Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First


When an airplane skeleton was recently unearthed at the old Castronics facility on the east side of Kimball, many individuals speculated on how it came to be buried there.

The plane, considered a Vultee BT-13 Valiant, was built and used in the second phase of pilot training during World War II. After World War II, all of those planes were sold as surplus for a few hundred dollars. In 1951 the BT-13 sold for $700.

The mid-training plane required the student pilot to master the two-way radio and operate landing flaps. A crank and cable system worked the flaps, and there was no retractable land gear.

Ed Nelson, our local expert on airplanes, confirmed that the plane was a Consolidated Vultee BT-13.

"A basic trainer used after primary training was completed," Nelson said, "I think it was powered by a 450 Pratt and Whitney radial engine. The aircraft was nicknamed the Vultee Vibrator. The engine and prop noise was loud!"

Nelson said he remembered that "Bill Novotny had one that he flew in this area, and I remember him buzzing me back in the late '50s while I was farming. Probably was going to fly over my father's airport at the ranch."

Rumors swirled about the airplane. Some thought perhaps the airplane had been on a train, and the train had derailed, and was buried alongside the railroad tracks.

Believing it was sold after the end of World War II, a search of derailments, including years 1958, 1960, 1964, 1967 and 1968 east of Kimball, made no mention of airplanes as freight.

After finally connecting with Paul Whiting of Clean Harbors, Inc., he received information from former Castronics executive Perry Van New Kirk. Van New Kirk left Castronics in 2014 and remembered hearing that the guy that replaced him purchased an airplane and was going to make some sort of bar ornament or put it in his den.

The plane sat in the Castronics yard for about two years, and Van New Kirk speculated that the aircraft was buried when the yard was cleaned up.

And so the mystery of Kimball's Vultee BT-13 is somewhat resolved.

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