Red Tail Lands In Oshkosh

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Arriving with a fully restored and flying P-51C at AeroShell Square, Oshkosh, after the May 2005 fatal crash that killed program leader Don Hinz and destroyed the aircraft, may be nothing less than fully consistent with the Red Tail Project‘s mission of rising above and affecting positive change. The monumental restoration project began with the 40 percent of parts salvageable from the wreckage. It was infused with donations from more than 25,000 contributors from all over the globe and reformed by volunteers. That Phase of the effort ended last Wednesday with first flight. The resulting P-51C, dubbed Tuskegee Airmen, makes manifest the “never quit, believe in yourself, use your brain and expect to win” motives the Red Tail Project promotes to youngsters and clearly lives by. In Phase 2, the Red Tail Project will be touring to educate, motivate and inspire at locations across the country. At AirVenture Wednesday, the aircraft was introduced by Steve Brown, president of the Commemorative Air Force who remembered his friend, Don Hinz, saying, “If he’d been there after the accident, he would have said, ‘Get to work.'” Because Brown and so many others have done just that, the aircraft will eventually be doing the same, spreading the heritage and lessons of its near and distant history, maybe as soon as next year.

Among those who joined Brown at the official showcase, Wednesday, was Col. Charles McGee, himself a Tuskegee Airman, and others who remembered Hinz’ influence, the Tuskegee legacy, the aircraft’s heritage and its new mission. “Don Hinz started something we’re proud to be a part of,” said McGee. McGee flew his P-51C “Kitten” late in the war and stayed with the service. He went on to set the record for highest three-war total for fighter combat missions flown by any pilot in the history of the Air Force. Brad Lang also spoke. Lang’s father was a Tuskegee Airman and the younger, who is now 50 years of age and a Captain for Delta, has also now flown the P-51C and shares that much more with his father. Max Haynes, a project supporter and aviation photographer was also there and has photos of the project aircraft online at MaxAir2Air.com. Immediately after the show, the aircraft will be headed to its home in St. Paul, Minn., for its official homecoming to the CAF Wing there.

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