by, Larry Johnson, SRA# 124
Years ago I bought a Stearman crop duster to restore. It was a typical worn out, damaged, corroded, paint encrusted sprayer. It was originally an USAAC PT-17 that was manufactured on 2-9-43. But there was one unique item I found on disassembling this plane. On the rear bulkhead behind the rear seat were three placards. The two on both corners were the standard nameplates from Boeing/Stearman for a PT-17 of this date.
They had some paint over spray on them but were still readable. But at the top of the bulkhead, not quite centered on the left was a small rectangular plate that was totally covered in multiple layers of paint and not readable. I removed the plate and stripped the paint off of it until I could read it. Low and behold it was a Boeing Kaydet placard. It was pretty corroded and it was in bad condition but enough of it was there to tell what it was. It is 2 1/8 inches wide by 1 3/16 inches tall.
I remembered an article in an old “SRA Outfit” about these plates and dug it out to find out about them. Jim Ardy (SRA 95) had made some duplicates of a Kaydet plate the he had gotten with a project that was among some original papers that accompanied his project (“number one” Stearman PT-17, c/n 75-001). Jim was no longer a member and I was unable to contact him to see if he still had any Kaydet plates available.
Some time past and one year at Galesburg I spotted a Kaydet plate on the instrument panel of a Stearman there. The aircraft happened to belong to Jack Davis. I didn’t know Jack at the time but contacted him about the plate. As it turns out, this was one of Jim Ardy’s duplicates and Jack was kind enough to lend one to me, he had a spare. I compared it to the original one I still have and it appeared very close to an exact match, although mine is really rough and the colors on mine are almost gone from the stripper I used.
Since I wanted to get some plates I had duplicates made from the one I borrowed from Jack. To be economical, I had to have a number of these made.
The origin of these plates is not known for sure. Jim’s research into the matter indicates that the plate was introduced when the government was promoting the use of “popular” names instead of the actual type numbers for general public reference to WW11 military aircraft, thus the name “Kaydet” was picked to refer to Boeing/Stearmans for the Army and Navy.
Jim said the plate was mounted directly below the ignition switch on the instrument panel in the rear cockpit only. Mine was clearly not there as mentioned above. Jack has his on the right hand side of the instrument panel because it didn’t seem to fit below the ignition switch. I put mine on the rear bulkhead in approximately the same position as the one I found, except I centered it. No one seems to know if the factory installed these plates or they were installed in the field.
I feel that these plates were probably installed at the different bases and were put in a location that suited the officers at the different bases, or maybe even the GI installing them.
I’d love to hear from anyone with additional information on these plates.
For anyone who would want any of these plates, I still have a few left that I would sell for $13.00 each. Larry Johnson, 3769 Deep Lake Boundary Road, Colville, WA 99114.