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, June 29, 2012

What Happens To Old Airplanes

     As big/fast airplanes become obsolete, they are typically just parked somewhere.  The lucky ones get a second life like the last DC-7 produced which is being turned into a restaurant in Florida. It was built in 1956 and retired in 2006 after flying 33,000 hours. After 50 years of service, it has earned the rest(aurant), I guess.
     One of the best-known “boneyards” of retired aircraft is at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Ariz. Having lived in Tucson, albeit decades ago, I can vouch for the “Wow” factor of seeing acres of military and civilian aircraft – including helicopters - just sitting there in the Sonoran desert heat. It’s the dry air and dense desert sand that makes storing old aircraft in the Southwest so practical.  Besides military aircraft, Davis-Monthan also stores aircraft for other federal agencies, including more than 10 of NASA’s aerospace vehicles.  They even have the “control car”of a non-rigid Navy airship that was operated in the late 1950s (see the June 15th blog for more about the Navy’s airship program.)
     Other airports/air bases that store older aircraft are in California, Nevada and Texas 
     Some of the aircraft at Davis-Monthan are so well preserved that it seems like they could be in queue for take off in just a matter of days. Others are missing parts, which just makes them look even more derelict. 
A T-33 Shooting Star in front of a B-47 Stratojet bide their time at Davis-Monthan AFB
     The USAF’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group is charged with looking after more than 4,000 aircraft.  AMARG does restoration - actually making airplanes fly again - and parts reclamation besides its storage and disposal responsibilities. I wonder what they would have thought about attempting the restoration of the Squadron’s P-51C after it crashed in 2004?   
The late Gerry Beck looks over the Squadron's Mustang after it was trucked to his company, Tri-State Aviation in 2004 after crashing at an air show in May of that year.
      It is quite amazing that a group of volunteers raised the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to rebuild it while at the same time, many of those same volunteers spent dozens of weekends at the restoration company, Tri-State Aviation, in North Dakota riveting, stringing miles of wiring, sanding, etc.  
      In 2009, when the restored and flying Mustang was introduced to the public at EAA AirVenture, it won the Phoenix Award. 
A recent photo of the Mustang, taken when it made its historic visit to Tuskegee this spring.
      The next AirVenture will be held July 23-29, just a few weeks from now.  The Tuskegee Airmen will be honored twice during that time – on Wednesday, the 25th as part of “Greatest Generation In The Air Day” and on Friday, the 27th, as part of “Salute To Veterans Day.”  The Squadron's RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and the Mustang will both be there for the entire event. (By the way, if you go to the AirVenture website, guess whose Mustang is the featured aircraft for the July 25th event list?)

Hello, Angola!
The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and the Mustang will be at the Tri-State Airport Balloon Fest in Angola, Indiana on July 7-8.   

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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