CAF Airbase Georgia Confirming Tuskegee Airmen and Possible WASP Connections

WWII-era Tuskegee Army Airfield PT-19A to be restored – May have WASP connection

Photo by John Willhoff
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

The Commemorative Air Force’s Airbase Georgia in Peachtree City, Georgia will soon restore their Fairchild PT-19A Cornell trainer 42-83511 (N5215Z). As part of the restoration effort, the airframe will be re-covered and painted to resemble, as closely as possible, it’s appearance upon delivery to the U.S. Army Air Forces during 1943. Late last year, a detailed research effort at the U.S. Air Force archives (maintained at Maxwell AFB near Montgomery, Alabama) confirmed that this aircraft was assigned to Tuskegee Army Air Field in November, 1943, greatly adding to the airframe’s historical significance.

Airbase Georgia’s PT-19A Cornell. This aircraft’s construction is relatively elementary for the day; the fabric-covered steel tube fuselage is mated to wooden wings and tail surfaces clad in plywood. (photo by Moreno Aguiari)

More than 8,000 PT-19s and associated variants were constructed for the military during World War II. The aircraft were assigned to training bases throughout the United States and Canada; approximately one hundred examples remain airworthy today. This aircraft has been assigned to Airbase Georgia since 2006; at some point it received modifications which included a canopy for weather protection (much like the aircraft’s later sibling, the PT-26). The restoration project should take around nine months, during which time Airbase Georgia personnel will collaborate with education partners and other CAF units in support of community outreach.

Interestingly, as a result of additional research, Airbase Georgia also recently learned that a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) likely ferried this PT-19A from Fairchild’s factory in Hagerstown, Maryland to Atlanta, and from there to its ultimate destination at Tuskegee Army Airfield.

Photo by Rod Reilly

Given the date of this delivery in November 1943, it is quite possible that a member of WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) delivered this PT-19 primary trainer aircraft to Tuskegee,” said Sarah Byrn Rickman, author of 12 WAFS/WASP books. “At that time, approximately 80 women pilots were stationed with the 2nd Ferrying Group, New Castle Army Air Base in Wilmington, Delaware. The WAFS (Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron) was recruited specifically to ferry these badly needed PT-19s from the Fairchild Aircraft factory in Hagerstown, Maryland to Army Air Force’s training bases in the South. Hopefully, we will find the military flight records that will tell us for sure.

CAF Airbase Georgia volunteers have a track record of restoring rare vintage aircraft to award-winning condition. Past accomplishments include a rare Douglas SBD dive-bomber, Bell P-63 Kingcobra, and North American LT-6 Mosquito. The group is currently restoring a Boeing N-2S Kaydet biplane dedicated to Rosie the Riveter and will soon receive a P-47 Thunderbolt for restoration.

The mission of the Commemorative Air Force is to Educate, Inspire, and Honor. Our group restores World War II aircraft to fly them as a tribute to America and her veterans,” said Airbase Georgia Leader Joel Perkins. “Our members take immense pride in our restorations with the goal to help inspire the next generation of pilots, mechanics, and citizens.

Once the project is completed, the PT-19A will rejoin CAF Airbase Georgia’s fleet of vintage aircraft and participate in aviation and education events at the World War II flying museum, and throughout Georgia and neighboring states.

The Ranger L-440 engine which typically powers the PT-19A.


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