BT-15 photo by Col. Harlan Short. Used with
permission of Commemorative Air Force, Dallas-Fort Worth Wing.
History: With retractable landing gear
and a powerful engine, the Vultee V-54 basic combat trainer was too lavish for the
cash-strapped United States Army Air Corps of 1938. So Vultee redesigned the aircraft and
made it less complicated. The first order for 300 new BT-13 Valiants
was placed in September of 1939, and it would become the most widely-used American
training aircraft of World War Two.
The Vultee BT-13 had a continuous canopy with its crew of two sitting in tandem behind
dual controls. It was also equipped with blind flying instruments to teach new pilots the
basics of flying at night or in foul weather. BT-13 students soon gave the airplane a
nickname which described its most memorable characteristic: Vultee Vibrator.
The only major variant of the BT-13 was the BT-13B,
which featured a revised electrical system. Because of the speed with which the BT-13s
were built, there was soon a shortage of Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engines. To
overcome the shortage and maintain production levels, the BT-15,
using a Wright Whirlwind engine, was then introduced. Two thousand BT-13s and BT-13Bs were
transferred to the US Navy, where they were designated the SNV-1
When production ceased in 1944, 11,537 Valiants had been produced. The Valiant was retired
at the end of the war, but over 100 of these aircraft are still registered in the United
States today, although it is believed that less than half are actively airworthy.
The Vultee Vibrator, The Bee
Engine: One 450-hp Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 Wasp Junior radial piston engine
Weight: Empty 3,375 lbs., Max
Takeoff 4,496 lbs.
Wing Span: 42ft. 0in.
Length: 28ft. 10in.
Height: 11ft. 6in.
Range: 725 miles
Number Built: 11,537
Number Still Airworthy: ~50
(Click for larger)
AeroWeb BT-13 Page
BT-13 Vultee History and Information Site
-- Discussion boards, photo galleries, and more.
CAF West Houston Squadron
USAF Museum BT-13
Valiant Echoes -- Michael Kennedy's unique BT-13 airshow act.
Vultee Express -- A pristine BT-13
available for airshows and for display.
'Wings of the
North' BT-15 project -- Detailed information and photos about a BT under
restoration in Chaska, Minnesota.
BT-13A Basic Trainer
Originally created by the U.S. Army Air Force Training
Command, this Basic Training Student Manual features the BT-13A
throughout, and describes all aspects of flight training circa 1944. It
puts you right in the cockpit of one of history’s great planes.
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All text and photos Copyright 2016 The Doublestar Group, unless otherwise noted.
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