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, January 25, 2013

Hangar 3, Fleming Field


     On a recent frigid Wednesday afternoon (well, OK - two days ago...), Mike and I dropped in at the CAF Minnesota Wing's wonderful 1940's era Quonset-style hangar at Fleming Field in South St. Paul, Minnesota.  I had a wonderful time taking pictures of the work going on and Mike enjoyed getting acquainted with the airplanes and meeting some of the people who give their time to keeping the Wing's wonderful group of vintage airplanes flying. 
     The B-25 Mitchell "Miss Mitchell" towers over all the other aircraft in the hangar any time of year, but this shot gives a sense of how full that hangar is right now.  
  

     Some volunteers were replacing a cylinder in one of the Mitchell's engines.  

     We checked out the open bomb bay doors and I was intrigued to see these two pictures taped to the forward "wall" of the bomb bay.  I'm sure they meant something to somebody!

      This was stenciled on the back wall.  Talk about stating the obvious!

     Seeing the tail gunner's exposed position up close really brings home what the brave kids who flew this airplane and fired guns to protect it accomplished during WWII.

     Next stop was the Squadron's P-51C Mustang.  Gary Chambers' pictures of the work being done on her were featured on Facebook earlier this week so I decided to focus my camera on unusual things I saw there.  This was my favorite - a new use for paper towels!

     Neatness counts only as a way to keep track of airplane parts stored around and under each one.  
 
      The Mustang's nose art and other up-front metal really stacked up.

      The Wing has just gotten a donation of a Ryan L-17 Navion and Wing leader Amy Lauria was scrubbing at 60+ years worth of glue and other substances on its console.  CAF restorations are truly done from the ground up and exhibit extremely high quality, even in those areas that cannot be seen.

      Speaking of seeing, it's not every day that you can see clear through an AT-6 Texan!

     Or a Stinson Sentinel's nose...  It looks like it's butted up to the Mustang's red tail, but there's enough room to maneuver around both airplanes (barely).
 
     The Ryan P-22 Recruit's unique 5-cylinder radial engine configuration stands in stark contrast to its exposed innards.

      The Wing has a couple of new displays as well.  This Link Trainer was crated for some time, but is now being restored.  Edwin Link invented the flight simulator, which he patented in 1931.  He originally thought they would make good amusement park attractions ("fly without leaving the ground") and this was the case for a while.  However, after a series of accidents, in 1934 the U.S. government purchased six unitsto help train air mail pilots to fly using instruments in bad weather.  Unfortunately, the Japanese government also bought some in 1935 and their pilots trained with them, to the detriment of our own fighting aviators six years later.
     As WWII fighting spread and the U.S. needed to train thousands of pilots, more than 6,300 Link trainers were purchased to help with that goal. (I'd be willing to bet that my Dad spent some time in a Link during his training to be a B-26 pilot!)  35 foreign countries also used Link trainers at some point.

      A newly restored drone is now on display overhead.  This piston-powered Radioplane OQ-19 target drone is a fairly early version of a series of drones developed starting in the late 1940s. 
 
        
     Finally, also overhead, a new mural is being painted by another talented Wing volunteer.  It recaps WWII events starting with Pearl Harbor on the left and ending with that famous kiss on V-J Day on the right.  The middle portion is yet to be painted, but it's obvious this will be a great addition to the Wing's hangar and museum.

     The Wing, in Hangar 3 at Fleming Field in South St. Paul, Minnesota opens its hangar to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.  Between the airplanes and the various displays, like this one about the Tuskegee Airmen, it's a great way to spend a couple of hours.  And don't worry - the place is heated!

      Speaking of the Tuskegee Airmen, did you know that our educational partner Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. sponsored a float in this past Monday's Presidential Inaugural Parade?  It featured a P-51 Mustang. While the nose art was similar to the CAF Red Tail Squadron's own P-51C Mustang, TAI Inc. chose to recreate a bubbletop P51-D.  To see the float, click here and move the timer under the small video screen to 1:15 after clicking on the triangle in screen to start the video rolling.  The float will be shown just after the Grambling State University marching band moves past the viewing platform.   Everyone, including President Obama, applauds for an Airman who was evidently close by, but I wasn't able to catch his name.



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 redtail.org.

www.redtail.org
 

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