An Unarmed Warplane: Boeing Stearman Model 75
June 26, 2018
During a visit to the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor, visitors come across a plane that was pivotal during the 1930s and 1940s, in the time leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and throughout the Second World War. Unlike the other models on display, this plane doesn’t appear to be ready for combat. There are no machine gun mounts and no bomb bays, and with very good reason: The Boeing Stearman Model 75 wasn’t built for fighting. You wouldn’t find a Stearman on an attack run against Japanese-controlled territory, nor would you see a squadron of them being prepared for battle aboard an aircraft carrier. And yet, here it stands among other warplanes that caused significant damage to the Japanese forces. So, where does the Stearman Model 75, also known as the Kaydet, fit in along the World War II timeline?
Stearman Model 75: Built for Training
To find the answer, consider how young would-be pilots grew into well-trained men capable of outmaneuvering enemy aircraft no matter what they were flying. This expertise came as a product of hours of training, and to train these new pilots, the Boeing Stearman Model 75 was utilized.
The Stearman Biplane Trainer was introduced in 1934. It retained the look and functionality of a conventional biplane but was designed with tandem cockpits to allow for the trainee pilot and instructor to fly at the same time. To the casual eye, it didn’t seem any different from the average biplane.
Training the Pilots of the World
During the course of World War II, the United States Army Air Forces, the US Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force were the primary operators of the Kaydet as a trainer craft for pilots. Over the years, other nations that made use of the Stearman Model 75 include Argentina, Brazil, China, Cuba, Greece, Iran, Israel, Paraguay, the Philippines, and Venezuela.
In total, there were 12 main variants built, with more than 15 sub-variants, including the PT-13 for the Army Air Forces and the N2S for the Navy. At the Pacific Aviation Museum, visitors see an N2S-3 that future president George H. W. Bush flew during his training in 1942 at Naval Air Station Minneapolis.
Postwar Civilian Life
After the war, the Boeing Stearman Model 75 was widely used as a crop duster, sport plane, and for use in air shows. Today, there are still many air-worthy Kaydets around the world. The United States is home to more than 15 surviving models, including the one at the Pacific Aviation Museum.