In the early 1930s, a small aircraft manufacturer, the Stearman Aircraft Corporation, proposed its own design for a competition announced by the US Army Air Corps to build a pilot training aircraft. It was a biplane of classic construction, which conceptually differed little from many other two-seaters of that era.
After extensive testing, the Aviation Corps recognized the Stearman design as the best in comparison with the other tenders, and as early as 1936, the first aircraft, designated PT-13 (Primary Trainer, type 13) was delivered to the US Army. Furthermore, the aircraft attracted interest elsewhere in the military, since the US Navy also needed a primary training aircraft. In 1939, Stearman Aircraft acquired the status of a division of the well-known Boeing company with a separate production facility in Wichita, Kansas.
The Second World War became a turning point in the story of the PT-13. Thousands and thousands of new pilots were needed by the Army and Navy, and consequently large quantities of this simple aircraft were needed for their initial training. The Boeing Corporation received more and more orders for the training biplane, of which the total number of aircraft ordered had already exceeded several thousand, and Canada was also interested in the airplane; as a British Crown dominion, it was sending pilots to Britain and its territories in large numbers.
In 1941, the aircraft was modernized, which primarily concerned the modernization of the power plant, this time on the same design of the glider installed a Continental R-670-5 engine with a capacity of 220 hp. This modification is called RT-17. Despite the advent of a newer machine, production of the RT-13 continued. In total, about 700 RT-13 units of various modifications were built, as well as its versions for naval aviation in modifications N2S-2 and N2S-5, of which almost one and a half thousand units were built. The last of these aircraft came off the assembly line in 1944, when Boeing’s facilities at the Wichita plant were completely reoriented to the production of the B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber.
After the war, the RT-13 as well as the RT-17 were sold in large quantities to third countries as well as to numerous private owners. A small number of aircraft have been converted to agricultural use as sprayers of chemicals against pests on farm plantations, but many aviation connoisseurs even today are familiar with this aircraft as a member of numerous aerobatic groups.