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National Air Force Museum Acquires Tuskegee Airmen Trainer

Stearman Boeing PT-17 Biplane Display to Debut Spring 2024

Located on Dayton, Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is the world’s oldest and largest military aviation museum. The institution curates upwards of 360 aircraft and missiles, and draws some one-million visitors annually.

The museum’s collection was further broadened recently by the acquisition of a Stearman Boeing PT-17 Kaydet biplane—a WWII-Era military trainer in which the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF), U.S. Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force trained pilots throughout the early 20th Century. Though over 10,626 such machines were built between 1934 and 1945, the specimen secured by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is extraordinary insomuch as it is one of only two extant aircraft in which Tuskegee Airmen trained.

The Museum took possession of the pedigreed PT-17 during a ceremonial transfer at Joint Base Andrews on the 75th anniversary of the racial integration of the U.S. armed forces.

In 1941 the U.S. Army Air Corps announced the formation of the first-ever black combat unit, the 99th Pursuit (later Fighter) Squadron. The entirety of black U.S. pilot cadets were educated at Tuskegee, Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), and underwent flight-training at one of five Tuskegee-area airfields: Griel Field, Kennedy Field, Moton Field, Shorter Field, and the Tuskegee Army Air Fields.

In addition to being the first black flying squadron, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was the first black squadron to deploy overseas—to North Africa in April 1943, and later to Sicily and the Apennine Peninsula (Italy) beyond.

National Museum of the United States Air Force director David Tillotson III stated: “This aircraft is a valuable piece of our American aviation and military history. Adding this to our collection gives us the ability to tell the broader story of the impact and bravery that Tuskegee Airmen had during World War II, and the precedent they set for future generations.”

The PT-17 is expected to be displayed in the museum’s WWII Gallery in the spring of 2024.



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