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Caldwell man flies a piece of WW II history over Idaho skies

Louis Pratt bought his Vultee BT-13 A plane back in 1981. He then restored it using parts across the country (Courtesy: Louis Pratt).

The Caldwell Airport is a library of stories. Tales of each aircraft: their experiences, places traveled and missions are behind each space. But opening this garage, is uncovering a story nearly lost to history.

"This is a WWII basic trainer," said Louis Pratt. "It's a Vultee BT-13 A used to train pilots in World War II."

Louis Pratt is the proud over of the historical plane; a title he shares with only dozens across the world.

"You don't see them very often for sure," said Pratt.

The Vultee BT is a relic of a different era. An era where hundreds of brave teens and young adults left their homes, without the assurance of making it back. Many who had never even seen a plane, now learning to fly dangerous combat missions.

An era where hundreds more banned together for the war effort. Building BT 13 trainers from metal, so potential pilots could use them. Cadets graduated to the Vultee BT's in flight school, after mastering the first level aircraft.

But despite Pratt's adoration, he's the first to admit the Vultee BT wasn't exactly popular among the cadets.

"I've talked to a lot of WW II pilots that flew these," said Pratt.

He says flying the plane in the air can present it's own set of challenges.

"It's a sweetheart of an airplane to fly, but there are two things that happen in every flight that make it a beast: You have to take off and you have to land." he said.

Unpopular or not, the planes did their jobs. The war was over, and so was the Vultee BT's glory days.

People began to scrap their parts for crop dusters, as they wasted away in fields. And as the decades passed--many faded away into history.

Pratt's plane wasn't in the best condition back in 1981. But after he bought it, he worked tirelessly on restoring it to it's splendor.

The Western Museum of Flight reports there's less than 50 that are airworthy in the world. And Pratt says he's the only flier in Idaho.

"My hobby time over a period of four years yielded this airplane," he said.

Pratt says he sacrificed weekends, even holidays to fix it up. But all of that he says, is an honor.

Everytime he climbs inside, or sits in these seats, he's reminded of those who sat there before him--the ones who embodied valor beyond their years.


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