This Recruit did its duty…….the Ryan PT-22


Bright colours, a distinctive sound – it has to be a Ryan PT-22 Recruit! The Ryan Aeronautical Corporation was always seeking to re-invent itself and ‘build a better mousetrap’ or airplane, in their case. In the 1930s it looked like they had come up with a winner at last, the Ryan Sport Trainer (or ST). This was a handsome, all-metal monoplane sports/trainer, with an elegant spatted undercarriage and external wire bracing. It was powered by a Menasco B4 four-cylinder inline engine of 95hp (although later variants had Menasco units putting out up to 165hp).  As well as sales to flying clubs and private pilots in the USA, military sales to China and the Netherlands East Indies Army and NEI Navy helped the company’s bottom line.

When the Second World War broke out, the US Army found that it was woefully short of training aircraft. Reliability problems with the Menasco engines made Ryan look for a small displacement radial engine to make the ST more attractive to the US Army Air Corps. The company redesigned the ST, removing the spats, to give better access to the complicated undercarriage linkage, and fitting a five-cylinder radial, the Kinner R-440 of 125hp, and subsequently an R-5 of 160hp.  The Army took over 1,000 of these as the PT-16 / PT-21 / PT-22 / PT-22A /PT-22C; the US Navy also ordered 100, as the NR-1. Due to the distinctive sound of the low-revving Kinner radial, which sounds like an overloaded washing machine on ‘spin’ at times, the Ryan family of aircraft were known as ‘Maytag Messerschmitts’ (a name sometimes also applied to the Piper L-4, but with much less veracity, in my opinion).

As you can imagine, with such a durable airframe, there have been a fair number of survivors. Two of these on the British Register, G-BTBH and G-BYPY (as “854” and “001”), are shown here at the Great Vintage Flying Weekend at the Cotswold Airport, Kemble in 2009. They were flown as a pair during the lunchtime airshow segment. “854” had previously been on the US Register as N854 and N50993 – its former military identity was ’41-20854′. The radial now fitted to “854” is a modernized Gladden Products Kinner R-56 of 160hp.

Interestingly, both aircraft are finished with ‘natural metal’ fuselages and a range of bright Army-Navy Aeronautical (ANA) Colors; the wings, tailplane and vertical fin are in ANA506 Orange Yellow, the rudder is ANA511 Insignia White, divided by seven equally-spaced stripes of ANA509 Insignia Red, with a wider, vertical stripe of ANA605 Insignia Blue at the leading edge of the rudder, parallel to the sternpost. We can say with some certainty that this paint scheme is intended to represent US aircraft flying before 12th May 1942, because it was on that date that orders were issued to remove ALL red centers from the national insignia, due to some unfortunate ‘friendly fire’ incidents involving attacks on US aircraft where pilots mistook their own country’s markings for the Japanese ‘Hinomaru’ .

The PT-22 is a great contrast to the DH 82a Tiger Moth, and perhaps rather less manoeuvrable, but I enjoy the sight, and particularly, the sound of this Recruit!

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3 comments on “This Recruit did its duty…….the Ryan PT-22”

  1. […] were not aimed at a ship, but at a dam, and were dropped in fresh water, not into the sea!… This Recruit did its duty…….the Ryan PT-22 by shortfinals | Bright colours, a distinctive sound – it has to be a Ryan PT-22 Recruit! The […]

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  2. Thanks for the insight into the sound of the Recruit’s engine … it brings the subject to life. I always have had the impression that this design had a curious mix of modern blended with retro with the low yet braced wing.

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    • Thank you! The PT-22 spunds quite amazing as it runs past at an airshow; you can COUNT the cylinders on the Kinner firing! Rather like a Harley with wings…………

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