Star of the show -
Do you remember Cary Grant being chased through an open field by a bad guy piloting an airplane in the movie North by Northwest? The biplane was a Stearman. But in addition to being a movie star, the Stearman has become a star throughout the aviation world. Even today, it is one of the most sought after of the old biplanes. Virtually every pilot would like to fly a Stearman at some time, in part, because it is real "seat of the pants" flying...in slow motion. And it's fun!
*******Getting started -
Lloyd Stearman excelled in designing rugged, high endurance aircraft. After a few successes, he started the Stearman Aircraft Co. in 1927. Although the company was successful, it was underfunded and Lloyd left just a few years later. But he gave them one of his best aircraft designs...the aircraft that would evolve into the Stearman 73 and 75. Later nicknamed the "Kaydet".The Kaydet finds its niche'
In 1934 Boeing was forced to separate its airline (United) from its manufacturing operations making Boeing a separate business and shortly after the separation, Stearman Aircraft Co. became part of Boeing.
Photo reprinted from Boeing
With this new influx of cash the Kaydet would go on to become the primary trainer of the US Military during WWII. From 1934 until February 1945, the Stearman Aircraft Company, a division of the Boeing Aircraft Company, built a total of 8,428 model 75 airplanes in Wichita for the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy for use as primary trainers. During this time more American military pilots learned to fly in the Stearman primary trainers than any other airplane. Under the U.S. government's lend-lease program, the model 75's were also built and loaned for pilot training to the 13 other countries.
The U.S. Army's official designations for the Stearman model 75 were PT-13, PT-17, PT-18 and PT-27, while the U.S. Navy designated the model 75 as N2S-1, N2S-2, N2S-3, N2S-4 and N2S-5. The different military designations reflected different engines installed, (Lycoming, Continental and Jacobs), plus other minor installation changes.
At first glance, we would question why a seemingly obsolete biplane would suddenly become the aircraft of choice when it came to training pilots. The answer is in the design.
The Stearman fuselage is stressed for very high positive and negative G loads. Its landing gear is a one piece over built structure that can take hard landings with no damage and the tail wheel shock strut is heavier than that of the main gear on many other aircraft. Although it is a "tail dragger" the tail wheel is steerable up to 35°. The pilot sits in a position to "feel" what is happening with the aircraft. If a turn is uncoordinated, it is immediately obvious to the pilot and he or she can correct. The aircraft sports a radial engine and weighs 1936 lbs empty. (By comparison our Cessna 150 trainer weighs 1650 lbs fully loaded).