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)