In 1938, while most military pilots were still receiving their initial training in biplanes, Fairchild Aircraft recognized the need for a new design more closely approximating the more advanced types of aircraft the trainees would soon be flying. The result was the development of one of the most innovative and effective primary training planes ever designed, the Fairchild Primary Trainer (PT). The Fairchild PT was given its factory model number M-62 and its official name, the Cornell. The first prototype flew on May 15, 1939, and later that year won a fly-off competition against 17 other designs for the new Army training airplane. Fairchild was awarded its first Army PT contract for an initial order of 270 airplanes on September 22, 1939.
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, demand for military pilots skyrocketed making it necessary for Fairchild Aircraft (FA) to look for subcontractors to assist in meeting the demand for the PTs. Soon, four North American subcontractors were signed up; one Canadian company, Fleet Aircraft (F), and three U.S. companies, Howard Aircraft (HO), St. Louis Aircraft (SL), and Aeronca (AE) as well as Fabrica do Galeao (FG) in Brazil.
Three basic variations of the Fairchild PT were produced, the PT-19, PT-23 and PT-26. All three versions used the same basic airframe. The first and most common, the PT-19, is an open cockpit design and features Fairchild’s Ranger engine with its six inverted inline cylinders. The PT-26 is the Canadian version of the PT-19 and features a sliding canopy and cockpit heating system for protection against the Canadian winters along with a few other differentiating features.
The PT-23 version is identical to the PT-19 from the fire wall back. The difference between the two ships is the Continental 670 radial engine mounted on the front of the PT-23. Production of PT-23’s began in 1942 when concerns mounted over a possible shortage of Ranger engines. Interestingly, while Fairchild built the first two prototype PT-23 aircraft, all subsequent production of this particular model was done by the licensed manufacturers.
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