The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s collaboration with other CAF units for several events in 2016 was well underway before our P-51C Mustang suffered damage that would keep it on the ground until the end of the year. But in a time when it would be excusable to pull chocks and make alternate plans, we found ourselves instead surrounded by CAF family determined to help ensure the important message of the Tuskegee Airmen would continue to be told.
At the start of the season, the Mustang was scheduled to appear with the CAF Gulf Coast Wing’s B-17 Texas Raiders as well as Fifi, CAF AirPower History Tour’s B-29. Unfortunately, everything came to a screeching halt when the Mustang had a hard landing, making a swift exit to AirCorps Aviation to prepare for months of repairs.
Of course, there’s never a good time for an aircraft from the CAF fleet to be rendered un-airworthy. With an important educational mission to accomplish, any event missed is an opportunity gone to bring a living piece of WWII history to the communities these majestic aircraft visit.
As a testament to the collaboration and camaraderie between CAF units, the dust had barely settled before fellow CAF units were reaching out to offer their support. With a full schedule of events booked for 2016, and a cross-country tour one week from commencing, our staff was scrambling to put a plan in order. Most importantly, we needed to ensure the many groups and events that were expecting a visit from the organization would still have the opportunity to hear our important message.
Completely unsolicited, leaders from the CAF Dixie Wing were the first to reach out to offer their P-51D Mustang Red Nose and other aircraft to help with event appearances. As soon as they heard the news, the Dixie Wing pledged their support and was happy to step in for upcoming critical events.
“When we heard the news, we knew that the Red Tail team, and the kids that they inspire, would be disappointed that their Mustang wouldn’t be there to help tell the story. We’ve seen firsthand their dedication and passion for delivering this inspirational educational message and we were happy to have Red Nose step in as an honorary Red Tail to help out,” said Jay Bess, CAF Dixie Wing executive officer. “Our air show and P-51 coordinator Phillip Beegle worked with our pilots, maintenance and operations teams and got their commitment to cover a heavy schedule. As individual units, we all have our strengths, but combine our efforts and we are unstoppable!”
Even with the Mustang Tuskegee Airmen out for the season, our RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is still able to fulfill most of the year’s duties, bringing the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen to air shows and community events across the country. The Gulf Coast Wing and the AirPower History Tour were happy to integrate the Traveling Exhibit into the events that were supposed to also have the Mustang Tuskegee Airmen.
“Both units have done an extraordinary job making use of our RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit without the Mustang,” says Marvona Welsh, logistics coordinator for the CAF Red Tail Squadron. “These events still boast unique CAF assets making an appearances together, albeit with a bit of flexibility!”
Other Mustang operators outside of the CAF have also offered their support until our P-51C is back in the air. With an important mission to fulfill, and a year full of committed events, the help of CAF units and Mustang operators have helped us make the very best out of a tough situation.
“We are grateful for this outpouring of support,” said Welsh. “The spirit of collaboration has been really uplifting. With the effort of all involved, the CAF Red Tail Squadron will RISE ABOVE this small setback, and continue to touch the hearts and minds of people all over the country with the inspirational message of the Tuskegee Airmen. Thank you to everyone, and especially the Dixie Wing, Gulf Coast Wing and the AirPower History Tour, for your dedication to our wonderful cause.”
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.