By Barbara A. Schmitz
Tim Trimble’s goal in bringing his PT-26 to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is twofold: to give credit to flight instructors and their role in World War II, and to honor a friend and former WWII pilot.
Tim flew his PT-26, designed by Fairchild Aviation Corp. and used as a trainer during WWII, into Oshkosh on Saturday, where it is parked in Warbirds. Being inexpensive, as well as simple to maintain and fly, the PT-26 lived up to its nickname, Cradle of Heroes.
“Unfortunately, the instructors during World War II were severely overlooked, and a lot of the guys who were instructors felt shorted,” said Tim, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “Everyone wanted to get in on the action, but there would be no aces that we rightfully celebrate without the instructors … or the young women in the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) who delivered the planes.”
About 13,000 airmen lost their lives training or ferrying.
Tim has dedicated the aircraft to Richard Boyd, one of about 400 WWII airmen who received both Royal Air Force and American wings.
Tim’s PT-26 was built as a lend lease funded aircraft and issued both Royal Air Force (RAF) and United States serial numbers. It was first used by No. 19 Elementary Flying Training School at Virden, Manitoba, and was part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Program.
After the war ended, many PT-26s ended up in barns across the U.S. His was found in Wisconsin in pieces. Tim said he purchased the PT-26 in 2014 and started restoration shortly after. Mark and Joe Denest of MD Aero did the rebuild, including wings made out of mahogany veneer. Mark’s PT-26 is parked next to Tim’s at AirVenture.
“This is an 80-year-old airplane, and I knew to do it right, it would have to be a ground-up restoration,” Tim said, noting it was almost a shame to put fabric over the beautiful mahogany veneer.
Then in 2015, Tim met Richard, now age 101, who had just moved to Lancaster to be closer to his daughter. The two struck up a conversation about Richard’s life. Richard had served in the Royal Air Force, flying the Avro Lancaster bomber and later transporting troops and supplies, and also trained British and American pilot cadets.
“I took him to lunch and brought him to my hangar, and it was like a kid in a candy store,” Tim said. Even though Richard was now legally blind, he could smell and touch things and it was easy to see he loved being around airplanes, he said.
In 2016, with the restoration nearly complete, Tim asked Richard if he could dedicate the airplane to him and share his experiences as an instructor. Richard agreed, if he could attend air shows with Tim.
“We’d go to air shows together, and even in heat like today’s, he’d sit by the plane and field questions,” Tim said. “The young people just loved it.”
A pilot since about 1987, Tim said he was always interested in WWII aircraft and attracted to the PT-26 because of its cost, maneuverability on the ground, and its flight handling.