by Chuck Cravens
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.”
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
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
Much of the work done in June was preparation of the firewall forward area for the eventual arrival of the Packard Merlin.
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
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.
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 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!
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.