The CAF Red Tail Squadron restored and flies this rare P-51C model Mustang fighter to create interest in the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, who flew P-51s just like it during WWII.
This Mustang first flew in October 1940 and went into service in July 1942 with the RAF and later in 1942 with the U.S. Army Air Force. The Mustang served with distinction well into the 1960’s with the Dominican Republic flying them in active service until 1984.
The Squadron’s P-51C Mustang was used as a stateside trainer in 1945 and then declared postwar surplus. It was displayed at a Montana college for 40 years before being donated for restoration. The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) took possession of it in the late 1980s. Starting in the mid-1990s, the Minnesota Wing of the CAF began its restoration, raising the more than $500,000 necessary to complete the work. Volunteers of the “Red Tail Project” also did much of the work, contributing their time and experience to save money. In 2001, the Mustang, now christened “Tuskegee Airmen” and painted with a bright red tail, flew again for the first time in more than 45 years.
The Mustang flew on the air show circuit for three years, creating interest in the story of the Tuskegee Airmen at each stop. Then, in May 2004, it experienced an unavoidable engine failure and crashed near Red Wing, Minnesota. The pilot, Project leader Don Hinz, was credited with using his piloting skills to avoid injuries on the ground and a post-crash fire in the dead-stick situation. Don survived the accident only to succumb to his injuries the next day.
Photo by Steve Betts