CAF Restores Classic PT-19A Trainer Used by Tuskegee Airmen

It takes a village to restore an airplane.

A piece of history returned to the skies at Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field (KFFC) in Peachtree City, Georgia, on January 18 when a Fairchild PT-19A used by the Tuskegee Airmen took flight after a two-year restoration project.

This aircraft model once filled the skies as cadets trained for World War II. Today, they are exceedingly rare—especially the airworthy ones. The older an aircraft, the more attention must be paid to its care, and the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) recognizes this.

“This historic aircraft, originally used to train Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, had flown for Commemorative Air Force Airbase Georgia for many years, but the leadership team decided it was time to take it apart and inspect, restore, and repaint it,” said Airbase leader Joel Perkins. “Reskinning the aircraft with fabric and applying an authentic paint scheme took a lot of time, but our members were committed to re-creating a piece of aviation history.”

The restoration began with a complete disassembly and inspection of all the components. According to the CAF, the horizontal stabilizer and some supporting wood structures were replaced, along with all the canopy glass. The aircraft was then recovered with polyester fabric, primed with a UV protectant, and painted with Ranthane silver polyurethane.

The project took about two years, said Steve Forsyth, the group’s public information officer, in providing the numerical details for the restoration, noting that several CAF members helped with the fabric prep and painting. According to crew chief Tom Thompson, “there were six to eight regular team members plus assistance from the machine shop, amounting to an estimated 4,300 hours of work.”

After the restored aircraft underwent a new weight-and-balance calculation and final inspection, retired Air Force major general George Harrison, an CAF Airbase Georgia pilot, was cleared to conduct a ground engine test, followed by a test flight.

About the PT-19

The PT-19 was developed for the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940 as it became clear another conflict was on the horizon. Thousands of pilots were trained in the airplane, which had a reputation for being easy to maintain and fly. The aircraft has a fabric-covered, welded-steel tube fuselage and plywood-sheathed center section, outer wing panels and tail assembly.

This PT-19A, serial number 42-83511, rolled off the assembly line on November 1, 1943. CAF Airbase Georgia acquired the aircraft in 2006. It had been modified with an enclosed cockpit to allow it to fly in inclement weather, so it looked more like the PT-26. The aircraft made its rounds in the airshow and fly-in circuits in the Southeast, often providing rides to the public as well as hundreds of photo ops for aviation enthusiasts who can’t get enough of the cantilever, low-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear and a tailwheel, along with its two-place, tandem seating and open cockpit.

About CAF Airbase Georgia 

CAF Airbase Georgia, located just outside Atlanta, was founded in 1987. The airbase boasts a flying museum consisting of six vintage military aircraft, including a P-51 Mustang, FG-1D Corsair, SBD Dauntless, P-63A Kingcobra, PT-19 Cornell, and T-34 Mentor. The airbase is a founding partner of the Georgia World War II Heritage Trail and relies on the work of more that 500 volunteers and tax-deductible donations to conduct its continuing mission. CAF officials say it’s likely the aircraft will be available for rides later this year.

More information can be found at the CAF Airbase Georgia website


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