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, July 29, 2011

AirVenture Adventures

     There was one thing to be said about the CAF Red Tail Squadron's rare P-51C Mustang's two restorations - even those who couldn't see the work being done on the airplane had a pretty good idea what the end product would look like.  As you know, I posted photos of the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit here last week but, like so many at the Squadron, I really had no idea what it would look like up close and personal.  After seeing it at AirVenture Oshkosh 2011, I'd have to say it's a hit!  Unless you knew it was a road-ready semi-trailer, the inside theater with the long curved screen, cushioned floors and walls, seating for 30 and air conditioning would never give it away.
     Terry and Jeanette Hollis are the driving team for the exhibit and it was their job to set it up the first time at AirVenture and they'll repeat the process at all future venues. It's kind of like a "transformer" toy - things get unhooked and slid in and pulled out and hooked up again in an entirely different configuration. Here's what the back of the traveling exhibit looks like when the extensions are out and the theater is set up.

     Here's the whole exhibit area as seen from the ConocoPhillips Plaza on Sunday, before they started to move aircraft onto the Plaza.  The Mustang is to the left - it was so great to have it right next to the exhibit so visitors can make the connection between the airplane and the traveling exhibit - our two educational tools.

     Mustang volunteer/mechanic Steve Kaminsen (standing) and Crew Chief John Beyl (on the ground) polished the Mustang after its flight from the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show the previous weekend.  I'm not sure I'm allowed to share which over-the-counter product they use to get her so shiny and slick that the bugs don't stick so I'll remain mum.  
     Entry to the exhibit is free, but a mini store was set up to sell merchandise.  Here's part of the team that worked to get the product sales area set up and working.  Like our web store, all proceeds from air show merchandise sales support the educational mission.  
From left:  CAF Red Tail Squadron Scheduling Manager Marvona Welsh (from Indiana), Squadron Marketing Director LaVone Kay (from Minnesota), and volunteer/artist Pati O'Neal (from Hawaii!).

     On Tuesday, July 26th, Tuskegee Airmen USAF Colonels (ret.) Charles E. McGee and James Warren stopped by the Squadron's exhibit area and spent time talking to people and signing autographs.  Here they are by the CAF Red Tail  Squadron's Mustang "Tuskegee Airmen."

     Later in the afternoon, Col. McGee went to the huge Ford tent across the Plaza from our exhibit to do a "meet-and-greet" and sign autographs.  By the time 2:00 rolled around, there was quite a line waiting to shake his hand and talk to him for a minute.  The line never got shorter as  people continually arrived to see Col. McGee.  Ford exhibit personnel finally had to create an artificial "end of the line" at 3:00.

      Always gracious, Col. McGee particularly enjoys saying a few words to kids.  Here he signs autographs for (from right) brothers Wyatt, Collin and Nate.  I don't know what he said to them, but when the boys stepped away from the table, they had big smiles on their faces.
Seated to Col. McGee's right is Brian R. Smith, president of the National Museum of the Tuskegee Airmen in Detroit where Ford is based.   CAF Red Tail Squadron Coordinator Doug Rozendaal was also at the autograph table.

     There were other lines at AirVenture besides the one at the Ford tent waiting for Col McGee.   The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit was at the south edge of the ConocoPhillips Plaza and two of the aircraft sharing our neck of the woods were a Navy Sea Stallion helicopter and a Navy Orion plane.   The line for the Sea Stallion kept moving because visitors could enter at the rear and exit on the right.  The line for the Orion moved more slowly because visitors had to climb up to see the inside.   Big plane!

     Speaking of big planes, the CAF's B-29 "FiFi" flew in as scheduled at 2:30 on Tuesday afternoon.  She caused quite a stir on the ground as she passed overhead and the AirVenture people decided to park her at the main entrance to the ConocoPhillips Plaza.  This picture, taken from our exhibit area, shows some of the many aircraft and parts of aircraft we could see on the Plaza.  "FiFi's" tail is the one with the big "A" on it - pretty impressive.  She has quite a story - click here to read a recap written for AirVenture.

     The AirVenture people also did a nice story on the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit.  Click here to read it. 
      I was only able to stay at AirVenture for three days, but it was a phenomenal experience to see so many people interested in aviation come together to enjoy airplanes, air shows and fresh air.  AirVenture Oshkosh 2012 is July 23-29.    Put it on your calendar now and try and get there if you can.

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

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Done (Part II) - Better Pictures Now Available

Yesterday morning's blog provided some information about the CAF Red Tail Squadron's RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit.  Yesterday afternoon brought actual photos of the actual rig to the inbox so wanted to share what the real deal looks like.  And now, a tour:

1. Outside view straight on.  This view would get anyone's attention on the road!

2. Outside view at angle with AC unit prominently featured (gonna need it at Oshkosh!).

3. CORRECTION! After actually seeing the rig, I realize that this is the same view as #2 but with the side of the rig being pushed INTO it and the floor and ceiling of the theater being pulled out.  The vertical outside of the theater - including  doors! - will be affixed later.  It's like a huge puzzle - quite magical when you think about it.

4. The "bump-out" that expands the theater.  Also a little glimpse into the electronics compartment which runs the whole show.

5. The inside of the theater with the big curved screen and practical seating.  The artist's concept I saw showed plush seats but telescoping benches make more sense.  There are two sets of benches.

6. This shot really gives a sense of what the flying segment of the movie will look like.  That's the Red Tail Squadron's P-51C Mustang in the middle.

If you're anywhere near AirVenture Oshkosh next week, we hope you'll come by, say "hi" and stay for the show.   If you can't make AirVenture,  be sure to check the "News and Events" page of our website regularly to see the calendar which shows where the Mustang and the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit are going to be.  If it's close to you, we hope to be able to show you this new and unique educational tool on wheels.

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's Done!

The new CAF Red Tail Squadron RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is ready to head out  from St. Louis to Oshkosh, Wisconsin where it will be introduced during AirVenture Oshkosh 2011 which runs from July 25th through the 31st.  I'm waiting on "official" pictures but, thanks to MaxHaynes, there are a couple taken in the building where the rig was being outfitted.  I'm particularly anxious to see the inside where the 170-degree movie screen and comfy chairs are located.  Sketches are good, but the real deal will be great!

     The movie that will be shown on that curved screen is called "RISE ABOVE."  It has been described as an "experiential documentary" because of the subject matter and filming techniques that were used.  I understand that the Mustang flight segment is really something.  I'll let you know.
     There are two versions of the movie - short (about 10 minutes) for air show audiences and long (30 minutes) for schools and youth groups.  Adam White, the filmmaker, has put a page about the movie on his website. 
      Adam used actor Michael Dorn again for the narration. (Mr. Dorn's vocal talents were also featured in White's PBS documentary "Red Tail Reborn.")  Mr. Dorn is probably best known for his role as the Klingon who became Starfleet officer Commander Worf in the TV Star Trek franchises.  In his private life, he is an aviation enthusiast and aircraft owner.  Adam shared this great picture taken at one of the recording sessions.  

 From left,  Producer Kara Martinelli, CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader Brad Lang, the actor Michael Dorn, and filmmaker Adam White.

     I leave Sunday morning to drive over to Oshkosh with CAF Red Tail Squadron Marketing Director LaVone Kay.  We'll be getting our exhibit area organized that afternoon and more and more Squadron volunteers will be arriving..  I've been to Oshkosh once before, but only for a day (my Dad went every year for many years and took hundreds of pictures).  Only a few of the Squadron"regulars" have seen the traveling exhibit so we're all anxious to take that first tour.  I'll be blogging and tweeting about the experiences we have at OSH.  If you're going to attend, we sure hope you'll stop by and see us at the ConocoPhillips Plaza..

The Stearman biplane "Spirit of Tuskegee" will also be at Oshkosh (see July 8 blog).   Minnesota native USAF pilot Matt Quy, who restored the biplane, made a stop in the Cities to put the airplane on display at the 90th anniversary celebration of the Minnesota Air National Guard.   Here's a great story about the plane as shown on local NBC affiliate TV station KARE11 on July 15.

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Website!!

     It is with a big grin (and a sense of relief...) that the CAF Red Tail Squadron officially announces that the new website launched over the weekend.   We invite you to check it out at  Feel free to post comments and/or suggestions here on the blog or on our Facebook page
     Have a great week (and if you're in the Midwest, under the "heat dome" that brought us ridiculously high temps and dewpoints over the weekend and will continue through the week - be careful out there!).  Those of us who will be working in the Squadron's exhibit on the ConocoPhillips Plaza at the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh next week are crossing our fingers that this heat will break by then.

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stearman Biplane "The Spirit of Tuskegee"

 [MY APOLOGIES - this was supposed to post on Friday, July 8th.] 
     Air Force pilot and Minnesota native Matt Quy was introduced to Stearman biplanes at an early age.  Local Twin Cities pilot Chuck Doyle had a 450 hp Stearman and used to fly over the Quy home after an afternoon of skywriting or just flying for fun.  That gave Matt the bug to have a Stearman of his own at a very young age.
     Fast forward about a decade and a half.  Matt was an instructor pilot working out of South St. Paul's Fleming Field.  His base was in the hangar right next to the Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.  Matt watched the first restoration of the Red Tail Squadron's (then known as the "Red Tail Project") P-51C Mustang and got to meet Lee Archer and other Tuskegee Airmen when they came to town to see the airplane's progress and speak to schools and civic groups.  "You couldn't help but be impressed with those gentlemen," Matt said.  "Their history is so inspiring and they sure knew how to fly."
     Right after Matt finished Air Force pilot training and his wife, Tina, graduated from college, they happened upon a badly damaged Stearman - on eBay of all places!  He said, "We were just getting started in our careers and the timing was terrible, but I'd always wanted one.  We talked to Chuck Doyle's son and he said something that all airplane owners either know or find out - 'you'll never be able to afford one but do it anyway!'"
     The wrecked Stearman was in Phoenix and the Quys were in Houston.  Matt had a friend check the biplane out in person and after getting the thumbs up, Matt and Tina bought it,  They arranged to have it trucked on a flatbed to Houston where Matt was stationed.  Upon its arrival, an examination of  the paperwork led the Quys to discover the biplane had been used as a trainer by Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. Matt said, "I was very excited to finally have a Stearman - even if it was in pieces - but to have it be a part of history made it even better.
     Matt, Tina, and other dedicated biplane fans took three years to restore the Stearman which took to the skies again in 2008.  They named it "Spirit of Tuskegee" and Matt has been flying it in the western United States for three years.  He's made a few forays east as well, appearing at the Great Minnesota Air Show in St. Cloud last year.  Here's a picture of the biplane and the CAF Red Tail Squadron's P-51C Mustang taken while Matt was here.

                                                                                          photo courtesy Max Haynes
     Matt and Tina wanted to not only preserve the biplane but use it to educate and motivate youth.  A couple of years ago, the biplane and the Quys' educational efforts came to the attention of a curator for the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum.  Matt was approached to see if he'd be willing to donate the Stearman to the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture which is scheduled to open in 2015.  The Smithsonian offered is final cross-country trip with "The Spirit of Tuskegee" as he flies it from Sacramento, California to the Smithsonian in Washington DC.  On the way, he'll be stopping at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, the Wings Of The North Air Expo in Minnesota and AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  The last weekend in July he'll bring the biplane back to Moton Field at Tuskegee, Alabama and then fly northeast to the Tuskegee Airmen Convention in Maryland.  It's after that convention that Matt will present his Stearman to the Smithsonian.
     So what does Matt plan to do with his "new" Stearman when its restoration is complete? He is going to paint it like a POW/MIA flag and use it as flying memorial to veterans. He and Tina hope to have it flying next year.  He got the biplane bug bad as a kid and has never looked back - only up.

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

Monday, July 4, 2011


     Man, this Twitter thing may only have 140 characters available to get the message out there, but the program itself has about 140 quirks.  Last Friday when I was opening the new account with the "Squadron" designation, I asked Twitter to recognize "cafredtailsquadron" and it indicated it would only recognize "cafredtailsquad" due to field size constraints.  Now our page calls itself "cafredtail" with "cafredtailsquadron" in figurative parentheses next to it!
     Obviously, this works adequately, but I sure would love to know how the Twitter application removed "squad" on its own!  Bottom line: here's the definitive way to find us on Twitter.!/cafredtail. 
      Our Twitter feed is updated at least once each weekday morning and more often when something of interest needs to be shared.  We hope you'll find us, follow us, and tell your friends.

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

Friday, July 1, 2011

Good To Go

     It appears that the blog address has been successfully changed (I know, I know - a big "duh" if you're reading this!).  Twitter was a bit more interesting but the new account is now also working.  If you'd like to follow us and get weekday tweets, please search for "cafredtailsquad."  I couldn't add the "ron" to "squad" as there was a user name length constraint but you get the drift.
     I am walking proof that writers can be very tech challenged!  I think logically in the English language;  tech people think logically in code language. 
     Next week's blog will be about Matt Quy's trip from California to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum where he will turn over the "keys" to a Stearman bi-plane that he and a team restored to honor the Tuskegee Airmen.  The pilot cadets at Tuskegee learned the basics of flight in Stearmans.
     Hope everyone has a wonderful (and safe) long holiday weekend.

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