Simanaitis Says

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JUST ABOUT every U.S. pilot in World War II trained in a Vultee BT-13 or one of its variants. I share a dual affinity with these aviators, first through friendship with the author of the definitive book on Vultee Aircraft; and second via a bit of Vultee history residing next to my desk.

The book is Vultee Aircraft 1932-1947, by Jonathan Thompson, Narkiewicz/Thompson Publishing, 1992. Jonathan and Beverly, rest their souls, were both dear friends.

A man of many talents, Jon drew these images for a Ferrari Formula 1 wallpaper. From the author’s collection.

Jon’s knowledge of aircraft as well as automobiles was rich and deep; his wife Beverly Narkiewicz was a writer and editor too.

My favorite Vultee aircraft is the BT-13 shown on the cover of Vultee Aircraft 1932-1947. The book is listed at and

The most revered of Vultee aircraft was the Valiant, the BT-13/15 and its SNV naval equivalent. Its all-metal low-wing configuration fit into the U.S. Army Air Force training program immediately after the Stearman PT-17 biplane in Primary Training and before Advanced Training in more powerful aircraft. The Valiant’s cable-operated flaps, variable-pitch propeller, full radio equipment, but fixed landing gear helped pilots make this transition.

The Vultee BT-13 was also known as the “Valiant Vibrator” for a variety of reasons, its near-stall behavior among them.

Jon gives details of the flight training of a particular pilot, John W. Cox Jr. From December 22, 1941, until February 19, 1942, Cox flew Stearman biplanes. The month of April 1942 was spent accumulating 76 hours in BT-13As. Then he moved to Advanced Training, where one of his instructors was a First Lieutenant named Jimmy Stewart. Cox later became an instructor himself, totaling more than 1000 hours in Vultees during this assignment.

Women trained in Valiants as well. This pilot found herself on the cover of Life magazine with a BT-13.

A total of 11,538 Valiants were built between 1940 and 1944.  Production techniques developed at Vultee’s Downey, California, plant became universal among aircraft manufacturers during WWII.

The rudder pedals of Vultee aircraft carried an Art Deco motif. For a closer look, examine the one below.

In corresponding with an R&T reader who shared my enthusiasm for Allard sports cars, I offered him a duplicate of a book on the subject. Not long afterward, a package arrived and this is what it contained.

Art and function coexist in the cockpit of a Vultee BT-13.

Alas, I have since lost the kind Allard enthusiast’s name, but bless his heart. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2012

2 comments on “ARTFUL VULTEE BITS

  1. John Sanborn
    October 18, 2012

    Dennis; Just got on and love your comments. This Allard enthusiast is not the one with old airplane parts. I have flown in a BT13.

  2. simanaitissays
    October 30, 2012

    By the way, the September 2012 issue of Aeroplane, a fine British monthly, has an article “Valiant Vibrations.” It covers a California flyin of these neat aircraft.

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This entry was posted on October 18, 2012 by in Vintage Aero and tagged , , , .
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