he Vultee Aircraft BT-13A Valiant was a basic trainer for the Army Air Corps in the period immediately preceding WW-II thru the war years. Five variants were produced from 1940 through 1944. Most sources quote the number produced as 11,537 though there are some questions regarding the actual production numbers (see bt-13.org for more info).
In its role as a basic trainer, the BT-13 was a second-phase plane between the primary trainer (often a Fairchild PT-19, a PT-17 Stearman or a Ryan PT-22) and the advanced stage North American T-6 "Texan.". The Vultee provided a faster plane to test and refine a pilot's maneuvering skill. This was also the first plane where a student employed both flaps and a constant-speed propeller. Students gave the plane the nickname "Vultee Vibrator" due to the tendency of the canopy to vibrate at low engine rpm at a point close to a stall.
Chief designer Richard Palmer engineered a low-wing monoplane of all metal construction—with the exception of the controls, which are fabric covered. Though the prototype was powered by a P&W Wasp R-1340, the majority of production planes utilized a P&W R-985-AN-1.
The museum plane, an A model, is powered by the P&W R-985-AN-1, as were all A models. Our plane was manufactured on 12-31-1941 and accepted by the Army Air Corps on 1-11-1942. As a basic trainer, the museum plane was initially located at Pecos Army Airfield in Texas. Currently our aircraft has a total of 1,900 airframe hours. The A model is often distinguished from other variants by it's 12-V electrical system and lack of landing gear fairings.
Vultee Aircraft Corporation became an independent company in 1939 after a tortuous corporate history in the early 1930's (info here). Sadly, in 1938, before he could see Vultee become an independent company, Jerry Vultee and his wife Sylvia died when the plane he was piloting crashed in a snowstorm near Sedona, Arizona. A bronze plaque memorializing the Vultee family is located at the end of the Coconino Forestry trail named in honor of Vultee Arch, a natural rock arch near the site of the plane crash.
Due to a shortage of Pratt & Whitney R-985 engines later in the WW-II years, Vultee began to equip the BT-13 airframes with the 450 HP Wright R-975-11 Whirlwind radial engine. This final variant was designated as the BT-15 (1,693 built). After the war, under the designation XBT-16B, one BT-13A was rebuilt with a plastic fuselage for evaluation.
As soon as World War II ended all versions in service were retired from the USAAF and US Navy. After 1948 a handful of BT-13's receive the revised designation T-13. Less than 50 of these aircraft are flying today and have become very popular with warbird collectors and can often be seen at airshows around the country.