Red Tail Repair and Restoration to Flight Status Timeline and Summary

by Chuck Cravens

Red Tail Summary

Beautiful paint job by Flying Colors Aviation reflected from a wet ramp. (Photo Credit: Adam Glowaski)

Summary

The famous Red Tail P-51C, one of the most important educational tools of the Commemorative Air Force, sustained damage during a wheels-up landing in Dallas on February 3rd, 2016.  It is very satisfying for those of us at AirCorps Aviation to be able to say she is back in the air, fulfilling the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s mission to educate and inspire young people across the United States.

After months of repair, research and writing updates, we felt a project summary was in order. 

The last AirCorps update ended with the Red Tail post-repair test flight, but much more has been accomplished since then.

AirCorps handled recovery, transport, estimating, project management, repair, managing and working with outside contractors, and return to service.

Twenty-one AirCorps Employees assisted in assembling components, repairing parts, completing repairs, locating parts, and the return to airworthiness. Truly a team effort.

The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. ( 26 of 38 Estimated Areas of Repair Were Under Budget.)

December 1st, 2016, the Red Tail is back in the air! 

December 1st, 2016, the Red Tail is back in the air! 

Thanks to the commitment of the CAF Red Tail Squadron andthe efforts of AirCorps Aviation,  Odegaard Wings, Roush Engineering, Maxwell Propellor Service and Flying Colors Aviation, the Red Tail will inspire young and old all over the United States in 2017.

AirCorps Key Partners

  • Flying Colors Aviation: Aircraft Paint
  • Odegaard Wings: Wing & Flap Repair
  • Maxwell Propeller Service: Propeller
  • Roush Aviation: Engine Repair

Team

  • Project Lead: Erik Hokuf
  • Project Manager: Tye Halvas I.A.
  • Parts Lead: Eric Trueblood
  • Fabrication Lead: Dan Matejcek
  • Restoration/Assembly Leads: Ryan Underwood, Mark Tisler
Dan Matejcek Fitting Cowl Formers

Dan Matejcek Fitting Cowl Formers

Engine Mount – Firewall Forward Rebuild

Engine Mount – Firewall Forward Rebuild

Mark Tisler Fitting Clam Shell Doors

Mark Tisler Fitting Clam Shell Doors

Reassembling Wing – Fuselage

Reassembling Wing – Fuselage

Landing Gear Retractions – Testing

Landing Gear Retractions – Testing

Scoop Awaiting Installation

Scoop Awaiting Installation

When the CAF Red Tail Squadron notified AirCorps Aviation of their interest in employing us as the lead organization in the repair effort,  AirCorps Aviationput in motion an aggressive plan, an estimate, and aligned our resources to do what many felt was impossible.  That task was to have the aircraft flying in time for the 2017 air show season.

Red Tail Summary
Doug brings her over for a photo pass.

Doug brings her over for a photo pass.

Not long after, Doug returned to Bemidji and flew the Red Tail to Benton Harbor, Michigan, home of Flying Colors Aviation.  

This paint scheme is unique in that it doesn’t replicate a single wartime Mustang, but rather honors four fighter squadrons of the 322nd Fighter Group and all those who made the success of the Tuskegee Airmen possible. One of the goals of the repair was an improvement in the accuracy of the various elements of the paint scheme, so much effort went into research and artwork.

As the CAF Red Tail Squadron so beautifully states on their website: 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. 

The Red Tail is airworthy but needs new paint, which Flying Colors Aviation of Benton Harbor, Michigan provided.(Flying Colors photo)

The Red Tail is airworthy but needs new paint, which Flying Colors Aviation of Benton Harbor, Michigan provided.(Flying Colors photo)

Every Mustang has numerous factory informational and cautionary graphics.  AirCorps Aviation used its expertise and AirCorps Art services to put together a full exterior markings package for the Red Tail P-51C. Max Kelsey, our artist for AirCorps Art faithfully replicated this set of markings by creating all of the noseart, original factory marking masks, and water transfers. Graphic detail shots by Eric Trueblood.

Every Mustang has numerous factory informational and cautionary graphics.  AirCorps Aviation used its expertise and AirCorps Art services to put together a full exterior markings package for the Red Tail P-51C. Max Kelsey, our artist for AirCorps Art faithfully replicated this set of markings by creating all of the noseart, original factory marking masks, and water transfers. Graphic detail shots by Eric Trueblood.

The North American markings show up on virtually every surface of a P-51 and are called out on the original factory drawings.

The North American markings show up on virtually every surface of a P-51 and are called out on the original factory drawings.

The Red Tail has nose art and markings that weren’t from the factory, instead these iconic markings would have been applied while overseas. 

The Red Tail has nose art and markings that weren’t from the factory, instead these iconic markings would have been applied while overseas. 

Red Tail Summary

 

 

 

Here is an example of North American Markings and wartime personal markings.  

The title block came from the factory, if you look closely at the fonts you can see what was stamped and what was stenciled. “By Request” was nose art on Colonel Davis’s P-51C. Digital files for the nose art were refined, researched and created at AirCorps and provided to Flying Colors Aviation.

Prop stencil detail shows up clearly in this photo.

Prop stencil detail shows up clearly in this photo.

Doug Rozendaal looks her over.  Doug not only test flew the Red Tail after repair, but also recently returned to the Squadron Leader position at the CAF Red Tail Squadron.

Doug Rozendaal looks her over.  Doug not only test flew the Red Tail after repair, but also recently returned to the Squadron Leader position at the CAF Red Tail Squadron.

Doug gets ready to fly her home. (photo credit: Tye Halvas) 

Doug gets ready to fly her home. (photo credit: Tye Halvas) 

The P-51C is completely finished in this side view of the Red Tail in her new paint. ((Photo Credit: Adam Glowaski)

The P-51C is completely finished in this side view of the Red Tail in her new paint. ((Photo Credit: Adam Glowaski)

December CAF Red Tail Update

by Chuck Cravens

The Red Tail lands after a successful test flight with a background of snow.

The Red Tail lands after a successful test flight with a background of snow.

Update

We at AirCorps were honored to be trusted with the repair of this very important warbird.  Erik Hokuf and Mark Tisler were quoted in the press release when the Red Tail flew and I think they summed up why this repair was so important to all of us:

“One of the Six Guiding Principles of the CAF Red Tail Squadron is to never quit. The decision to repair the Mustang is a great example of that principle,” said Erik Hokuf, managing partner of AirCorps Aviation. “Our team was proud to help bring this very special aircraft back to flying status so it can once again inspire young people to rise above their own obstacles, just like the Tuskegee Airmen.”

“I have a long history with the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen. I was involved in both the first and second restorations,” said Mark Tisler, manager of restorations and one of the owners of AirCorps Aviation. “The CAF Red Tail Squadron teaches young people to never allow obstacles or circumstances to stop them from achieving their goals. The two restorations and the repair demonstrate the Squadron not only believes those teachings, but also sets an example of how to overcome obstacles.”

February

In February of 2016, the CAD Red Tail Squadron contacted AirCorps Aviation to take on the project of repairing the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail P-51C after a landing accident.

In February of 2016, the CAD Red Tail Squadron contacted AirCorps Aviation to take on the project of repairing the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail P-51C after a landing accident.

On February 14th, Erik Hokuf, Mark Tisler, Doug Rozendaal, and David Hatfield arrived at Dallas Executive Airport to retrieve the Red Tail and bring her back to Bemidji, Minnesota for repairs.

On February 14th, Erik Hokuf, Mark Tisler, Doug Rozendaal, and David Hatfield arrived at Dallas Executive Airport to retrieve the Red Tail and bring her back to Bemidji, Minnesota for repairs.

The wings were removed in preparation for the trip.

The wings were removed in preparation for the trip.

The fuselage and wings were loaded on separate trucks for the 1,167 mile trip to Bemidji.

The fuselage and wings were loaded on separate trucks for the 1,167 mile trip to Bemidji.

March-April

It took some time to make all the arrangements with insurers, parts suppliers and our own fabricators so that the actual repairs could begin.

In April, the P-51C’s damage was assessed and the parts that required renovation or replacement were removed. As work began the following list had been completed:

•    All damage assessed
•    Wings and Engine Mount sent to Odegaard Wings for repairs
•    Engine sent to Roush for repairs

May

The pace of repairs picked up as more and more needed parts became available in May.

By May’s end, these items could be checked off  the list:

  • Repairs to the tailcone and completed
  • Repairs to the belly including the radiator exit duct and door begun
  • Replacement parts starting to arrive

June

Much of the work done in June was preparation of the firewall forward area for the eventual arrival of the Packard Merlin.

July

Visible progress was easy to see in July as the stabilizers and Packard Merlin went back into the Red Tail.

By the end of the month, the checklist looked like this:

•    Repair of the landing gear is in progress
•    Repair of the rudder is in progress

August

September

Firewall forward work and the installation of various systems progressed in September, but the big news was the move out to the AirCorps hangar at Bemidji Regional Airport for assembly.
The move happened on the 14th, the wing arrived on the 27th and the end of the Red Tail’s earthbound days seemed in sight.

October

With the fuselage and wings at the hangar, the finishing touches were taken care of to prepare them for joining.  The first week of October saw a  milestone event when the  wings and fuselage were assembled  The rest of the month was used to put the gear doors, flaps , ailerons and other assemblies on the airframe.

November

November was a big month in the repair of the Red Tail. After the major assemblies went together in October, we could see the time was near for testing. In November the engine was run, the gear swung, and all efforts went into buttoning up the airframe and making her ready for the real big event, the post repair test flight.

December: The test flight happened on December 1st!

The team gathered in front of the Red Tail just after Doug’s two successful flights on December 1, 2016.

The team gathered in front of the Red Tail just after Doug’s two successful flights on December 1, 2016.

We were proud of the successful return to flight of the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron’s P-51C Mustang, Tuskegee Airmen.  Doug reported no issues after the flights.   

The goal to have this Mustang ready for the 2017 air show circuit has been realized except for a new paint job. On December 16th, Tuskegee Airmen flew out to Benton Harbor, Michigan where Flying Colors Aviation will apply a new paint job. 

The Red Tail is expected to return to its mission of  honoring the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen at air shows and events around the country.

November CAF Red Tail Update

by Chuck Cravens

The Red Tail runs after 10 months of repairs

The Red Tail runs after 10 months of repairs

Update

As November comes to a close, more and more signs point to a return of the Red Tail to the skies and its educational mission. Last month we saw wing mounting, landing gear work, air induction system, and cockpit progress.  The wing and gear work was finished this month and a very important milestone occurred when the prop was mounted.

“The machined aluminum part visible near the center of the image is a Hinz Filter. Named after Don Hinz, who tragically lost his life in the Red Tail P-51C in 2004, the filter is a bypass oil filter that detects if the Merlin is starting to “make metal”. The bypass oil filter’s sensors will alert the pilot to an engine problem.”

“The machined aluminum part visible near the center of the image is a Hinz Filter. Named after Don Hinz, who tragically lost his life in the Red Tail P-51C in 2004, the filter is a bypass oil filter that detects if the Merlin is starting to “make metal”. The bypass oil filter’s sensors will alert the pilot to an engine problem.”

The left side inner landing gear door shows up well here.

The left side inner landing gear door shows up well here.

This image is a tighter view of the same inner gear door.

This image is a tighter view of the same inner gear door.

The supporting jacks hold the Red Tail’s main gear tires just a few inches off the floor. This will help make swinging the gear possible when the time comes.

The supporting jacks hold the Red Tail’s main gear tires just a few inches off the floor.

This will help make swinging the gear possible when the time comes.

This closer view from the left side lets us see the flap clearly.

This closer view from the left side lets us see the flap clearly.

Paint and Protective Coatings

The last few parts that needed paint have been sprayed and dried, ready for installation.

Cockpit

The Red Tail is a P-51C-10NT and would have had a fuselage tank installed. The tank was a new feature of the dash 10s and installed on the production line. Tanks were also retrofitted to some earlier models.
The added back seat is placed where the fuselage tank and radio racks would have been during the military service of this Mustang

Mounting the Propellor

When a repair or restoration gets to the point of mounting the prop, the engine test can’t be far behind.

A front view of the propellor and spinner shows how large the prop is compared to the wing span.

A front view of the propellor and spinner shows how large the prop is compared to the wing span.

The original Hamilton Standard prop was 11’ 2”.  It is 30 percent, or almost one-third, of the 37 foot wingspan.

As those who have been following the progress of the restoration know, the engine test was successfully completed on November 16th. A very brief video of the first post-repair start is posted on the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s Facebook page. The address is : https://www.facebook.com/cafredtailsquadron/

The AirCorps Aviation Facebook page has it as well: https://www.facebook.com/aircorpsaviation

If you haven’t checked them out, I know you will enjoy them.

October CAF Red Tail Update

by Chuck Cravens

One more wing assembly photo: Tye and Mark install one of the four large bolts that attach the wing to the fuselage.

One more wing assembly photo: Tye and Mark install one of the four large bolts that attach the wing to the fuselage.

Update

The milestone events of last month (moving out to the hangar, receiving the wing from Odegaard Wings and assembling the wing and fuselage) call for follow up in this month’s update. We will look into the details of the various systems that must be connected.

The wing center section and fuselage systems, the landing gear and gear wells, the cockpit, and some more air intake system work are all part of this update.

Wing Center Section and Fuselage Systems

After the wing is attached to the fuselage, a great deal of hydraulic, oil, and coolant plumbing comes next. With the radiator and oil cooler under the belly back near the trailing edge of the wing, a Mustang has some pretty long coolant and oil lines.

Landing Gear And Gear Wells

Among the systems that are to be finished at this point in the restoration are the main landing gear. Brakes and retraction systems must be connected and tested. Plumbing and other work goes on in the wheel wells. Brakes and retraction systems must be connected and tested.

Air Intake

Cockpit

Now that the wing has been mounted and all those coolant, intercooler, and oil hoses are connected, the cockpit floor can be permanently installed. At this  stage, the instruments and flight controls for the wing can be connected

September CAF Red Tail Update

by Chuck Cravens

Lining up the wing and fuselage, almost ready to join.

Lining up the wing and fuselage, almost ready to join.

Update

Some very significant events have happened this last month.

Many assume our restoration shop is at the airport but that isn’t the case. It is 8 miles away in an industrial park.

So, along with the usual restoration shop images, we have a section showing the move of the fuselage from the restoration shop out to our hangar at the Bemidji airport on Tuesday, September 13th. The trip on a flat bed was 8.3 miles and took about 30 minutes to complete. It is always fun to watch the faces of other drivers when they see such an unexpected sight as a WWII fighter going by on a flatbed trailer!

A week later the wings arrived from Odegaard Wings,  so the time to mate the wings and fuselage couldn’t be too far off.

In fact the reinstallation of the wing was done on Tuesday October 4th, earlier than we expected.

We’ll save those events for later in the update. First we will show some of the fabrication and restoration work that lead up to them.

Header Tank

Mustang coolant header tanks aren’t an easy part to make. They must be made precisely to the original North American drawings and specifications and then be strenuously pressure tested.

The process of stamping an indentation for the crankcase breather clearance into the tank half introduces some distortion. That distortion must be taken out of the tank half before moving on to welding.

Cooling Induction and Exhaust

We’ve seen many pictures of the scoop, doghouse and exit door. That is because an awful lot of work is necessary to complete this complex area on a P-51. The scoop goes on after the wing and fuselage are mated.

Firewall Forward

Early this month, fabrication and fitting of the final sheet metal skin pieces and finishing the engine systems were the order of the day.

Another job was removing the nickel plating on the prop blades. The supply of P-51 propeller blades is becoming smaller and smaller, so they are difficult to acquire and  very expensive. There is an STC ( Supplemental Type Certificate) that allows the use of Grumman Albatross blades on P-51s. Due to the expense and limited availability of P-51 blades, the Red Tail takes advantage of that STC and uses these blades.

One of the more tedious jobs is  peeling off the nickel plating on the replacement Grumman Albatross prop blades in preparation for complete overhaul.

This has to be done extremely carefully so as not to damage the blade itself.

Since an Albatross is an amphibian, their prop blades have nickel plating to protect against water erosion. When we use the Albatross blades on a Mustang, we remove the nickel plating. It is a painstaking and  long process, but since we aren’t equipped to do it electrochemically, we chip it off by hand.

This is done not only for authenticity, but because the nickel plating can split at the leading edge of the blade.  If that happens, all the nickel plating needs to come off anyway.  Doing it now may save downtime in the future.

Red Tail Move

As I mentioned in the introduction, an auspicious event happened on Tuesday, September 13th as the Red Tail Mustang left our restoration shop to be moved out to the airport hangar. This signals we are nearing the stage where Tuskegee Airmen will be wearing her wings once again.
She will continue to have work done on the fuselage and tail assemblies as she awaits her wings.

The Red Tail’s Wing Arrives

A week later, on Tuesday September 28th, the wings arrived on another flatbed all the way from Odegaard Wings of Kindred, North Dakota.

Wing Detail

Here is a shot of the machine gun bay.

Here is a shot of the machine gun bay.

In this shot you can clearly see one of the rear gun mounts. Notice they are canted or tilted to the side.

In this shot you can clearly see one of the rear gun mounts. Notice they are canted or tilted to the side.

B and C models had 4 .50 Caliber Browning M-2 machine guns mounted this way. It caused some feeding issues in heavy maneuvers. The ammo belt had to feed over the top side of the guns and make a sharp turn as it entered the loading port on the side of machine gun’s receiver. The weight of the of the ammo increased with g-forces, resulting in jams and stoppages. In the field this problem was addressed by adding B-26 booster motors to drive the belts.

The real cure came with the 6 gun P-51D and later Mustangs. The guns in those later P-51s were mounted with the sides of the M-2 receivers straight up and down rather than tilted.

Wing Detail Continued

Wing Reinstallation

August CAF Red Tail Update

by Chuck Cravens

This is a front view of fuselage with lower cowl former and also note that the side cowl former has been dimpled and the Dzus springs installed.

This is a front view of fuselage with lower cowl former and also note that the side cowl former has been dimpled and the Dzus springs installed.

Update

Last month’s update was produced early to have a current status report at AirVenture in Oshkosh, so this month’s update covers a slightly longer period.

We ended last month with the hope that the Merlin would arrive soon from Roush Aviation. It did come in the last week of July as you will see in the photographs.

Fuselage

Fitting of skins, windows and accessories were the main thrust of the repairs to the fuselage this month.

The left side cowl skins are clecoed on for fitting in this shot.

The left side cowl skins are clecoed on for fitting in this shot.

Right side view showing reused skin panel with Tuskegee prominently visible.

Right side view showing reused skin panel with Tuskegee prominently visible.

Forward air induction duct is being readied to be drilled for rivets.

Forward air induction duct is being readied to be drilled for rivets.

Cowl

Curved “D” window panels await fitting.

Curved “D” window panels await fitting.

Rear view shows the red horizontal and vertical stabilizers, the rudder will become red when the entire Mustang is repainted.

Rear view shows the red horizontal and vertical stabilizers, the rudder will become red when the entire Mustang is repainted.

This trim tab control linkage detail shot shows how the trim tab connects to the pushrod that activates it.

This trim tab control linkage detail shot shows how the trim tab connects to the pushrod that activates it.

This trim tab control linkage detail shot shows how the trim tab connects to the pushrod that activates it.

This trim tab control linkage detail shot shows how the trim tab connects to the pushrod that activates it.

Ryan is working on making the structure ready for the aluminum “smile”casting.

Ryan is working on making the structure ready for the aluminum “smile”casting.

New radio bracket Aaron made for the ADS-B radios is in place.

New radio bracket Aaron made for the ADS-B radios is in place.

"D" Windows

Engine

As promised, the Packard Merlin arrived all repaired and ready to go from Roush Aviation. They do great work and it is always exciting when the power plant goes in. First the mounts need to be prepared.

Scoop

Restoring a scoop, or making a new one for that matter, can seem to take forever.

Scoop progress can be slow because it is such a complicated assembly but the Red Tail’s scoop and doghouse are being joined and are close to completion and reinstallation.

Wings

The good folks at Odegaard Wings are repairing the wings so that, together with AirCorps, we can get this iconic Mustang back in the air. She is too important to the educational program of the Commemorative Air Force and especially the Red Tail Squadron to spend any more time in restoration than it takes to do the job right. Casey Odegaard sent these photos of the progress they are making.

Landing Gear

The final area of restorative progress on “Tuskegee Airmen“ we will examine this month is the main landing gear. A great deal of work went into getting them ready so that when the time comes to put them in, there is no delay.

July CAF Red Tail Update

by Chuck Cravens

She’s looking more like a flyable Mustang every day.

She’s looking more like a flyable Mustang every day.

Update

Some skins and systems are in process this month and are nearing completion.

Firewall forward area before the skins are fitted shown here.

Firewall forward area before the skins are fitted shown here.

Rear angle view in this shot, she once again matches her name.

Rear angle view in this shot, she once again matches her name.

Rudder hinge and pushrod shown  before the rudder was mounted.

Rudder hinge and pushrod shown  before the rudder was mounted.

The brown colored “shower of sparks” or “buzz box” provides ignition spark to the magnetos when the engine is being started but not yet rotating fast enough for the magnetos to generate sufficient power to provide the spark on their own. The heavy black cable is the tach drive cable.

The brown colored “shower of sparks” or “buzz box” provides ignition spark to the magnetos when the engine is being started but not yet rotating fast enough for the magnetos to generate sufficient power to provide the spark on their own. The heavy black cable is the tach drive cable.

Chad works on the scoop for the Red Tail.

Chad works on the scoop for the Red Tail.

Chad works on the scoop for the Red Tail.

Chad works on the scoop for the Red Tail.

The signature red empennage, lacking only paint on the rudder. The whole airframe will be repainted in any case.

The signature red empennage, lacking only paint on the rudder. The whole airframe will be repainted in any case.

Here is an opposite side view of the red tail feathers. In this shot, the finished dog house sits on the floor under the tail. It awaits final fitting of the holes that connect it to the scoop. Once that fitting is complete, the dog house and scoop go on permanently.

Here is an opposite side view of the red tail feathers. In this shot, the finished dog house sits on the floor under the tail. It awaits final fitting of the holes that connect it to the scoop. Once that fitting is complete, the dog house and scoop go on permanently.

Cowling Skins

Stainless side section is installed.

Stainless side section is installed.

Next the upper skins and side skins went on.

Next the upper skins and side skins went on.

The lower cowl skin piece is in place during the fitting process.

The lower cowl skin piece is in place during the fitting process.

Finally a view of the Red Tail with all the cowl skins that have been completed in place.

Finally a view of the Red Tail with all the cowl skins that have been completed in place.

One more skin assembly section ahead of the firewall remains. 

It’s the three piece rear lower cowl section. This is one of the differences between B/C model P-51s and the D models. On the D, the same lower rear cowl section is all one piece.

Latest word is that we will be receiving the Merlin from Roush right after it has been test run. It has been repaired and is ready to run, so that shouldn’t be long in coming.

When that happens, we will remove these cowl pieces prior to installing the V-1650. We should receive the Packard-Merlin in the coming month.

June CAF Red Tail Update

by Chuck Cravens

The Red Tail mounted in its fixture at the AirCorps Aviation restoration shop with another rare C model, Lope’s Hope 3rd in the background. We are very privileged to have two P-51Cs in the shop at once, truly an unusual sight!

The Red Tail mounted in its fixture at the AirCorps Aviation restoration shop with another rare C model, Lope’s Hope 3rd in the background. We are very privileged to have two P-51Cs in the shop at once, truly an unusual sight!

Update

In last month’s Red Tail update we left off with work on the doghouse. That work is progressing and as you will notice, the skin is mostly finished in that area with just the door assembly skins that go on each side to be done.

Fuselage Building

The fuselage work still needed before the Merlin arrives consists of several sections.

Building and fitting the scoop to the doghouse is just getting started. The left hand and the lower cowl skin sections need to be replaced, so they are being fabricated. Some of the cowl ribs also still need to be installed and the air induction ducting system that connects to the rear of the cast “smile“ is coming up soon. Naturally there will also be systems installation for the firewall forward area once the engine is here.

It is always important to manage the parts inventory so the necessary parts are on hand when needed. Various shelves and bins are used to organize the parts, each one labeled with part numbers and project owner.

Cowl

The left side middle and all lower cowl skin will be replaced and will be fabricated as mentioned above but the stainless exhaust shroud is still serviceable. The engine mounts are still to be installed in this shot.

Fabric Covering

People are sometimes surprised that Mustangs and other warbirds have fabric covered control surfaces. Which surfaces are fabric, if any, depends on the type of warbird and sometimes even the model within types. In the case of the various P-51 models, B, C, D and K models had fabric covered rudders. B and C models all originally had fabric covered elevators but early D and K models had a buffeting problem during high speed dives that was attributed to bulging fabric on the elevators. 

Consequently in 1944, Technical Order 01-60-100 specified that all new D and K models would have aluminum skinned elevators and all existing D and K’s would be retrofitted. According to what many consider to be the definitive book on Mustangs, Robert Gruenhagen’s   Mustang, the Story of the P-51 Fighter, the change began at the Inglewood factory with P-51D-20NA #401, and the first P-51D-25NA which were on the assembly line simultaneously. At the Dallas plant the change occurred beginning with the first P-51K-10NT and P-51D-20NT.  With the change to metal elevators, the angle of incidence of the horizontal stabilizer was also changed to one half a degree.

True to its original form coming out of the Dallas factory, the Red Tail retains fabric elevators and rudder. 

Engine Mounting

For the coming month, we are looking forward to seeing the repaired V1650 in our shop. Tuskegee Airmen will look much more like a Mustang when the Packard Merlin is sitting in the mounts.

April/May CAF Red Tail Update

by Chuck Cravens

This is a front view of fuselage in the fixture inside the restoration shop working area.

This is a front view of fuselage in the fixture inside the restoration shop working area.

CAF Red Tail Squadron’s Tuskegee Airmen P-51C Update

Robert Heinlein once said “A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.” This wisdom appears as part of the Commemorative Air Forces’ mission statement. Heinlein’s observation very neatly sums up the reason for the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s “Rise Above” traveling exhibit and the P-51C “Tuskegee Airmen’s” appearances at air shows throughout the country.

Education is the goal, education about the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, not only their stellar combat record, but even more importantly the triumph over adversity that made that record possible. It is this triumph that can inspire others, especially young people, to rise above the obstacles that stand in the way of their goals and dreams. 

That is why it is so very important that the Tuskegee Airmen P-51C continues to tour. An obstacle fell across its path this February when some damage occurred to the Mustang. The CAF Red Tail Squadron decided to invest the time and resources to bring “Tuskegee Airmen” back to airworthiness. They entrusted AirCorps Aviation with the job and the repairs have progressed nicely so far.

By late April the inspections had been completed and repairs commenced.

Fuselage

Cooling Air Intake and Exit Area

Next work began on the very complicated cooling air intake and exit area so characteristic of a Mustang.

Rivets

If you look very carefully in the image above you will notice three rivet colors. Like most large operations, North American sourced rivets and other parts from various subcontractors. The rivets came in three variations of anodized color. There were clear anodized natural aluminum rivets, iridite anodized rivets with a yellow cast to them and occasionally a blue anodized rivet. While unproven, it is speculated that the blue ones may have been to a navy spec and were used because they were available and in the rivet bins.1

New rivets were specially produced to the 1944 specifications by National Rivet and Manufacturing of Waupun, Wisconsin and used throughout the restoration of Sierra Sue II and now in the repair of the Red Tail.

1.  Chuck Cravens, Combat Vet P51, the History of Sierra Sue II, (Edina, MN, Beaver’s Pond Press, 2015)

Doghouse

The doghouse has to be put on and off many times before finally permanently installing it. It is a complicated job to fit all the pieces and make the whole assembly function properly.

It is always amazing how many times assemblies go on and off before permanent installation. After all the fitting work, the doghouse will come off one more time when the scoop is installed. 

For the upcoming month, we will look forward to receiving the completed engine mounts from Odegaard Wings so we can install them.

Several upper cowling formers and the right side upper and side of cowling skins are usable as is. For the rest, some parts will be fabricated and some are available for purchase and will be ordered. (If another qualified restoration shop has done the tooling and made a particular part, it is much more economical to buy that part than to start from scratch and tool up and make it.)

By the end of the month we hope to be ready to install the Merlin when it comes back from Roush Aviation.