Vultee BT-13 Valiant

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In 1938 the US Army Air Corps was evaluating a new basic combat trainer, designated the Vultee V-54, it was considered operationally ideal as a trainer but was regarded as being unnecessarily complicated and overpowered.
Vultee then developed the V-74 trainer to meet this requirement having a cantilever low-wing with fixed landing gear, dual controls and flight instruments as standard equipment. The initial version was designated BT-13 by the US Army Air Corps and nicknamed the Valiant. Satisfactory testing brought in an order of 300 aircraft in September 1939, at that time the largest order placed by the US Army for basic trainers. The first of these aircraft were accepted by the USAAC in June of 1940.

From September 1939 to the Summer of 1944 a total of 11,537 Vultees were built to meet the needs of the US Army Air Corps and the US Navy, making the plane one of the most important American trainer aircraft of World War II. The BT-13 production run outnumbered all other Basic Trainer (BT) types produced.

BT-13 at Minter Field, California, March 1943

The Navy quickly recognized the ruggedness of the BT-13 and selected it to fulfill the same training roles. A total of 1,350 BT-13A and 650 BT-13B aircraft were transferred to the US Navy which designated them SNV-1 and SNV-2B respectively.

Almost every U.S. pilot and many of the allied pilots who were trained in the U.S. learned their basic flying skills in the BT-13. The demand for BT-13's out-paced Pratt & Whitneys ability to deliver the R-985 engines, 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).

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.

The Valiant was also known as the "Vultee Vibrator", nicknamed from its pilots.
Less than 50 of these aircraft are airworthy and have become very popular with warbird collectors and can often be seen at airshows around the country.

Manufacturer: Vultee Aircraft, Downey, California USA
Chief designer: Richard Palmer. The H-1 Hughes racer was designed by Richard Palmer, and similarities can be seen in aircraft he
later designed for the Vultee Aircraft Corporation, including the BT-13 trainer.
Type: Basic Trainer (BT) Single-engine all metal low-wing mono-plane with fixed landing gear
Crew: Two in tandem for Pilot and Instructor
Power Plant: Pratt & Whitney R-985: 450hp, nine-cylinder radial, single-row, air- cooled, radial engine
BT-13A & SNV-1: R-985-AN1. BT-13B & SNV-2: R-985 AN3. BT-15: R-975-11 Wright Whirlwind Engine
Wing Span: BT-13A & SNV-1: 42 feet 0 inches. BT-13B & SNV-2: 42 feet 2 inches. BT-15: 42 feet 0 inches
Length: BT-13A & SNV-1: 28 feet 10 inches. BT-13B & SNV-1: 28 feet 8.5 inches. BT-15: 29 feet 1 inch
Height: BT-13A, BT-13B, BT-15, SNV-1, SNV2: 9 feet 1 inch
Max. Speed: BT-13A & SNV-1: 182 mph. BT-13B & SNV-2: 166 mph. BT-15: 180 mph
Service Ceiling: BT-13A & SNV-1: 21,000 feet. BT-13B & SNV-2: 16,500 feet. BT-15: 21,000 feet
Empty Weight: BT-13A & SNV-1: 2,976 pounds. BT-13B & SNV-2: 3,375 pounds,
Loaded Weight: BT-13A, SNV-1: 3,991 pounds (loaded). BT-13B & SNV-2: 4,496 pounds (loaded)
BT-15: 2,966 pounds (empty). BT-15: 3,981 pounds (loaded)
Wing area: 239 sq. ft.
Fuel Capacity: 120 US Gallons.
Maximum diving speed: 230 mph
Maximum Range: 725 miles
Armament: None
Vultee Airfoil usage

The Downey plant begins in 1929, when part of what was the NASA/Reusable Space Systems space complex was a ranch owned and operated by James Hughan. Mr. E. M. Smith, a local industrialist, purchased a 72-acre tract from Hughan and converted it into an airport and built a 60,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Some seven years later, after a number of unsuccessful attempts by Smith's Emsco Aircraft Corporation and other tenants to build and market airplanes ranging from passenger craft to a folding-wing creation that would fit in a garage, the facility was taken over by a young aircraft designer and entrepreneur named Gerard "Jerry" Vultee, and Downey was on its way. By 1938, the Vultee Aviation Manufacturing Company has 1,500 employees and was producing planes for several countries.
An era was ending and another was beginning that would change forever the face of the aircraft industry. Even the visionary Vultee, who had been killed with his wife in a plane crash in 1938, could not have foreseen the colorful and history-making future awaiting his unpretentious little plant.
Vultee Aircraft later merged with Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, a combination that would become known as Convair. At its plants in San Diego and Downey during World War II, Consolidated Vultee produced thousands of planes for the American War effort.
To support this unprecedented production at Downey, the Army Air Corps and Vultee greatly expanded the plant in the early 1940s. As the war wound down, so did Downey.
In 1945, after the signing of the armistice with Germany and with Japan, the doors to the plant began closing, ostensibly for the last time.


        Photo courtesy Frank Mormillo

The VULTEE - NASA site in Downey - Time line:
1929-1936 Early aircraft production. 1929-1932 EMSCO Aircraft Corporation. 1932-1933 Champion Aircraft Corporation,
Curtis Manufacturing Company. 1933 Security National Aircraft Corporation. 1933-1936 Baker Oil Tolls Company.
1936-1941 The Vultee Aircraft Company. 1942-1948 Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation (Convair). 1948-1953
North American Aviation. 1953-1961 U.S. Air Force Plant 16 (Navaho) North American Rockwell. 1961-1972
and Skylab. 1972-1999 The Space Shuttle Orbiter Program Rockwell International Boeing North American
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