Profile - The CAF Red Tail Project

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South St. Paul, MN, United States
The mission of the Commemorative Air Force's (CAF) Red Tail Squadron is to preserve and share the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military pilots. The Airmen served with distinction during WWII (and beyond). They overcame racism on the ground to fight fascism in the air, fighting for a country that turned a blind eye to policies and a large population that discriminated against these men and their families because of the color of their skin. The CAF Red Tail Squadron restored and flies a red-tailed P-51C Mustang such as the Airmen flew during WWII. The airplane appears at air shows in North America and at each stop her crew tells the story of the Airmen and how through persistence and courage they overcame huge obstacles in order to serve in the military. In 2011, the CAF Red Tail Squadron developed a traveling exhibit called "RISE ABOVE" to educate people - especially young people - about the Airmen and how they demonstrated the importance of setting goals and overcoming obstacles in order to succeed.

Friday, February 4, 2011

On Aiming High

     The first of the CAF Red Tail Project’s six tenets of the RISE ABOVE educational program is: Aim High.  The Tuskegee Airmen certainly did that as they worked to prove “the brass” wrong: black men were smart enough and courageous enough to learn to fly and fight for America during the Second World War.  Through months and months of rigorous flight training and then in battle, the Airmen continued to aim high – literally and figuratively.
     It takes courage to set a lofty goal and work to meet it.  Aviation and aerospace are industries that often require human courage to move toward their programs’ goals and suffer the setbacks when things don’t work out or, worse, go horribly wrong.   .
     This past Tuesday marked the end of another anniversary of seven days in the American space program that Americans would like to forget, yet make an effort to remember in order to honor 17 courageous people who paid the ultimate price.  

  • On January 26 (1986), the space shuttle Challenger blew up less than two minutes after launch, killing seven astronauts
  • On January 27 (1967), the three crew members of Apollo 1  burned to death in their capsule during launch pad tests
  • On February 1 (2003), the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry; seven astronauts lost their lives.
      Each of these catastrophes was heavily analyzed to determine their cause(s). Based on that analysis, changes were made to future programs and missions to try and avoid another disaster.  Ambient air temperature is now a launch consideration as a result of the Challenger explosion.  Major changes – including allowing the escape hatch to be opened from the inside  – were made to the Apollo program’s space capsule after the Apollo 1 disaster. The Apollo program suffered no more disasters and even brought home a trio of astronauts that “had a problem” when their moon mission suffered an explosion in space (Apollo 13). And, although pieces of thermal insulation still fall off of the space shuttles’ external tanks at launch, the crews now take space walks to check a shuttle’s exterior and make repairs to the heat-resistant tiles before reentry.
     The next shuttle launch is set for February 24.  The lessons learned from previous successful launches as well Challenger and Columbia will have been factored into the decision-making process and if launch conditions are not optimal, the launch will be postponed. 
     When Discovery does launch, it will be hauling components to the international space station.  Talk about aiming high…

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