Georgia's CAF Airbase Helps Aged Warplanes Stay in the Air

the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) at Airbase Georgia
There are roughly 200 volunteers who are a part of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) at Airbase Georgia. (Photo by Richard Scarbrough)

Pulling into Atlanta Regional Airport: Falcon Field (KFFC) from Dividend Drive in Peachtree City always sparks my memory and enhances my sense of nostalgia. Being raised in an aviation family unit about guarantees you’ll spend your formidable years pulling chocks and spinning props. The airport is an addition to the house. The third house has a picnic table adjacent to the last, and I frequently take my family there to consume while watching the jets take off.

I spent the better part of four decades at Falcon Field, initially as a child amazed by the planes, then as an aircraft engine shop proprietor conducting business, and last as a journalist.

I latterly met amongst Col. Randy Hawkins, maintenance officer for the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Airbase Georgia for a private tour together with aircraft maintenance discussion.

On February 28, 1987, Airbase Georgia commenced as a provisional charter and moved to Wing Charter No. 48 on January 30, 1989. The CAF would then refer to them as Dixie Wing until they were granted Airbase status on February 18, 2021.

This airbase has approximately 200 volunteers. The maintenance squad employs 12 airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics, half of whom agree to an inspection authorization (IA). A dozen machinists or people with specialist mechanical abilities are also featured.

Do you remember our conversation about getting an A&P? Practical experience is one of the options. Randy stated that helping at the airbase is an excellent way for aspiring mechanics to gain experience, gain confidence, and eventually pass the A&P exam. Keeping a logbook of work done is an important part of on-the-job training.

When one volunteer recently handed his record to the Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO), he was asked, “You did all these tasks?” The inspector was the only one who questioned it because the record was so thorough and he had such a broad range of run. In addition, when taking the test, this individual scored in the high 90s. This is an excellent example of how volunteering at the CAF may result in a win-win situation.

The airbase besides has a group of female person volunteers dubbed the Angels Squadron. This brings elements of Rosie the Riveter to Falcon Field and is a personal reminder for me of my Grandmother Ethel. I wrote a slice nearly her for International Women’s Day inward 2021.

When it comes to sustaining these former warbirds, time is of the essence. One may picture the effort hours required to get each one airworthy, let alone a fleet of ix aircraft amongst several more than inwards work. Randy must maintain a precipitous concentration on the upkeep due to the volunteer nature of the go. Everyone is extremely careful because no one wants to be the person who ruins a piece of aviation history. Each crewmember understands that they can take their time to complete the task because there is no important mission that these birds take to fly past a specified deadline in that location.

That is all well and good, but he joked that “the annual inspection should not accept a year.”

Randy and I retired to the make room and spoke about his time in flying. His career path took him from the United States Air Force (USAF) to teaching at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) and finally to Delta Air Lines. He retired a few years ago and is now refueling his use and love at the CAF Airbase Georgia.

Donations are always appreciated at the airbase. Contributions, in addition to stated money, fund the arrangement. The organization’s machinists were overjoyed recently to acquire a 3-axis CNC motorcar twenty hp vector campaign, a fantastic addition to the shop machinery.

Another valuable stone took me off guard right away. A 1941 Model C-three Link “Blue Box” trainer struck me as a toy. This device employs vacuum-operated bellows to train pilots to fly using only instruments (IFR). “I Follow Rivers,” as my airplane pilot buddies like to say. Every time I turned my head, there was another piece of history demanding to be carved into a floor.

Talking shop with Randy was an incredible privilege for me. His knowledge and attention to detail are testaments to the spirit of aviation people. You know who I’m talking about: the people who will brew a love cup or pour a pint for you for hours, nearly forcing these birds to taxi out together with wing away.

I inquired nearly the maintenance practices for keeping older aircraft operation too airworthy. Most are express category experimental in addition to function with a exceptional airworthiness certificate issued to enable the performance of surplus armed services aircraft. Regarding offer rides for donations, the airbase applies for a 6802 History Living Flight Experience as well as must renew the certification every 2 years. You can bet I will attempt to finagle a style to hop a ride. And, aye, I had to google how to patch “finagle.”

The squadron operates the North American Aviation T-vi Texan and the Beechcraft T-34B Mentor, both of which are type-certified. The T-34 is powered by a Continental Motors IO-520 Series engine; parts and technical data are widely available.

When tech information is non easily accessible owing to the aircraft’s historic period or scarcity, Randy too the squad use resource adopted over the years to hold compliance. One such site is Aircorp, a blueprints restoration fellowship. From their website, Aircorp states they support the continued airworthiness of historical, legacy, and modernistic aircraft through laurels-winning restoration, maintenance, project management, parts fabrication, as well as sales.

It is vital that these aircraft receive great attention to detail, with nothing left to chance. I witnessed this firsthand when Randy detailed the ongoing repairs of their 1941 Fairchild PT-nineteen and 1941 Stearman Navy PT-17. These trainers were built in the same year but had quite distinct designs and missions, as well as being made of various materials. We talked about woodworking on the PT-xix, as well as dope and fabric abilities on the Stearman. Randy educates the volunteers on the finer elements of concealing the ribs among the material, rib stitching, and drawing everything taut with an atomic number 26.

Other aircraft on-site at the Airbase are a North American P-51D Mustang, Bell P-63A Kingcobra, Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless, a replica Nakajima B5N2, in addition to my personal favorite, the Chance Vought F4U Corsair. If anyone is looking for a concluding-infinitesimal Christmas gift for me, delight see Baa Baa Black Sheep on DVD. You tin fifty-fifty packet that alongside Rat Patrol too save money! See how I am ever looking out for you past providing fantabulous resource.

I spoke with Col. Joel Perkins, the airbase commander, a few days after my visit, about why people could consider joining the CAF or contributing their fourth dimension. He shared the following personal insight into why he joined the CAF.

“At Airbase Georgia, we have a saying that y’all come up for the aircraft, but you rest for the people. That’s when my curiosity started. I was attracted in by the history associated with these historic aircraft. As I became more involved in the organization, friendships began to form, and I quickly learned there was so much more to the CAF than I had anticipated. These beautiful folks have become like family to me.”

That’s it, folks.

The irony of the timing of this piece is not lost on me. I planned on writing about the CAF after attending the Atlanta Air Show at Peachtree City’s Falcon Field inward early Nov. As I got to the viewing surface area, I saw their hangar together with thought the CAF would be a bang-up level. Little did I know how of import telling their floor would live.

A week later, during the Wings Over Dallas airshow, a CAF Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra collided in mid-air. FLYING initiation reported the event the following solar day and continues to provide updates on the investigation.

The Commemorative Air Force addressed questions concerning supporting their families during this difficult fourth dimension amongst this Twitter post. They teach those who donate to “designate your donation to CAF, together with it goes into a prepare-aside fund only for these six families.” I am confident that any total would assistance.

This is not the fourth dimension or home to struggle with the ramifications of flying old aircraft. Trust me, there will be plenty of opportunities in that place in the future. No, this time is for abiding by, reflecting, and remembering those who died while carrying out a purpose they cherished. We may honor them by treating others who share a different sentiment than ours. That can only go together with an open and honest word.

Joel and I also spent some time conversing, almost keeping these former warbirds in air. “There are enough of antique warbirds on static exhibit,” he believes. I must say that I tend to agree with him. There is nothing comparable to hearing a radial engine burn out and seeing a proud iconic flying historical slice taxi out. The problem is that once they become static, they rarely fly again.

I’ll get out beside a quotation from Robert A. Heinlein, the science fiction writer, aeronautical engineer, and former naval officer, which reads, “A generation that ignores history has no past—and no time to come.” Sir, you have expressed it perfectly.

Dolph Nelson

Science and Technology enthusiast, obsessed with organic vegetables. He is intelligent and careful, but can also be very lazy and a bit grumpy.

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