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, September 14, 2012

Chanute Air Museum – Part 4: The Airplanes

    There are so many interesting exhibit areas at the Chanute Air Museum that it would be easy to run out of time before seeing the airplanes.   Try not to do that! This little museum has some great aircraft to look at and learn about. 
     The Museum is housed in the only remaining large hanger built at Chanute for training USAF aircraft technicians. 

      The exhibits that were introduced in last two blogs are on the street side of the hanger, in Grissom Hall.  The “airplane” part of the hanger is towards the back, past a room chock full of flight simulators.  The hangar has row upon row of vintage and modern airplanes in it plus four mock silos for training on the Minuteman missile in-ground silo system that was such an integral part of the Cold War era.  When you’re done inside, the outside tarmac awaits where you can see even more!
     Now I happen to think all airplanes are neat, but I have a particular affinity for those that were/are more dependent on pilot skill than electronics.  That includes WWI and II military aircraft and small private planes so that's what I scanned for first when I entered the hangar. 
    There are a lot of jets in the hangar, but some fun surprises for folks like me were tucked in as well.  A big one was the P-51H Mustang.  I didn't really realize that the Mustang letter series went all the way up to "H"!  It's a rare airplane - 555 were built and only 6 remain.  This one is #44-64265 which is recorded as having been built in March, 1945.  It started its journey at Pinecastle (FL) AAF, then was stationed at Chanute from 1946-48.  In 1949, it was dropped from USAF inventory.  The Massachusetts Air National Guard took it over in 1951 and had it for three years.  It ended up back at Chanute where it is in the very last stages of restoration by the museum staff and volunteers.
     Because aircraft technicians trained at Chanute, the museum exhibits a disassembled J-57 turbojet engine, which runs the entire length of a wall – talk about components!  There’s also a rocket motor and another complete jet engine. 
     Other “inside” airplanes include a B-25 (#44-30635) that they are raising money to restore.  A tape loop about that type of bomber plays on a screen inside the Plexiglas nose for added impact.  There are replicas of a Jenny, a Wright Flyer, and waaaaay up in the girders, a Chanute-Herring glider.  It was difficult to differentiate the glider profile from the mass of girders so I didn't attempt a picture.
The Jenny 

The Wright Flyer
     As mentioned, there are more airplanes to see outside. 

     It was fun for me to see two airplanes my Dad liked – or maybe he just liked their nicknames: the “Connie” and the “Gooney Bird.”   The museum’s Connie is an L1049 Super Constellation. 

The C-47 Skytrain – the Gooney Bird – was a workhorse military airplane that was used extensively in both theaters during WWII.  Post-war, it was notable as the type of aircraft that flew day and night during the first months of the Berlin Airlift (the C-54 took over later).
     My visit to the outside airplanes marked the end of my time at the Chanute Air Museum.  I don’t pretend to be an expert when it comes to small aviation museums, but the quality and depth of information and exhibits in this one made me anxious to check out others to see if they are equally as good.  I only had a couple of hours to spend there – because this was stop on my road trip from Minnesota to Florida – so when you go I’d recommend a.) allowing more time and b.) bringing a digital camera.  I’d have had a lot more pictures to share if I had picked my digital camera up off the hotel bed that morning!
     Next week, a change of pace.  See you then.
 For more info regarding the P-51H that the Chanute Air Museum is restoring, click here. 
 For more information about the complete stable of airplanes exhibited at the museum, click here.
Still in Minnesota...
   Today and tomorrow the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is still in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Hours are noon until 7 p.m. each day.  It is located at St. Cloud City Hall, 400-2nd Street South, 56301.  

Next week, it moves on to the Duluth Air Show.

Countdown to the election: 53 days

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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