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 27, 2012

A Four-Dot….

With the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and the Mustang at the 2012 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this week (and I’m not…), it’s been mighty quiet.  That makes it a good time for a four-dot edition of the blog.

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As a weather geek – and proud of it - I have been absolutely amazed at the color-coded newspaper weather maps over the past 10 days or so that reflect temps in the 80s, 90s and 100s from just east of San Francisco all the way to the East Coast.  In the Wall Street Journal this translates into three shades of pink. Perhaps someone should let them know that the term is “red hot” not “pink hot!” 

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The Minnesota Wing of the CAF has a great link on its website that is reproduced here. Their wonderful 1940’s era Hangar 3 at Fleming Field in South St. Paul, Minnesota was used as a backdrop for an Antiques Roadshow segment that aired in May.  It’s about the Disney studio’s role in the WWII propaganda effort.  You may recall that this blog talked about that in the April 13, 2012 edition.   The Antiques Roadshow segment is nice, but the April edition of the blog gets into more detail (in case you want to check it out, too.)

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After AirVenture Oshkosh, the Traveling Exhibit and Mustang are heading to Ypsilanti, Michigan for the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show.  We were there last year and they wanted us back again this year.  What a great way to start off the month of August!

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COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION DAYThree months and three days

See you next week!
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 20, 2012

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - Part 1

     This is the week before EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) AirVenture Oshkosh opens at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  Hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts will come from all over the U.S. and dozens of other countries to take in the sights during its seven-day run.  This year’s dates are July 23-29 so the fun starts Monday but over this weekend, aircraft of all sorts will be arriving.  Planes on display run the gamut from homebuilts to warbirds, military moderns to old biplanes.  If it flies, it is most likely going to be represented at AirVenture.
     My Dad and a couple of his flying buddies used to go to the EAA event almost every year, starting back when it was called the “Fly-In” and held in Rockford, Illinois. Sometimes they drove and sometimes they flew in Ken’s Mooney. No matter the mode of travel, that trip was a highlight of the year for him.  I have all of the family slides in boxes in the basement and I know that when I get around to viewing them all, I’ll find hundreds of airplane photos taken at that air show!
     The EAA gathering started small in 1953 in Milwaukee, but as it gained popularity and needed more space, the event moved to the larger venue in Rockford in 1959.  Ten years later, it moved to Oshkosh and has become the largest air show in the U.S.
     This year, the Tuskegee Airmen are going to be honored on two of the days.  On Wednesday, the 25th, they’ll be part of the “Greatest Generation In The Air” Day.  Two of the surviving Doolittle Raiders – Dick Cole and David Thatcher – are also scheduled to be honored that day.  Some Tuskegee Airmen who plan to attend that day are: Charles McKee, George Boyd, Bob Ashby, Alexander Jefferson, Washington Ross, Harold Brown and William Thompson.  During the week, Charles McGee and George Boyd will also be leading forums about the Airmen’s experiences.
     On Friday, the 27th, the Airmen will also be participating in the “Salute To Veterans” Day.  The Squadron’s P-51C Mustang, a P-17 Stearman bi-plane and a T-6 trainer will be exhibited together in Warbird Alley that afternoon so that attending Airmen (and everyone else) can see these three airplanes that meant so much to the Airmen's history together.
     The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is marking its first anniversary at this year’s AirVenture.  I was there for a few days last year when it was introduced and quickly became a “must-see” display.  Since then, more than 36,000 people have seen the “Rise Above” movie and heard the story of the Tuskegee Airmen’s accomplishments.
     The Mustang named Tuskegee Airmen is also marking an anniversary – it was introduced to AirVenture attendees in 2009 after a 5-year restoration.  This is one of my favorite pictures from that event – Tuskegee Airman Charles E. McGee shaking the hand of CAF Red Tail Squadron leader Brad Lang – the son of a Tuskegee Airman - after Brad landed the Mustang at AirVenture. 

     If you go, both the Traveling Exhibit and the Mustang will be parked on the east/south side of the Phillips 66 Plaza, a truly “happenin'” place.  Big machines that fly are constantly brought in and swapped out on that huge chunk of concrete during the run of AirVenture so you never know what you’re going to see, but you can bet it will be a treat to see up close.  Wear comfortable shoes, bring your sunscreen and your camera and plan to stop by and see us.
     If you can’t go to AirVenture this year but would like to download this year's poster - featuring (ahem…) the Squadron’s Mustang - click here, go to the bottom of the page and click the link you prefer.

Countdown to the election: 3 months, 17 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

Friday, July 13, 2012

The B-52

    Since the day I first saw one, the solid Boeing 747 has been an airplane that lifts my spirits simply by looking at it.  I don’t know exactly why I have that reaction, but I have a sneaking hunch that it just triggers my “that’s amazing” button to think that something that huge can fly.  Last weekend that button was triggered again when I saw a B-52 fly for the first time.
     When my son was at school at the University of North Dakota, we saw a couple of B-52s parked at the Grand Forks Air Force Base North Dakota.  Even from a distance they were impressively huge but, like a lot of big airplanes, they looked ungainly just sitting there.  It would be more than 20 years until I saw another one.
      Last Saturday, just for fun I worked at the Coke Zero 400 race at the Daytona International Speedway.  I was assigned to be at an information booth across the track from the main grandstand.  That area has a smaller grandstand called the “Super Stretch” but only a few of the suites were open; no tickets had been sold for the seats.  To say the area was quiet for most of the day was an understatement.  Fortunately, my booth was directly across the street from the airport and the B-52 was parked facing the booth.  It had been brought in to do a pre-race fly-by over the oval. So, between looking at that and watching airplanes take off and land on the E/W runway, I wasn’t bored.  The arrival of the Goodyear blimp was a big deal, too.
     Things started to get interesting when the B-52 fired up its engines.  After a long warm-up, it turned – in place – and headed out to the end of the runway where it would have to again turn in place in order to take off.  The local newspapers had noted that the airplane is so big (read “wide”) that it cannot use the ramps airplanes typically use to exit the runway.  It had to stay on the runway and do the turn in place thing before take off and after landing.
     I couldn’t watch it get in position for take off, but we sure could hear it.  Most activity stopped around the booth as people paused to see whatever was making all that racket take off.  She was well into her roll by the time we could see her and the lift off was very gradual – that is a LOT of weight to get off the ground.  But off she went, turning south over the Atlantic, ready to bide some time until she was scheduled to fly over just after the National Anthem was sung.
     The booth got busy just before the race, but I was aware that the Anthem had been sung so the airplane had to be close.  Another clue was that the blimp had moved out of the way! I had hoped the bomber would come back in from the east, but it approached from the west so I couldn’t see it. We were helping a young mother get situated because she was meeting her husband.  Her two young sons were in the SUV, hanging out of the open windows, watching their mom.  I walked over and told them to look towards the front of their car for a big airplane.  I don’t know what was more fun – watching the bomber appear after flying really, REALLY low and loud over the oval or watching the boys’ eyes get absolutely huge at the same sight.
     It landed after circling back to the airport and parked for the night, a job well done - leaving 115,000 people in the grandstand in awe of what they had just seen.
     To get an idea of how big that airplane is, this is a picture of a B-52 flying a little heritage flight with the CAF’s Minnesota Wing’s B-25 “Miss Mitchell” in Minot in 2009. The B-52 was introduced in 1960, just 20 years after the B-25 took its first flight – so much change in so little time.

New York, New York
     The Mustang and RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit are at the Geneseo (NY) Air Show – “The Greatest Show On Turf” – this weekend.  We’re hoping for cool, dry weather.


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 6, 2012

Civility and Elections

     Have you ever thought about how the title “Civil War” is an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp” or “authentic reproduction”?  There is nothing “civil” about war;  it is 100% uncivil.
     The young black men who would become known as the Tuskegee Airmen were first and foremost Americans who wanted to fight for their country during World War II.  That they wanted to do so in the air as pilots is what set them on their journey into legend. 
     While pursuing their goal, they were subjected to the incivility of racism and military segregationist policies.  They were called nasty names, told where (and where not) to sit-drink-eat-sleep, and were kept grouped together because of the color of their skin, something over which they had no control. Ironically, they were denied the many of the freedoms they wanted to fight to defend.  Barring bloodshed, it doesn’t get much more uncivil than that.
      One of the basics of the American way of life that the Tuskegee Airmen and so many other American service personnel have fought for since the American Revolution is our right to elect a president every four years. Americans have done that 55 times since George Washington’s second term in 1792.  (He was first elected in 1789 for a three-year term.)  The election process has evolved from the days when only religious white landowners could vote, but over the years it has generally tended to be civil and orderly.
      However, the run-up to election day – which this year is exactly four months from today – can get decidedly uncivil.  We will be exposed to countless ads in the media and shrilled at by people on popular television channels claiming to know the best positions on the main issues.  We will get robocalls (a pox on the marketing company that invented those…).  The candidates (and in many states, this will include state and U.S. representatives and senators beside the presidential options) will say they want to stick to the issues, but most will run “trash talk ads” pointing out the shortcomings of their opponents.  Those ads can really escalate to incivility when they dwell on the person and not the issues.
     What’s a person to do?  If you always vote along party lines, your mind is probably made up.  If you’re undecided or leaning, I’d like to challenge you.  Think about a big buck purchase you’ve made – something that you expected to last for at least four years after you committed to it financially (and maybe emotionally).  Maybe it was a new (to you) car or a washer/dryer combo or even a new house.  Maybe it was selecting the right school for your kid(s) because nothing is as important as kids’ education – their future depends on it.   If you were smart, you did some research before you made your choice. You were comfortable that you’d done what you could to confirm that the long-term commitment you were about to make – and pay for – was the best option for you and those you love.
     Now, think about the election.  The people who are elected in November will have a huge impact on your life for the next four years.  Maybe not an “in your face” impact, but an impact just the same.  Doesn’t it make sense to turn away from the ads and the TV shrillers and actually research the candidates’ records and positions so you can make an informed decision?  I’m not suggesting that you make spreadsheets or anything like that (unless you want to…) but you – as a voter – are giving these candidates a mandate to represent you for the next four years.  They will vote on issues that will have an impact on you and – think about it – your kids' and maybe your grandkids’ futures.  
   Hundreds of thousands of Americans – including many Tuskegee Airmen - gave their lives so that we, who are living in this time, in this great country, can enjoy the freedoms others wanted to take from us.  By exercising your right to vote in November as an educated voter, you will honor the sacrifices of others and do yourself proud.
      Oh, and if you don’t plan to vote in November, do us all a favor and shut up after the election is over – do you really think you should have the right to an opinion when you didn’t actively affect the outcome?
       If you decide to take some time over the next four months to do some research on your incumbent Congressional candidates, may I recommend a free non-partisan website called Open Congress as a place to start your fact-finding journey.  You can find other sites by Googling “voting records” or your Congress person’s name.  Ditto for your state representatives and senators. Google is a great tool for this.   
     Regarding Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, you find oodles of opinions online about them, but Real Clear Politics and Real Clear Markets are organized in such a way that you’ll get opinions from knowledgeable writers about both sides of the major issues in a civil manner.  Yes, you’ll have to do some reading, but you’ll be taking in facts that you’ve discovered on your own instead of being spoon-fed information by media shrillers who have a big ratings stake (read money and prestige) in this election run-up and typically don’t care how uncivil they get in their presentation of their political positions. They know they'll have an audience because we humans love drama and the shrillers definitely know how to be dramatic (and partisan).
         This is the only blog I’ll write about the upcoming election (whew, huh?), but I will be doing a countdown to election day in each blog, just to remind you to get going in case you want to do some research, but have a tendency to put things like that off.  I can totally relate…

The Mustang and Traveling Exhibit are in Angola, Indiana this weekend.  The Traveling Exhibit is air conditioned so I’m guessing it will become a haven for attendees as the heat moves east.

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