The mission of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is to keep the planes from WWII flying. What started with one plane has grown not only into a mission to save the planes from the era, but to also keep them in their natural habitat – in the air.
More than 11,000 volunteers work to keep the airplanes flying so generations can “see, hear, feel, and experience the power and majesty of these aircraft in operation.” The CAF goal is to keep these airplanes alive to “tell the story of the greatest generation.”
While there is a need for pilots, Chris Hughston, RGV Wing operations officer, stressed that you don’t have to be a pilot to help out at the CAF Museum and facilities.
“We need ground help too,” he said.
The RGV Wing, and other wings, have vehicles that sometimes need some extra care. The museum also needs volunteers to help with tours and other areas not specific to flying a plane.
Tours are just one means of raising money for the CAF. These tours can be special group events or just go on by when they are open. Most of their exhibits portray WWII and the battles fought during the time. About half of their exhibits feature personal stories of people that live, or lived, in the Valley and were part of the War in some way.
One thing the RGV Wing loves to do during a tour, is to have the ability to take a plane in the air so visitors have a chance to “see the smoke, smell the oil burning, hear the engine.” This adds to the experience of being at the museum – you not only get to see artifacts donated by mainly local families, but you also get to see history come alive through seeing a plane in flight.
One of the current issues with the museum, is space. Although they have many artifacts on display, there are many more they just do not have the room for. Through monies collected, they eventually hope to get more space so these items can be viewed by the public.
One item that Museum Curator David Christopher mentioned that is not currently out for view is a tapestry from Poland. This tapestry is from the 17th century and was donated to the organization. The significance of the tapestry, he said, “It sat in the family home of an aeronautical engineer in Poland when the war started in September 1939.
“Bombing in those days was not an exact science”, he continued. “A bomb hit the home. The home exploded and the tapestry was shredded with shrapnel.”
The family got out of Poland before the Germans invaded and went to England before finally moving to Canada. This family, he said, somehow got in touch with us and said they would like to donate the item to us.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the room to show that tapestry today. So, we very lovingly packed it away,” said Christopher. It is sealed in glass to protect it as best as they can until a time comes when they can display it for visitors.
Another event they have to raise funds for the museum and upkeep of the aircraft is by holding airshows. They have at least one main airshow every year. Airshows are held to show people what these planes meant to our history. They are a tribute to those who fought and secured the freedoms we have today.
The airshows feature pyrotechnics, outside aerobatic performers and there will be modern military vehicles and planes along with the WWII planes. Food, drinks, and trade shows are also present at the airshows.
The next airshow isn’t scheduled until next October, but be on the lookout for more information so you can see these wonderful pieces of history in flight.
A local entertainer, Leslie Blasing, also helps out the CAF. She holds concerts throughout the year to support the CAF. Coming up soon is a performance at Louie’s Backyard on South Padre Island on Friday, November 8, from 6 to 9 p.m. She will also be at Boomerang Billy’s on Sunday, November 10 when some planes will do a flyover.
On January 27, Leslie will perform “The Music of the Time” – music from WWII and 40’s at the Cameron County Airport as a CAF Hanger and Museum fundraiser. The doors will open at 12:30 p.m., show at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 per person, $14 at the door, and it includes a tour of the museum. Snacks will also be available for purchase. Call (970) 379-4604 for more information or catch Leslie at any of her other shows for tickets.
The RGV Wing invites activity directors to coordinate tours to their museum and to see their planes. Price is typically $5 per person. Tour limits are 20 to 30 people. Call the CAF to coordinate the tours – they can schedule them during other times outside of their operating hours.
To find out more about the CAF visit their website at www.rgvcaf.org or call Tom Santos at (956) 579-2611 or Christopher at (970) 397-4604.
For more information about Leslie Blasing, visit www.chuckandleslie.com.