The Fairchild PT-19 “Cornell” was a primary trainer developed for the U.S. Army Air Force. Traditionally, primary training was done using biplanes like the Stearman PT-17 “Kaydet” or Navy N3N. However, later it was felt that the transition from the very stable and forgiving biplanes to the more challenging monoplane basic and advanced trainers was too abrupt; the student would feel overconfident after mastering the biplane and have trouble adjusting to the later monoplanes. Therefore, the Army decided to introduce monoplane primary trainers like the PT-19. With a higher wing loading and stall speed, it was more similar to the next step in the training, the BT-13.
Following its evaluation, the Army ordered 270 of the aircraft, with two open cockpits, as the PT-19 “Cornell,” powered by a Ranger L-440 six-cylinder, inverted, air-cooled inline engine of 175 horsepower. This was followed by larger orders, and Fairchild upgraded the aircraft with a 200 HP Ranger engine, to create the PT-19A.
To meet the increasing demand, the PT-19A was also built by the Aeronca and St. Louis aircraft companies, with a total of more than 3,700 built. A shortage of Ranger engines led to the introduction of the PT-23, which was the same PT-19 airframe equipped with a 220 HP Continental R-670 radial engine. Over 7,700 Cornells were manufactured for the AAF, with almost 4,500 of them PT-19s. Additional Cornells were produced for Canada, Norway, Brazil, Ecuador and Chile.
In 1942, an enclosed-cockpit version of the Ranger-equipped PT-19 designated the PT-26 was developed for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Just over 1,000 PT-26 and PT-26A aircraft were built, with some being produced in Canada by the Fleet Aircraft company.