Vintage airplanes part of ‘flying museum’

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, October 15, 2008

FRANKLIN — It’s been 51 years since the founding members of what is now the Commemorative Air Force purchased their first World War II-era airplane for $2,500. Today that plane is worth more than $1 million, but it’s worth way less than the mission it has created.

The Commemorative Air Force is a “flying museum.” The CAF airplanes are assigned and maintained by 74 CAF units across the country. The group has 11,000 members with units in 27 states and four foreign countries. The fleet is known as the “Ghost Squadron” and helps to recreate, remind and reinforce the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history. Most of the vintage airplanes are from World War II, but the CAF also has some flyers from the Korean War and Vietnam War.

The Old Dominion Squadron of the CAF meets at the Franklin Municipal Airport and now has its planes hangared there. Stephan C. Brown, the president and CEO of the CAF, paid a visit to the Old Dominion group at its regular monthly meeting on Saturday.

The maintenance and restoration of these airplanes is the responsibility of the squadron. At the same time, the members are dedicated to displaying the planes at airshows and other aviation events.

“Our goal is to educate and remind America of what the ‘greatest generation’ did. This is a living history example,” Brown said. “They agree to take on the care and feeding of the airplanes, and they are all volunteers. They do the maintenance, piloting, and restorations. They raise the money and they find it themselves. They take these airplanes and exhibit them in air shows and other events.”

Brown, a graduate of Penn State University who was a U.S. Army aviator, said CAF airplanes do not sit in a hangar looking nice. “We have dirty, oily, loud airplanes that fly..”

On Saturday, the Old Dominion Squadron had a North American AT-6 Texan, PT-22 Recruit trainer, and a Stinson OY-1 Sentinel on display at the Franklin Municipan Airport.