between the wings. My next subject in this Theme will test my patience further.

This particular aircraft is a PT-17, that means it has the Continental R-670 engine with 225 horsepower (engine was also used in the M3 Stuart Tank). That’s the most built variant of Stearman.
The markings narrow it down as immediate pre-War or early War.
This is the Revell kit. It is really a beauty, one of the best from that manufacturer. Although that also means I had to do more rigging than I have done before. I’m torn between saying I’m getting more comfortable with it, and yet I still find it a frustrating experience. I’ve read at length on techniques and watched several videos. But I fear my clumsy hands and limited patience may keep me from ever being very good at it. This build has about half the rigging called for in the directions, hopefully enough to suggest what the type looks like without making me too bonkers.

The Stearman does not look big next to a fighter. But it does next to a modern civil trainer like a Cessna 152!
For the last 16 years of my career this aircraft was based at the airport where I worked. It looks really good in pre-War USN colors. (photo via Andrew Thompson)

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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7 Responses to Boeing-Stearman PT-17 Kaydet

  1. jfwknifton says:

    Technically you may be short on the rigging, but you’ve got enough to keep most people happy. And by the way, Happy Christmas to you and yours, and stay safe until you get your vaccine, our light at the end of the tunnel.

  2. Jeff Groves says:

    A beautiful build of a beautiful aircraft! I especially like the prop!

  3. Ernie Davis says:

    Well you have my utmost respect. Even in my heyday I’d never have attempted accurate, or probably any rigging on a biplane in 1/48.

  4. Pingback: Theme Build 1 – Complete | Plane Dave

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