Tonight, we gave the LSW PT-17 a good wash so she was ready for our flyin this weekend (11/3/2018). I had the privilege to work with our wing leader, Mike Cobb. Mike has been around for a while and we got to talking about the history of the Lone Star Wing and our PT-17 in particular.
Mike mentioned it took about 4-5 years to finish the rebuild and restoration of 23 (our affectionate name for the PT-17…a reference to the ship number emblazoned on the side of the fuselage). When I looked at him with a bit of disbelief he said, “well, we had another plane flying…” as if to say, “we weren’t in a hurry, we could take our time since we had another bird to fly…” Speaking of that other bird, 23’s sister ship, 33, is now under the capable stewardship of the DFW wing of the CAF. If you are ever near Lancaster Regional Airport (KLNC), go visit the DFW wing. We enjoyed their hospitality during my (Col. Page) training and appreciate that hospitality and training very much. Anyway, back to the story…
I had a realization when Mike mentioned the length of time it took to rebuild/restore 23. At the CAF, and specifically at the LSW, we are tasked with not just preserving the legacy of the men and women who trained and fought in these aircraft. We are also tasked with preserving the legacy of the men and women who have, over the years, lovingly restored, repaired, and maintained these aircraft in flying condition. The “Keep’em Flying” philosophy bears double the weight of inspiration when we think of it in these terms. I’m part of a new generation of LSW unit members who are enjoying the fruits of the labors of those who have gone before me. Other new members of other CAF units would do well to pause and ponder this as well. As we seek to grow the Lone Star Wing and expand our ability to accomplish the mission of the CAF:
“The CAF was founded to acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft which were flown by all military services of the United States, and selected aircraft of other nations, for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans.
More than just a collection of airworthy warplanes from the past, the CAF's fleet of historic aircraft, known as the CAF Ghost Squadron, recreate, remind and reinforce the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history.”
We must also realize the sacrifices of those who have gone before us in that mission. It helps us to appreciate the care and love that has gone into curating this incredible fleet of aircraft. Hopefully, it will also inspire us to continue the mission and “acquire, restore, and preserve” other aircraft so that generations coming after us can stand on our shoulders.
Let this post be a handshake of appreciation to my fellow LSW members who have poured heart and soul into the restoration of the aircraft I’m now enjoying so much. And let it also be a rally cry to the new CAF members everywhere to respect these aircraft doubly…for the men and women who trained and fought in them and the men and women who took on the challenge to restore them to flying condition.