Note To the Air Force: Butt Out
Every organization needs at least one. But it looks like the U.S. Air Force Museum is coming up one short. I'll get to the adult part in a moment, but first the reprise.
Earlier this week we reported that the Commemorative Air Force lost a court fight with the Air Force Museum over custody of one of the rarest of warbirds, an F-82 Twin Mustang. The CAF got its F-82 from the Air Force free and clear back in the 1960s and evidently had the paper work to prove it. But now the Air Force Museum wants the F-82 back. The CAF sued to keep it, but a district court in Ohio sided with the Air Force. During the court case, the CAF produced an unambiguous paper trail suggesting that all of this was legit. In other words, they didn't exactly swipe it in the middle of night from the pole on which it was perched at Lackland Air Force Base.
But the court didn't buy it. There's apparently a reversionary clause somewhere that says the government owns everything forever.
The CAF pledged to appeal the case, but in the meantime, they offered to drop the case if the Air Force would allow CAF to keep the F-82 as a static display. No deal, says the Air Force. Ship it back. So, at the moment, the CAF says it will comply, but it's pursuing the appeal.
Here's the adult part: Wasn't there someone—anyone—in the Air Force Museum who could hold both palms up and say not only is this not worth the expense of a court case, it is a PR disaster to boot. The irony is that the Air Force already has an F-82 in its collection. Here's a picture of it.
So what's going on here? Nothing but a bureaucratic turf war by the heavy hands of the Air Force museum. They can, so they are. Since they already have an F-82, they don't need two. There's no discernible national interest for the Air Force to waste taxpayer money on retrieving an airplane that they clearly transferred to private owners but now want back solely because they don't like former military airplanes to be flown out of their control.
The Air Force's position isn't entirely without merit. There's always a real risk that an irreplaceable military aircraft that flies could be lost in a crash. On the other hand, seeing an airplane actually fly rather than reposing in some dusty static display has a raw appeal and that's what the CAF is all about. Here, the Air Force seeks to deny the airplane-interested public the choice of seeing both—a museum piece and a flying example. More troubling, are they now going to go after every warbird owner out there with giveback claims?
So, I dunno…with my usual solomonic dispassion as a neutral bystander, I would just say this to the Air Force: Grow up. Get over it. Move on. Stop being a bully and wasting taxpayer money on stupid stuff like this. Let the CAF keep the F-82 and if they rebuild the thing and are unlikely enough to drive it into a smoking hole, that's their business. With reward comes risk.
It would be nice if the Air Force understood that.