August 3, 2008

Commemorative Air Force Forms Local Wing, Looks for New Members

By Rob Stapleton, Alaska Journal of Commerce, Anchorage

Aug. 3--A group of Alaska aviation enthusiasts are working to promote aviation and to maintain and restore vintage military aircraft.

The Commemorative Air Force has a local chapter, called a wing, and is looking for new members.

"Right now we have about 25 members and we are looking for others who are interested in being part of a wing that has a goal of attracting more people to aviation," said Suellyn Novak, a retired Air Force colonel and executive officer of the Alaska wing.

Formally called the Confederate Air Force, the draw for new membership is the task of taking care of a Mark IV Harvard Trainer, the Canadian version of the North American AT-6, that was donated by Eagle River resident Mike Hunt.

"She's a beauty, come and help us show her off," said Novak.

Novak and wing leader Sara Maurer hope to entice pilots and young people to help maintain and display the aircraft.

"If you like the sound of a round engine-rumbling, and the smell of high-octane fuel or you just want a hand at polishing her up, this is the right group for you," Novak said.

The wing's agenda is to show the aircraft at as many local venues about flying as possible.

Formed in July 2006, the wing has exhibited at the Alaska Airmen's Association State Tradeshow and Conference, the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum's salmon bake and at the Elmendorf Air Force Base's Arctic Thunder air show. The wing has a membership booth on occasion at the Elmendorf-Fort Richardson Post Exchange.

The national organization originally started in Texas in 1957, when a group of ex-service pilots pooled their money to buy a World War II- era P-51 Mustang. They formed a nonprofit, under the name Confederate Air Force, in 1961. Their agenda was to restore WWII aircraft. The group has grown to 9,000 members nationally and has preserved more than 160 aircraft that represent over 60 different types.

Now known as the Commemorative Air Force, the aircraft are not confined to museums. Instead they are flown to people and events, and appear annually at air shows across the U.S.

Now in Alaska, the group hopes to increase its membership and visibility by flying the Harvard to air shows and aviation events around the state.

National memberships range from $45 for cadet members who are 13 to 23 years old to $200 a year for a Colonel membership. Local member chapter dues are $50 a year.

Pilots wanting to fly the Harvard must have at least 500 hours of flying time, with 50 hours of retractable time, 50 hours of tail wheel time. They must also pass the Alaska wing flight evaluation board examination and a check ride, as well as provide a one-time cost as a sponsor by paying $3,500.

The group meets on the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at Guido's Pizza on International Airport Road. For information, contact [email protected] or go to

Rob Stapleton can be reached at [email protected]">[email protected]


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