As part of WarbirdsNews support for the Commemorative Air Force’s fund-raising campaign ’12 Planes of Christmas’ we will be highlighting each of the aircraft on their list over the next few days. The first of these is the Capital Wing’s Vultee BT-13 Valiant trainer based in Culpeper, Virginia. This aircraft will fly again with markings honoring unit friend Lt.Col. Charles McGee, USAF (Ret) and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen. Colonel McGee had one of the most distinguished flying careers in military history. He flew 409 combat missions across three wars: WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. Colonel McGee became a Tuskegee Airman in October 1942. He completed his basic training in a BT-13, learning how to operate radios and to fly in formation. As he and the other Tuskegee Airmen honed their flying skills, they knew they were fighting for a double victory: against the enemy in Europe, but also against segregation and racism at home. The Capital Wing’s BT-13 is painted with buzz number TU- 70 to represent the aircraft that McGee flew the most during his training in 1943.
Support This Aircraft
The Capital Wing’s Valiant suffered a serious, in-flight engine failure in 2014. Thankfully, the pilot recovered her safely to the ground, albeit with some damage to the airframe (now repaired). Taking advantage of the downtime, Capital Wing volunteers have also worked on refurbishing the aircraft’s fuel tanks and fabric covering. Contributing to this effort have been participants in an innovative mentorship program the wing runs teaching local youths the skills necessary to pursue a career as an Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic. The single remaining obstacle is the cost involved in acquiring a replacement Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine. Because the original engine suffered so much damage when it failed, it is beyond economic repair. This means the Capital Wing will have to purchase a new engine, with a projected cost of $60,000. This is a large sum of money for small unit like the Capital Wing, and will take some time to raise without a boost from the general public. Their BT-13 will tell an important story by sharing the history and legacy of Colonel McGee and the Tuskegee Airmen; a story which still resonates powerfully today. Please click HERE to support this important aircraft.
That Capital Wing is one of the largest and fastest growing units in the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) in the Mid-Atlantic region, and invites you to explore their website. They are always looking for new members who enjoy working around or flying World War II aircraft. More than 90 members are actively involved in maintaining and flying the Wing’s three aircraft; a Grumman TBM-3E Avenger, Vultee BT-13 Valiant, and Stinson L-5 Sentinel. Please contact them if you would like more information, or feel free to join them during their next Open Hangar event (2nd Saturday of every month) at the Culpeper Regional Airport. The Capital Wing is part of a national 501(c)3 charitable non-profit organization. There are many ways you can be a part of their mission!