Vultee BT-13A Valiant #41-21788 (converted post-war to civilian registry N62979) crashed in the Mazatzal Wilderness near Payson, Arizona on November 23, 1951

SUMMARY: This Vultee BT-13 Valiant was a World War II training aircraft that was saved from being scrapped at the end of the war when the USAAF sold some of their surplus aircraft to civilians. Many of these aircraft were bought by farmers and modified to serve as early crop-dusting planes. The pilot of this plane, Alexander Brown, had been a WWII vet and worked for a cloud-seeding company after the war (cloud seeding is an attempt to increase the amount of rain or snow that falls by releasing substances into the clouds).

Brown departed Payson on November 23rd, 1951, for the rugged Mazatzal Mountains Wilderness Area. He was last seen flying towards a  snow storm when he disappeared. Due to the rugged terrain and heavy brush, his plane was not found until February 6, 1952, when the Civil Air Patrol was searching for another missing plane. The plane impacted at the top of a rock outcropping and wreckage fell onto the steep mountainside below. The dispersal of wreckage suggests that the aircraft hit in a near vertical path, rather than horizontal flight, which may indicate the pilot suffered vertigo while in a cloud bank and accidentally stalled or spun the aircraft.

Of the 400 crash sites I have been to, this plane is definitely one of the more difficult ones to reach. This long hike has over 4,000 feet in elevation change each direction, and has that challenge compounded with steep slopes, loose rocks and lots of manzanita.

To get to the crash, one must drop down 1,000 feet to the creek below, hike a few miles, then climb up a steep slope over 3,000 feet to reach the top of the backside of the far peak in the right side of the photo. Standing in the creek and looking up at the sheer mountain face, knowing we must climb over 3,000 vertical feet. I should mention we still only have a general idea within a few miles as to where the plane is. After hours of climbing, we spotted a glimpse of aluminum near the top of the mountain and made our way up. It turned out to be the impact point. Inspection plates for access inside the wing.


Standing at the impact point where part of the wing is wrapped around a rock and looking down the steep face to the tail section below. One of the BT-13's ailerons. The debris-covered slope. One of the bent and twisted wings.


Standing with a broken section of a propeller blade. A fuel selector valve or battery switch. Oxygen regulator faceplate. Radio avionics.


The 1942 dated Vultee Aircraft manufacturer's data plate, and the Army Air Corps acceptance data plate. The tail wheel. A main landing gear strut. Standing on the debris-laden slope. The tail section is in the distance.


A crushed landing gear wheel. A parachute harness and ripcord. The throttle assembly. The 'Vultee' rudder pedal.

A data plate on the tail section. The tail section. Standing next to the tail section. The old civilian registration number is still faintly visible.

Two crushed engine cylinders. The aircraft compass.