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, December 30, 2011

A Brief 2011 Retrospective

     As the end of the year approaches, we humans have a tendency to look back at what happened to us and to our world during the previous 12 months.  My personal favorites are the news media’s pictorials that graphically – and I mean that in the often literal sense as well as figuratively - tell the story of the year’s major events as well often providing snapshots of everyday life around the globe. 
     The CAF Red Tail Squadron had quite a year and we have the pictures to prove it - I’ll provide some links at the end of the column if you’d like to look at them.  However, right now I’d like to review the Squadron’s major 2012 events and give some fun stats.
     In February, we began working on a complete revamp of the website –
     In April, the TexasFlying Legends Museum stepped up to sponsor the development of the Squadron’s new traveling exhibit. The goal was to have it ready by EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI at the end of July.
     We officially changed our name from the “Red Tail Project” to the “CAF Red Tail Squadron” in June. 
     On July 25th, the new RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit was formally introduced to the public at AirVenture.  The curved IMAX-type screen and the “Rise Above” movie were big hits as was the fact that the exhibit was free.
     Including that July introduction and going through the middle of November, the Traveling Exhibit appeared at 16 venues, including 13 air shows.  Total attendance at those shows was more than 1.4 million. The red-tailed P-51C Mustang “Tuskegee Airmen” also appeared at most of the air shows with the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and often flew during the air shows’ performance segments.  At many venues, the Mustang gave rides – that back-seat stick experience is a winner!
     What really pleases the Squadron team is that the Traveling Exhibit also did exactly what we planned for it to do – it went off-tarmac prior to the air show weekends and visited 14 school districts and one youth group site. In fact there were only two weeks during that time that the Traveling Exhibit was not set up at a school or youth group prior to the air show so young people could experience it.  3,984 youngsters registered to see the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit from August through mid-November. Each one of them received a free dog tag to help them remember the day they were introduced to the story and life lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen.
     In December, the Squadron was presented with the Special Achievement Award at the ICAS (International Council of Air Shows) Convention in Las Vegas.  This award is given to a person or group that makes a significant contribution to the air show industry. A number of the team members were at the show and were thrilled to be able to receive this unexpected honor in person.
     Also in December, the Mustang's crew chief, John Beyl was featured in the Commemorative Air Force's online publication, Dispatch. He did a great job of talking about what it took to keep the 70-year-old war bird running and gave well-deserved kudos to the whole maintenance team.  Since the Squadron's entire "Red Tail" identity started with the restoration of the P-51C Mustang and the plan to make the airplane an educational tool, somehow it seemed fitting that our  year of new beginnings (website, name, traveling exhibit, award) ended with recognition of the team that works so hard to keep her flying.

     Now, about those pictures.  We have put a number of publicly accessible photo albums out on Picasa.  Just sign in and search for “caf red tail squadron”.  You’ll be taken right to the page with all of the albums – click and enjoy.
     Finally, we hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend with lots of fun, food (and football?).  Happy New Year!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit

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