Our Airplane

Our aircraft is a 1944 AT-19, USAAF 43-44046, built by the Stinson division of the Consolidated Vultee Corporation as a military advanced trainer. This airplane was one of approximately 500 AT-19s provided to the United Kingdom through the Lend-Lease program. The British operated them as the Reliant I for training, communications, and transportation. The Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm designated our aircraft FB605 and its paint scheme honors our British allies who flew it. After the war, the remaining AT-19s were returned to the US. Ours was transformed to a civilian type and had a busy history of owners until CAF purchased it in 1985.

Lend-Lease

Total lend-lease aid pie chart
All For One; One For All: The Story of Lend-Lease, Office of Lend-Lease Administration, Washington, D.C.

During the period between the beginning of World War II and the United States entering the war, the US was officially neutral. However, given the many early victories by the Axis powers, it became increasingly clear that our allies faced an uncertain future at best and defeat at worst if the US did not find a way to support them.

The Lend-Lease program supplied food, oil, and military equipment to our allies (the lending) in return for land leases for US military bases in those countries and their territories (the leasing). This provision of essential supplies kept those fighting the Axis in both Europe and Asia in the fight.

AT-19 / Reliant

AT-19 / Reliant I FK924
Canadian Forces, expired Crown copyright

One of the many pieces of equipment provided through Lend-Lease was the AT-19, a military advanced trainer manufactured by the Stinson division of the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation, aka Convair. The AT-19 was a more modern and powerful variant of the Stinson Reliant, which dated back to 1933. 478 were provided to the United Kingdom and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm operated it as the Reliant I for training, communications, and transportation purposes.

Although a machine designed for military use, the AT-19 still retains a hint of its 1930s art deco origins. The large cabin with fixed ladder steps, tall landing gear with tailwheel, and large radial engine harken back to the golden age of aviation. The AT-19 (and civilian models starting with the SR-7) are easy to spot with their distinctive gull wing.

The AT-19 is a rugged and stable aircraft, but certainly not fast or efficient. Average cruise speed is about 105 knots, depending on altitude and engine setting. The Lycoming R-680 engine’s nine cylinders consume 14-18 gallons of fuel per hour in cruise. Not uncommon for a radial engine, the manual allows for oil consumption as high as nearly 3-4 quarts per hour (though we see much less than that!).

43-44046 / FB605 / N60634

Wartime life

USAAF 43-44046 record card
USAAF 43-44046 record card

Our aircraft was built in Wayne, Michigan and delivered to the US Army on May 15, 1944. It was assigned Army Air Forces serial number 43-44046. It was flown to Newark, New Jersey, disassembled, and crated less than a week later and shipped from the US on June 7.

The Fleet Air Arm assigned the aircraft the identifier FB605 and sent it to Royal Navy Aircraft Repair Yard Coimbatore, in modern-day India. Unfortunately, no records of our aircraft’s squadron assignments or missions are known to exist. It is believed to have flown in India and the surrounding area.

As with most Lend-Lease equipment, all 352 remaining Reliants were returned to the US after the war. FB605 was reassigned US Navy bureau number 11608 and stored at Chambers Field, NAS Norfolk, Virginia. The War Assets Administration, charged with disposing of surplus government material after the war, set sale prices of $1500, $2000, or $2500, depending on condition.

Civilian life

N60634 in early civilian paint scheme
N60634 in early civilian paint scheme

Because the AT-19 was only built as a military aircraft, it was never approved as a civil aircraft model. Consolidated Vultee filed with the Civil Aeronautics Administration (the predecessor of the FAA) for a civilian version, the V-77. BuNo 11608 was purchased in 1946 for $2000 by Ralph Bordley, Jack King, and William Goodberlet of Baltimore, Maryland. Later in 1946, they had the aircraft “civilianized” as serial number 77-333, registered as NC60634, and thoroughly repaired and updated. The CAA later dropped the second letter in aircraft registrations and our aircraft has been N60634 ever since.

  • In May 1951, the partners sold N60634 for $1400 to Dolan Flying Service of Baltimore, which shortly after installed a banner tow release.
  • In November 1953, it was sold to Fort Cumberland Flyers of Cumberland, Maryland for “$1.00 and other considerations” that were left unstated! The aircraft fabric was replaced in 1954.
  • In April 1955, it was sold to James Frazier of Napoleon, Michigan. He didn’t keep it long, selling to Paul Fox and H. Tucker of Jackson, Michigan in March 1956.
  • One year later, they sold the airplane to William Wallhead of Elyria, Ohio. He upgraded the radio, recovered the wings with Irish linen in 1961, upgraded the radio to a combination navigation-communication unit in 1964, and recovered the rest of the airplane in 1967.
  • Larry Gearheart of Warren, Ohio bought the airplane in April 1969, then William Bopp of Marks, Mississippi in August 1971. Bopp upgraded the radio and installed wheel pants in 1971, then a prop spinner and navigation/strobe lights in 1974. A registration application was filed by James Rodgers of Grove City, Pennsylvania in May 1972, but the aircraft is not shown sold by Bopp until April 1974.
  • That sale was to Vernon Rudolph of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. An emergency locator transmitter was installed in 1974.
  • Thomas Grey of Sonoma, California bought the airplane in June 1976 and recovered the airplane with Stits Poly-Fiber in 1983.
  • CAF bought the airplane in February 1985. Since then, changes have been made to update the avionics to conform to new safety and surveillance rules and the fabric was replaced again.