The Consolidated Vultee BT-13/BT-15/SNV family of Basic Trainers first entered service in 1940, and was finally retired in the late 1960’s. The Houston Wing aircraft is a BT-13A; about 7,000 of this model were built. It is estimated that only about 40 remain in flying condition today. The Houston Wing BT-13 spent 30 years as a public attraction on top of a Utah welding shop before being rescued and returned to flight status.
A standard BT-13A is equipped a 450 HP Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 radial engine which drives a fixed-pitch propeller (the Houston Wing’s BT-13A has a variable-pitch prop). The landing gear is not retractable, and is not equipped with fairings. Due to the large number of BT-13s produced, Pratt & Whitney was unable to supply enough engines to equip the full production. The BT-15 is the same basic aircraft as a BT-13, but is equipped with a 450 HP Wright R-975-1 radial engine.
Although the ‘official’ name of the BT-13 is the “Valiant”, it is commonly referred to as the “Vultee Vibrator”. The origin of the “Vibrator” nickname is unclear, with several different stories being credited:
When approaching a stall, the airplane shudders or vibrates noticeably
During more “adventurous” maneuvers, the canopy rattles or vibrates
The powerful radial engine and fixed-pitch prop caused all the windows on the base to vibrate whenever a BT-13 took off
One Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 radial piston engine rated at 450 hp for take-off and 420 hp at 1,500 ft
Internal fuel 120 US gal
Wingspan 42 ft 0 in
Length 28 ft 10 in
Height 11 ft 6 in
Operational weights : Empty 3,375 lb; maximum take-off 4,496 lb
Maximum level speed ‘clean’ 156 kt (180 mph) at optimum altitude; normal cruise 117 kt (135 mph)
Maximum range 630 nm (725 miles)
Service ceiling 21,650 ft (6600 m)