Monday, August 25, 2014

Just Plane Cool--The Vultee Vibrator

One of the reasons that I went to Thunder Over Michigan this year was because I hoped to see a Vultee Valiant there. In this, I was not disappointed.
A Valiant is another plane on my list of possibles. They aren't cheap, but they're cheaper to buy and operate than the T-6 Texan, and currently there are two for sale that I know of that I might be able to swing.
The BT-13 was the basic trainer that most World War Two pilots learned on after transitioning from the Stearman primary trainers.
Although it resembles the North American T-6, the Valiant has a few key differences, mainly a smaller 450hp engine and fixed landing gear as opposed to the 600hp engine and retractable gear of the T-6. It also suffers from a wet-wing fuel storage system that's famous for leaking, especially now that these aircraft are seventy+ years old. But this was what the pre-war military wanted, because aircraft like the T-6 or Vultee's comparable V-54 were considered "too expensive" in the late 1930's. Once the war cam,e along, the T-6 suddenly found a new lease on life, but the Valiaint, already in production, continued to be built and bought as fast as they could come off the line.
Over 11,500 of these were built and used, and sadly, all but a handful were eventally declared surplus and sold off after the war for a few hundred dollars each. Most were purchased for their engines, which crop-dusters were mating to surplus Stearmans. The BT-13 fuselages were then cut up for scrap or abandoned. About a hundred survive today and maybe half of that number still fly today.
This aircraft was nicknaamed the "Vultee Vibrator", most likely because of it's tendency to shake violently as it approached stall speed.
The owner of this one was gracious enough to talk to me about it at length, and he even let me try the cockpit out to make sure that I can work the rudders and brakes. (And I can.)
He's owned this one for about ten years and loves it. It's fully aerobatic, but again, it's seventy+ years old so it doesn't get wrung out any more.

I admit that I'm tempted, even though it'll mean selling a lot of stuff and getting used to eating ramen noodles regularly again for a while. And since the O-2A that I was mulling has since been sold to another owner...

6 comments:

  1. Consider safety. The safest pilot is one who flies frequently. A lot more hours for your dollar in a 172.

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  2. I'm sorry, but there's just something fundamentally wrong with a macho man like you buying a Vibrator.

    :D

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    Replies
    1. Peter,

      I am so secure in my masculinity that I could buy a PINK Vibrator.

      Delete
  3. When I was at NAS Saufley, I think in 1976, there was an abandoned auxiliary field nearby . We drove out there one afternoon. There were some old hangers being used as storage for AT-6 Texans, and parts. The buildings were crammed with the aircraft, all in various stages of disrepair. Saufley is gone now, covered by low income housing subsidized by the feds. I don't know what happened to all the aircraft and parts at the other field. I was told (on a scuttlebutt basis) that all of them were tied up in a disputed estate.

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