“Operating this airplane safely is our primary goal, even if it means standing down from a mission.  The object of each flying weekend is to be able to bring our message to as many people as we can, safely.”

– John Beyl, CAF Red Tail Squadron Crew Chief

If you follow the RedTail.org calendar, you’ve noticed that our P-51 Mustang is currently on a scheduled maintenance break. The treasured restored flyer is not experiencing any technical difficulties, rather just the opposite! We keep this prized possession on a regular schedule with our maintenance crew to ensure it’s optimal performance and safety.

The plane is inspected after every 25 hours of flight time, with a more in-depth inspection at 100 hours. The FAA mandates some but not all of the inspections we perform, but original P-51 maintenance procedures called for a similar schedule to what we follow. Most of the systems on board our Mustang are original stock, built in the 1930’s. The materials and engineering of that era require more frequent adjustments and inspections than modern-day aircraft.

It’s the flight crew’s job to service the airplane at a basic level each day, keep it clean and provide weekly operational data to the crew chief including oil pressure, oil consumption, coolant and temperature. From soup to nuts, the maintenance plan is a team effort focused on safety.

“To conduct an important operation such as RISE ABOVE, serviceability is key to the mission, just as it was for the Tuskegee Airmen to achieve their goals.  During the original mission of the Tuskegee Airmen, for every pilot there was a crew of 14 support staff to completely and safely complete the mission. In today’s modern mission, the CAF Red Tail Squadron holds true to that ratio. If not for our team on the road, at the home base, or positioned at our many showings, our challenges would exceed our abilities.”

– Bill Shepard, CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51 pilot

As an interesting bit of trivia, under wartime conditions these airplanes and engines were not expected to last much more than about 100 to 150 operational hours, although they could last longer when used in less stressful conditions. Smaller, liquid cooled in-line engines like the 1700 horsepower, 1650 cubic inch V-12 in our P-51 are subjected to much higher component stresses than a larger engine, and higher stress loads equal more periodic inspections.

Thanks to the dedicated team players of our maintenance and flight crews, we are able to safely and frequently send our P-51 in the air to continue to inspire and spread the RISE ABOVE message to audiences around the country. Well-done team!



The CAF Red Tail Squadron is volunteer-driven 501c3 organization that operates as part of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information about the Squadron and its educational mission, visit www.redtail.org.


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