by Chuck Cravens
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.
In the shop now, the fuselage in the fixture as new tail cone skin is clecoed on to check fit.
New lower rear fuselage skin has been riveted in place and repaired side skin is visible in this shot.
Cooling Air Intake and Exit Area
Next work began on the very complicated cooling air intake and exit area so characteristic of a Mustang.
The forward exit duct frame as it is being straightened.
Assembled exit duct frames 102-31134 and 31135 shown after straightening and reassembly.
Checking inner skin fit inside exit duct before assembly.
Checking outer skin fit on the exit duct.
The exit duct is coming back together permanently
Simon is reassembling tail cone components.
Brian is working on the inside of the exit duct.
Brian is reaching back, riveting the exit duct on.
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)
A view of the exit duct area in place and being permanently riveted in place.
Oxygen bottle area, sometimes known by crew as “the hellhole” because of how cramped and difficult it could be to work in there.
This view is looking forward from the rear of the oxygen bottle area.
Replacement propeller blades for the Red Tail, are in stock and ready to be overhauled.
Here is the exit duct with the radiator mount in place.
Rear view of new doghouse, this surface mates to the front side of the radiator.
In the photo, the elongated oval shaped opening is where cooling air exits the oil cooler which will mount directly in front of that opening in the space shown. The opening above the oil cooling duct (to the left in the photo) is for radiator cooling air.
This side of the doghouse mates to the radiator. The radiator air duct expands in cross section to slow the cooling air before it reaches the radiator. This allows the air to move through the radiator more slowly to cool better. After it leaves the radiator, the exit duct narrows down to accelerate the air again as it leaves the air duct.
Dan and Steve use a template to ensure the fit of the doghouse will be correct.
Mark working on fitting the doghouse.
Two sets of hands are better than one sometimes. Randy works with Mark.
The rebuild of the exit door begins.
Randy assembling exit door in a fixture.
Rudder in fresh epoxy, ready to cover.
Flap control assembly bearings in the paint booth
Flap control assembly bearings in the paint booth.
Flap control assembly bearings in the paint booth.
Repaired engine mount beam assembly ready for skin at Odegaard Wings.
Flap actuator torque rod, rudder, and various castings fresh out of the paint booth. The parts with two and three large cylinders in this photo are engine mount castings that will have the Lord mount vibration isolators installed before use.
A view of repaired engine mount beam assembly from the other side.
Front side of the radiator, this radiator is one just being used to ensure the fit in the mounts is correct. The tube with bell cranks in the upper left is the flap actuator tube assembly.
Inner skin of the cooling air exit door.
Randy carefully assembling the exit door.
A better view of the flap actuator torque tube assembly.
Hydraulic flap actuator strut assembly.
In the area is the hydraulic wing flap and air scoop control valve assembly, shown here left edge center, the natural aluminum casting with hydraulic connections.
The oxygen bottle is installed.
A bottom view of the doghouse showing the oil cooler door (painted trapezoidal shape).
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.
The assembly is being test fitted here.
Here is the view through the air duct to the radiator face.
Another shot of the right side of the doghouse.
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.