Storyteller – the P-51C named “Tuskegee Airmen”

Storyteller – the P-51C named “Tuskegee Airmen”

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The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s P-51C Mustang was built in 1944 by North American Aviation. It flew as a stateside trainer for the USAF until World War II ended. Declared as surplus, it was flown to Bozeman where it was displayed at Montana State College. It remained there until 1965 when it was removed to make way for a parking lot. Its wings were cut off to make transport easier.
It was purchased by various individuals who thought they could restore it but were not able to do so. The Mustang became part of the Commemorative Air Force’s inventory in the 1970s and was assigned to the CAF’s Minnesota Wing, which made an effort at restoring it in the mid-1980s. The airplane was in terrible shape after numerous moves and being caught in a flood. Restoration promised to be expensive and extensive and proceeded in fits and starts as money and manpower became available. By the mid-1990s, the restoration was at a standstill.



Registration Number Date of Manufacture
NL61429 Spring 1944
Aircraft Role Nickname
Fighter Mustang: “Tuskegee Airmen”
Aircraft Type: Wingspan:
North American Aviation P-51C Mustang 37′
Overall length: Empty weight:
32′ 3″ 7,635 lbs.
Gross weight: Fuel capacity:
12,100 lbs. 134.5 gal each wing
Oil capacity Engine type:
14 gal. Rolls Royce (Packard) Merlin liquid-cooled V-1650-7 developing 1,490 HP
Propeller type: Max Speed
Four blade Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 24D50 approximately 11 foot diameter 505 MPH
Rate of Climb Cruise Speed
Est. 3000 feet per minute at max continuous climb 362 MPH
Service Ceiling Number of Crew
41,600 ft. 1 (this airplane outfitted with back seat)
Armament Bomb Load
Four .50 cal. machine guns Optional: 1,000 lbs of bombs
Number Built Number Surviving
1,750 C models 4 flying



Mustang over river; photo by Max Haynes The Mustang in flight Tuskegee Airman Col (ret) Charles E. McGee and Squadron leader Bradford Lang 2009


In the mid-1990s, Minnesota entrepreneur Don Hinz, a retired Navy pilot, volunteered to lead the Mustang’s restoration. He proposed that the Mustang be used as an educational tool that focused on the history and accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen – America’s first black military pilots and their support crews – who flew P-51s with bright red tails against the Axis powers in Europe during World War II. The initiative was named the Red Tail Project.
For five years, funds were raised while professional restorers at Tri-State Aviation and Wing volunteers labored to bring the P-51C back to life. In 2001, the Mustang, sporting a bright red tail, was officially christened “Tuskegee Airmen” and began flying the air show circuit. At each stop, her pilots and crew told the story of the Tuskegee Airmen’s courage as warriors and skill as aviators who were challenged at every turn because of the color of their skin.
In 2004, at a Memorial Day weekend air show in Minnesota, Hinz was doing a fly-by when the Mustang experienced complete engine failure. He dead-sticked the airplane away from homes, but did not survive the injuries he received in the crash and died the next day. The airplane was destroyed.
The team immediately started to raise money and work on the airplane again and in 2009, Tuskegee Airmen took to the skies once more with the same educational purpose. At EAA AirVenture 2009, it was presented with the Phoenix Award.
In 2011, the Project – now renamed the CAF Red Tail Squadron – launched the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit as another educational tool. The Traveling Exhibit is a customized 53′ trailer with expandable sides that houses a 40-foot long, curved panoramic movie screen and seating for 30 in climate-controlled comfort. A short original movie called “RISE ABOVE” focuses on what the Tuskegee Airmen – pilots and their support personnel – had to overcome to be allowed to fly and fight for their country during World War II. It also features some great flying footage – in the Mustang – that is enhanced by the long curved screen.

About the CAF: In 1957, a small group of ex-service pilots pooled their money to purchase a P-51 Mustang, beginning what is now called the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). With the addition of a pair of F8F Bearcats, the CAF became the founders of the Warbird Movement, an effort to preserve and honor our military history with the rallying cry to “Keep ‘Em Flying!” Now, 55 years later, the CAF is the premier Warbird organization, operating 156 vintage aircraft in Honor of American Military Aviation. A non-profit educational association, the CAF has approximately 9,000 members operating this fleet of historic aircraft, distributed to 70 units located in 28 states. For more information, click the CAF link below or call (432) 563-1000

Restoration Images

The late Gerry Beck looks over the Mustang's damage, summer 2004. Hanging the Merlin (Feb '09) and mating the wing (May '09)(next image) 5-3-09-mating-5



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