Revell 1/72 Stearman 'Kaydet'

KIT #: H-649
PRICE: $1.00 or less when new (1965). Can generally be found.
DECALS: Normally one option
REVIEWER: Brian Baker
NOTES:  Old kit with infinite possibilities for experienced modelers.


The Stearman 75, as it was known at the factory, became one of the major primary trainers for the United States Army and Navy before the outbreak of World War II, and production continued until late in the war when the training programs were cut back.  The Army and Navy used a method by which trainee pilots began in either Stearman or Fairchild primary trainers at military fields, , or sometimes light civilian aircraft, such as Piper Cubs, Aeronca trainers, Taylorcrafts, or Luscombes operated by civilian contract schools. This was called the Civilian Pilot Training Program, and thousands of pilots were trained at these schools.

Once through the initial training period, pilots were trained by military instructors, and a washout rate of 40 percent was considered normal, with washouts becoming navigators, bombardiers, or other types of aircrew.  Student pilots learned basic flying skills, along with navigation and acrobatics (now known as aerobatics).  Those trainees that mastered the primary trainers graduated to basic training, where they did formation flying and navigation, using primarily the Vultee BT-13.  Students that survived this course moved on the advanced training, where they invariably flew the North American AT-6 or SNJ, and learned tactics, gunnery, instrument flying, and other skills required for combat.  Fighter pilots moved directly into obsolete fighter types, while multi-engine candidates went on to the Cessna AT-17, Curtiss AT-9, or Beechcraft AT-11 before going on to operational bomber or transport types. Since there were no two seat fighter trainers, the AT-6 and SNJ had to prepare the pilots so they could fly fighters with only a cockpit checkout and “Take her up, and don’t forget to lower the gear!”

The Stearman Company was established in California by Lloyd Stearman, , and produced some sophisticated mailplanes before eventually moving to Wichita, Kansas. The company was eventually taken over by Boeing, and Lloyd Stearman, the founder, was long gone when the prototype Stearman 70 first appeared in 1934, powered by a 210 hp. Lycoming  R-680 radial engine.  Tested by the Army and Navy, the nautical version was the first to be produced as NS-1, powered by Navy-supplied Wright J-5 engines.  The major production model, which was ordered in large numbers for both the Army and Navy, was the Model  75, which was produced in three major versions and five designations, differing primarily in engine installation. Army types included the PT-13 (Lycoming R-680), PT-17 (Continental R-670), PT-18 (Jacobs R-755), and PT-27 (Continental R-670)  The  300 PT-27’s were produced primarily for export to Canada, and  other models were produced and exported to   Argentina, Brazil,  Venezuela, the Philippines, and China. 

Postwar, when most of the Stearmans  were declared surplus, civilians bought them by the thousands, and while a few were used for joyriding and air show acrobatic work,  most eventually wound up in the hands of crop dusting operators after civilian owners discovered that they were very expensive  private owner types. Some operated with their original engines, especially in the East, but most eventually were equipped with the 450 hp. Pratt and Whitney R-985 engine, which gave much better performance and load carrying capacity. Scrapped and abandoned Vultee BT-13’s and Beech C-45’s were the major sources of these engines and other components.  At first, most were dusters dispensing dry chemicals, but later, as spraying equipment was developed, most applications were in liquid form.

 Many Stearmans were fitted with interchangeable dusting and spraying equipment, and it was not uncommon to see a specific airplane as a duster one day, and a sprayer the next.  In fact, the Stearmans  were primarily responsible for the dramatic growth of agricultural aviation in the U.S. after the war, as they were sold for very low prices,  and these types soldiered on until the fifties and sixties, when newer types such as the Piper Pawnee, Grumman Ag-Cat,   and the Snow S-2 began to  replace them.  Some were still in use in the nineties, although they were uneconomical compared to more modern types. Their lives were not over, however, as they have now taken on a third career, that of the “warbird”.  Stearman carcasses were painstakingly rebuilt into very valuable “war birds” in their original form, and usually flown in military markings. They can usually be seen at almost any fly-in throughout the country, as hundreds are still flying. 


First appearing in England in  1965, the kit was released in the USA in 1966, and later, in 1982, it was rereleased by Revell-Germany.  The kit depicts a Lycoming powered PT-13 or N2S-5, and to do any other version, you will need a new engine.  The rear portion of the radial engine from an old Hasegawa Zero might work quite well, provided the number of cylinders is correct.  The Lycoming engine had 9 cylinders and the collector ring in front,  (not too well presented in the kit), while the Continental and Jacobs had seven cylinders with rear exhausts. Consisting of 30 pieces cast in yellow, grey or white plastic, it is relative accurate in outline, although there are some problems that can be easily corrected by a serious modeler.  Surface detail is somewhat overdone, especially the boiler plate rivets on the fuselage, and the prop is a little weak.  The landing gear is OK, but the wheels need replacement, although they are about the right size. 


A major problem is the lower wing, which was cast with too little dihedral, effectively none at all.  The actual airplane had several degrees of dihedral, and this can be accomplished by bending the wing upwards at the center section, or you could cut through at the wing roots and correct it that way. In any event, there must be dihedral, and this will cause another problem.  The cabane struts are too short, and with the wing at the proper angle, new struts will have to be constructed. Now comes another problem.  The “N” struts are symmetrical, and if used as they are, the upper wing will be mounted at a decided downward slant, which is, of course, incorrect. The top rear struts must be trimmed off somewhat to allow the wing to fit at the proper angle.  What this means is that the wings should be attached using the “N” struts first at the proper angle. Once these are in position, the gaps can be measured and new cabane struts can be created from strip plastic and  glued into position. This is not difficult, but it can be a touchy job.

The fuselage must be sanded down to remove the rivet detail, and some filler is required on the seams, expecially in the forward fuselage and the lower rear fuselage.  The kit has just about no interior, so I scratchbuilt mine from a sheet of very thin card, adding structural details taken from photos I had of an uncovered airframe. I used plastic rod, and the effects were OK.  I built up seats from thin card plastic, and used masking tape for seatbelts.  I printed some instrument panels from some I had on hand, and these looked pretty good once installed.  I also added rudder pedals, a stick,  a throttle quadrant, and some other stuff that showed up in the photos I had.  Somehow, it all fitted together, and I liked the result. I used by metal wire rigging system, and rigged each airplane in about half an hour. You shouldn’t be building biplanes if you don’t rig them—they just don’t look right.

 Alignment was not difficult, and the stabilizer-elevator units fit perfectly.  The tailwheel is a little weak, but overall, considering its age, it is not really a bad kit.  With new wheels, a scratchbuilt interior, trimmed wing struts, and some TLC, an accurate and presentable Stearman can be made by anyone with some modeling experience. And the conversion possibilities are limitless.  Trainers, armed floatplanes, crop sprayers, and fire bombers are only a few of the types that can be researched and modeled. Use your imagination.


 I modeled four different Stearmans, all of which are presented here. The first two were built recently, while the others were completed many years ago.  The Army model is a PT-13A based at Randolph Field, Texas, about 1940. It is in standard yellow-blue colors.  The Navy version is an N2S-2 at NAS Pensacola during early 1942. It is basically straight from the box, with no interior other than seat belts.  The colors are correct, but the documentation is suspect, as the Bureau Number is not that of an N2S-2.  I don’t know where the reference came from, but the model was built about 1977, and I must have had some information to work from.  However, the airplane is representative of N2S’s used by the Navy during this period.  The silver aircraft is a Navy N2S-5 used in Puerto Rico towards the end of the war as a mosquito duster. 

The Army had three PT-13B’s that fulfilled the same function, and when I track down their serials, I’ll do one of them. (One is illustrated by Ray Sweet in an old issue of “Dirty Plastic”, but I’m not sure of the serial, and neither was Ray. In fact, from the markings in his drawings, it might have been an N2S-5.)  These were converted from PT-13A’s in 1942, and if anyone can provide a serial number, I’d appreciate it.  The fourth airplane is a Stearman B75N1, c/n 75-7341, N56383, a sprayer, one of the last operated by Marsh Aviation at their strip just west of Goodyear Airport, the former Litchfield Park Naval Air Facility, near the Perryville Prison,  in 1976.  It has a PW R-985 engine from a Monogram F11C-2 kit, and a spray bar underneath the wings.  The front cockpit is covered over, and firewall forward it is entirely new. The spray bar and wind driven generator are scratch built. This was built about 1985, using as reference a set of color slides I made of the aircraft in 1976.  Marsh operated a lot of Stearmans and N3N’s after the war, mainly in the Phoenix area, and later graduated to converting Grumman S-2’s to turbine tankers at Falcon Field, in Mesa, AZ.


   I realize that Pavla in the Czech Republic has come out with a PT-13/PT-17 kit recently, and that it is probably a better kit, especially since it has both the Lycoming and Continental engines in addition to both metal and wood props. It also has some interior and better surface detail, but the kit retails for at least $20 to $25 USD when it is available, while the Revell kit seems to be available at any swap meet at quite reasonable prices. I bought up a bunch of them years ago, and will probably build every one. The Pavla kit is really not that much better than the old Revell kit to warrant the higher price, even with the resin parts and excellent decals. I’ll stick to the Revell kit. It’s a challenge.

Try this one.  It could become addicting.

Brian Baker

January 2010


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