A historic BT-15 Army trainer plane used at the Bainbridge Air Base during World War II returned to Bainbridge on Friday morning, August 22. Pictured, County Commissioner Frank Loeffler prepares to take a flight with pilot Tom Smith of Punta Gorda, FL. Smith was planning on being in Bainbridge all day and some local scouts and ROTC cadets were scheduled to come check out the plane and perhaps take to the skies.
This exact plane was first delivered to the Bainbridge Army Air Base, where the Decatur County Airport is now, on August 19, 1942. The 1942 aircraft delivery documents identifies the location of the delivery as “Lynn, Bainbridge, GA,” which relates to the historic name for the area of Decatur County, known as Lynn Station. A historic World War II hangar was recently renovated to appear as it had in the 1940s and dedicated on April 5, 2014. There are “Lynn Station” historic markers placed near the hangar, which is next to the modern airport terminal.
In the early days of World War II, the Army Air Corps / Army Air Force used BT-13 and BT-15 trainer planes in Bainbridge. These aircraft were produced by Vultee Aircraft Inc., in California. A total of 10,390 BT-13 and BT-15 planes, which share the same airframe but have different engines, were manufactured between 1939 and 1943. Vultee produced 1,693 BT-15s like the one Tom Smith owns, which used a Wright engine as their powerplant.
According to Decatur County officials, the Decatur County Industrial Air Park is the only place where there is a World War II airfield that is still active with a a World War II hangar still being used for aircraft storage, and has hosted an original World War II BT-15 trainer that originally called Bainbridge home.
This very significant historic event was made possible by the generousity of Mr. Tom Smith, owner and pilot of the WWII BT-15. His passion for aviation history made for a very special day that relates to our local history, and a very special day for those of us who were able to participate.