August 2, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- A special P-51C Mustang fighter displayed at AeroShell Square this
year has just tested its wings after five years of reconstruction
following a fatal crash. The Red Tail Project P-51 is painted to represent
Tuskegee Airmen who fought color barriers in World War II to fly as
fighter pilots in combat.
Flown by Commemorative Air Force (CAF) pilot
Doug Rozendaal, who also serves as the Red Tail Project leader, this P-51C
stands as a memorial to Tuskegee Airmen as well as to pilot Don Hinz who
lost his life in the crash of this aircraft on Memorial Day weekend in
Major portions of the fuselage and wings were
fabricated by Tri-State Aviation in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and Odegaard
Wings in Kindred, North Dakota, Rozendaal said. First flight after
rebuilding was July 22.
Already, the son of a Tuskegee Airman has
flown the rebuilt Red Tail, Rozendaal said.
Photo by Stefan Seville
The Commemorative Air Force Red Tail P-51C is back on the circuit after
With rebuilding costs in the $1 million range,
a nationwide fundraising campaign made possible the return of the Red Tail
P-51C, Rozendaal explained. Some large donations helped, while a mail-in
campaign also appealed to thousands of individuals around the country. “We
built this airplane with 20-dollar- bills,” he added.
Rozendaal is emphatic that this warbird needs
to be more than just a beautiful air show machine.
It is the beginning of an inspirational CAF
plan that will incorporate a tractor trailer mobile exhibit to take a
Tuskegee Airmen-themed display to schools and other off-airport locations
where the Mustang itself cannot go.
The Red Tail Project’s educational program,
called Rise Above, focuses on six ideals exemplified by the Tuskegee
Airmen: “aim high; believe in yourself; use your brain; be ready to go;
never quit; and expect to win,” project literature explains.
“We’ve got to refocus to use the airplanes
to tell a story,” Rozendaal said.
Outcome-oriented historical aviation exhibits
are joining hands-on exhibits in a quest to reach far from the runway, to
audiences that might otherwise miss the excitement, and the messages, that
abound at AirVenture 2009.