Stearman N2S-3 Kaydet

One of America’s best known biplanes, the Stearman Kaydet was built in greater quantities than any other known American or European biplane. The prototype Stearman was tested by both the Army and the Navy as early as 1934, and by the time the last production model was completed in February 1945, more than 10,000 had been built. Officially named the Boeing Model 75, the plane was (and still is) persistently known as the “Stearman” by many who flew them, in recognition of its original manufacturer. It was called the “PT” by the Army, “N2S” by the Navy and “Kaydet” by Canadian forces.

Virtually every American pilot during World War II, both Navy and Army Air Force, went through flight training in a Stearman. Built as a private venture by the Stearman Aircraft Company of Wichita (bought by Boeing in 1934), this two-seat biplane was of mixed construction. The wings were of wood with fabric covering while the fuselage had a tough, welded steel framework, also fabric covered. Either a Lycoming R-680 (PT-13) or Continental R-670 (PT-17) engine powered most models, at a top speed of 124 mph with a 505-mile range. An engine shortage in 1940-41 led to the installation of 225-hp Jacobs R-755 engines on some 150 airframes, and the new designation PT-18.

The plane was easy to fly, and relatively forgiving of new pilots. It gained a reputation as a rugged airplane and a good teacher. Students sat in the front seat and the instructor in the back, each communicating via a gosport tube – a simple sound cone and tube system. The Stearman’s tricky ground handling characteristics gained it the nickname “Yellow Peril.”

The Kaydet’s second career began right after World War II when thousands were sold on the surplus market for a few hundred dollars apiece. The continuing popularity of this trainer is made evident by the fact that 3,190 Kaydets were still on the civil aeronautics register in 1969.

The Museum’s aircraft was manufactured by the Stearman Aircraft Division of Boeing Airplane Company, Wichita, Kansas in 1943. This aircraft is painted in standard Navy yellow and blue colors. It was purchased in flyable condition by the Museum from William Rennie in 1979.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

Subscribe to our E-Newsletter