About the P-51C Mustang
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. The red tail and the sound of the powerful Merlin engine ensure a crowd will gather wherever the Mustang appears at an air show.
The 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 Red-Tailed P-51C Mustang N61429
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 (see photo right). 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.
The Mustang Cockpit
A 360 Degree Look Inside Our P-51C
The CAF Minnesota Wing immediately pledged that the CAF Red Tail Project (the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s old name), which received national attention for its educational mission, would continue and that the Mustang would fly again. It took another five years to raise the $1,000,000 needed to rebuild the Mustang again. In addition, numerous volunteers gave up their weekends to drive to North Dakota and donate hundreds of man-hours to work on the Mustang alongside the experienced staff at Tri-State Aviation. It was all worthwhile when the “Tuskegee Airmen” took to the skies again in July 2009. It continues to fly the U.S. air show circuit, appearing at shows from early spring until late fall.
P-51C Mustang Specifications
|Type||Single seat, long-range escort fighter. (This aircraft modified with a rear seat)|
|Dimensions||Length 32 feet 3 inches; span 37 feet; Height 12 feet 2 inches|
|Engine||One Rolls-Royce (Packard) Merlin liquid-Cooled V-1650-7 engine developing 1,490 HP|
|Weight||Empty 7,635 pounds, maximum loaded 12,100 Pounds.|
|Armament||Four Colt-Browning M2 .50-inch machine guns with a total capacity of 1,000 rounds; external mounts up to 1,000 pounds of bombs or six High Velocity Aerial Rockets.|
|Performance||Maximum Speed: 505 miles per hour, Cruising speed: 362 miles per hour, Service Ceiling: 41,600 feet; Range: 1,000 miles|
P-51C “Tuskegee Airmen” Colors
During the war, the Tuskegee Airmen painted their airplanes with nose art and nicknames. To honor all of the Airmen, the decision was made to incorporate a color scheme that honored the four fighter squadrons of the segregated 332nd Fighter Group:
The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s rare P-51C Mustang represents all of the personnel that are now known as Tuskegee Airmen: pilots, bombardiers, navigators, ground crews, mechanics, cooks, ambulance drivers, medical staff, administrative personnel, etc.
The Squadron’s Mustang also has the phrase “By Request” on it just under the side windows. That was the name of the airplane of famed pilot and leader of the 332nd, Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. He named his airplane that to make the point that white pilots would request the Tuskegee-trained pilots to escort them on bombing missions due to their skill and courage in protecting the bombers.
The colors represent the four fighter squadrons in the 332nd Group:
- The red and yellow cowling represents the 302nd Fighter Squadron.
- The A on the side represents the 99th Fighter Squadron.
- The yellow banding on the wings represents the 301st Fighter Squadron.
- The red fins on the wings represents the 100th Fighter Squadron.
The day I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the jig was up.
Hermann Goering - Head of the German Luftwaffe
P-51C Mustang History
|Manufactured||North American Aviation, Dallas TX.|
|Delivered||US Army Air Corps on April 7, 1944.|
|1st Assignment||341st AAF Base Unit Pinellas, Florida.
Flown as trainer.
|Transferred||December 1944, 378th AAF Base Unit,
Venice, Florida. Flown as trainer.
|Transferred||June 1945, 339th AAF Base Unit
Thomasville, Georgia. Flown as trainer.
|Declared Surplus||October 1945. With cessation of hostilities
P51-C 42-64129 was dropped from inventory.
|Last Flight||September 1945. Flown to Montana State
College, Bozeman Montana. Utilized for
|Donated||1970. Donated to Confederate Air, Harlingen TX. Registered as N215CA, the airframe traveled to Minneapolis MN, back to Harlingen, TX, and then to the Great Planes Wing of CAF in Council Bluffs, Iowa, 1983.|
|Final Home||1988. Transferred to Southern Minnesota Wing of CAF. So. St. Paul, Minnesota.|
|Restoration||1996. Completed May 2001.
Wings restoration: Robert Odegaard, Odegaard Aviation, Kindred, ND.
|Wings Restoration||Robert Odegaard, Odegaard Aviation, Kindred, ND. Engine Restoration: Mike Nixon, Vintage V-12s Tehachapi, CA|