A BT-9 Story

by
Fred Carl Gardner

Fred Carl Gardner at Randolph Field - Fall of 1942

"The picture of the airplanes on the ramp at Randolph Field are BT-9s. I flew them a few times at Randolph in the Spring of 1943 when I was going through instructor training there. However, most of my training there was in BT-13s. The BT-9 was a forerunner of the AT-6. It had a 450 HP engine And a fixed landing gear. By 1943, it was an obsolete trainer and was soon superceded by the BT-13.  The AT-6 had a 650 HP Engine and a retractable landing gear. I flew the "6" at Malden AFB every working day for five years."  

Fred C. Gardner


THIS IS A STORY ABOUT  FLYING THE NORTH AMERICAN BT-9, CIRCA MAY 1, 1943 AT RANDOLPH FIELD, TEXAS. ANOTHER STUDENT FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR WAS IN THE BACK SEAT. HE WAS THE "ACTING INSTRUCTOR"; I WAS THE "ACTING STUDENT." THE SIMULATED INSTRUCTIONAL FLIGHT WAS UNEVENTFUL UNTIL WE GOT ON THE 45 DEGREE ENTRY LEG. AT THAT TIME, WHITE SMOKE BEGAN POURING OUT OF THE EXHAUST STACK. THEREUPON, MISTER "ACTING INSTRUCTOR" YELLED TO MISTER "ACTING STUDENT," "YOU GOT IT!!!"

WE WERE APPROACHING THE POINT OF ENTRY ONTO THE "DOWNWIND LEG," WHEN I SUDDENLY BECAME "PILOT-IN-COMMAND" FOR "REAL." I QUICKLY EVALUATED THE OPTIONS:

(1) CONTINUE ON AND ENTER THE DOWNWIND AND FLY THE NORMAL PATTERN WITH WHITE SMOKE TRAILING SEVERAL HUNDRED FEET BEHIND;

(2) BAIL-OUT AND LEAVE THE ACTING INSTRUCTOR TO HANDLE THE SITUATION AS BEST HE COULD,

(3) MAKE A QUICK 180 DEGREE TURN AWAY FROM RANDOLPH AND LAND ON A FARMER'S FIELD, OR

(4) MAKE A QUICK TURN ONTO A BASE LEG AND LAND DOWNWIND AGAINST TRAFFIC.

I EXERCISED MY ASTUTE JUDGMENT ACQUIRED IN MY TOTAL 250 HOURS OF ARMY AIR CORPS FLIGHT TRAINING, AND SELECTED OPTION NO. 4. I MADE QUICK TURNS ONTO BASE AND FINAL AND SUDDENLY REALIZED I HAD "A HELL UF A TAILWIND."

(IT WAS NOON HOUR AT RANDOLPH AND ALL THE BT-9S WERE COMING IN. IN 1942, RANDOLPH HAD NO RUNWAYS. WE LANDED ON LARGE GRASS-COVERED FIELDS, WEST AND EAST OF THE BUILDING AREA. WE JUST LANDED ANYWHERE IT  WAS "CLEAR," ON THE GRASS.)  

RETURNING TO THE "ACTING STUDENT'S" SITUATION: HERE I WAS ON A FINAL APPROACH, DOWNWIND, AGAINST THE TRAFFIC OF LITERALLY "A FLOCK" OF BT-9S AND COMING IN "HEAD-ON" TO ME, FOR THEIR FINAL LANDINGS AT THE NOON-HOUR. I MANAGED TO "THREAD" MY WAY THROUGH THAT MASS OF ANTIQUE "FLYING JUNK" AND  TOUCHED-DOWN AT ABOUT 120 MPH. THE SMOKE WAS STILL POURING OUT THE EXHAUST. I NEVER DID CALL THE TOWER (DIDN'T HAVE TIME) AND I NEVER "HEARD A PEEP" OUT OF THEM. SO, I JUST TAXIED UP ON THE HARD-SURFACED RAMP, SHUT-DOWN THE ENGINE, AND SET THE PARKING BRAKES. THE "ACTING INSTRUCTOR" AND I CLIMBED OUT, WALKED TO THE PLUSH RANDOLPH DINING HALL, AND HAD LUNCH. BEFORE WE PARTED, HE SAID, FACEICOUSLY, THANKS FOR SAVING MY LIFE, FRED." FOR SOME REASON, I NEVER SAW HIM AGAIN. ALSO, I NEVER DID KNOW WHAT CAUSED ALL THAT WHITE SMOKE TO POUR OUT THE EXAUST STACK OF THAT BT-9.

END OF STORY, "OLDE FRED KROWE"

© 1998, Fred Carl Gardner, All rights reserved.


Other stories by Fred Carl Gardner:

A SHAVE-TAIL PILOT'S FIRST FORCED LANDING

A FORCED LANDING IN THE ALLEGHENIES

A YEAR IN THE B-29 “SUPERFORTRESS”  


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