Red Tail Remembered: Historic WWII Plane at Cavanaugh Flight Museum

Members of the local chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen will speak to students at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison February 25 for Black History Month and will have the opportunity to see the only restored, working P-51C Mustang fighter in existence. The plane was flown during WWII by the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Several local ROTC units will be among the students in attendance for this “living history” lesson. The event will begin at the museum, 4572 Claire Chennault in Addison, at 10:30 a.m.

The P-51C Mustang was manufactured by North American Aviation of Dallas and was delivered to the Army Air Corps on April 7, 1944. It was used in training missions during WWII at the 341st AAF Base Unit in Pinellas, Florida and at the 378th AAF Base Unit in Venice, Florida.

An extensive restoration of the plane was completed in 2001 by members of the Commemorative Air Force’s “Red Tail Project Team.” It was flown at various air shows for four years and helped spread the word about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. But on Memorial Day, 2004, tragedy struck when the engine failed and the plane crashed, killing pilot and Red Tail Project founder, Don Hinz.

The plane was badly damaged, but members of the project were determined not to let Hinz’ dream die and through private donations, raised the money to restore the plane a second time. The restored “Tuskegee Airmen” is the one that will be on display at the Cavanaugh Museum through the Spring of 2010.

“This is a rare opportunity to come in contact with a piece of history,” said Al Henderson, president of the Claude R. Platte D/FW Tuskegee Airmen Chapter Inc. “We want our youth to know the history of the Airmen and to carry on the legacy of blacks in aviation.”

“It is exciting to partner with the Commemorative Air Force and the Tuskegee Airmen’s Local Chapter to showcase this rare aircraft,” said Doug Jeanes, director of the Cavanaugh Flight Museum. “It will be on loan at the museum through spring 2010 and will add to our world class aviation collection. The Tuskegee Airmen played a pivotal role in WWII as well as being a catalyst to a change in our culture.”

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American fighter pilots for the U.S. military. Because of the color barrier in the armed forces at the time, blacks were prevented from serving except in the most menial jobs.

But finally, in 1941, they were given the chance to join the Army Air Corps and train as fighter pilots. This opportunity was known as “The Tuskegee Experiment” because they were expected to fail. They trained at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama.
However instead of failing, the Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves as some of the best fighter pilots in the war. They flew some 1,500 missions over Sicily and the Mediterranean, destroying more than 260 enemy aircraft, sinking a destroyer, and demolishing numerous enemy installations. Their planes were called “Red Tails” because of the distinctive color of their tails.

The February 25 event is an educational opportunity designed for local school districts, but the Tuskegee Airmen and the planes will be on hand Saturday, February 27 as well for the general public.

For more information, please contact Gil Geddes, 972-380-8800, ext. 113, [email protected] To arrange interviews with the Airmen, contact Al Henderson, 817-903-7528, [email protected]

The Cavanaugh Flight Museum is a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization devoted to promoting aviation studies and to perpetuating America’s aviation heritage; the museum fulfills its mission by restoring, operating, maintaining and displaying historically-significant, vintage aircraft, and by collecting materials related to the history of aviation.