Red Tails, formations at VTR this Saturday

Published 10:13 am Friday, October 16, 2015

People going to the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport in Mound will have the opportunity to learn about history and watch performances by pilots from across the country as they work to get certified to fly with aerial demonstration teams.

The Commemorative Air Force’s Rise Above Traveling Exhibit, which honors and tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the U.S. Army Air Corps black fighter group, is at Vicksburg-Tallulah to tell the story of the struggles and success of the nation’s black World War II pilots, while participants in the Warbird Formation Clinic, a program to get pilots certified to fly in aerial formations, will perform in the skies above the airport.

The Red Tails exhibit, which is sponsored by the cities of Tallulah and Vicksburg, will be at the Southern Heritage Air Foundation Museum at VTR. Admission to the exhibit, which features a 30-minute film on the Tuskegee Airmen and a fully restored P-51C Mustang fighter, which will perform during the program, is free. A dinner and special showing of the movie “Red Tails” about the Tuskegee Airmen Saturday night is $35 per person.

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“Rise Above is a wonderful program, and having the clinic here is an extra bonus for the people who come out,” said Southern Heritage Air Foundation president Patty Mekus.

“Right now, we have 15 planes — AT-6s, (P-51) Mustangs and (F4U) Corsairs — and 30 pilots already here,” she said Thursday. “We expect to have more come in.”

The three-day formation flying clinic is required for pilots to become certified in flying in formations with other planes. An instructor in formation flying sits in the rear of one of the planes in the formation and works with the pilots as they go through various maneuvers in the air.

Mekus said planes from the clinic will do flyovers at the Vicksburg, Warren Central High School and Tallulah Academy football games Friday.

Tuskegee Airmen is the name given to black aviators who were involved in what was called the “Tuskegee Experience,” an Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft in the 332nd Fighter Group, which was based in Italy and escorted Allied bombers over Germany. The 30-minute film shown as part of the exhibit helps viewers share in the lessons learned by the Tuskegee airmen and live their experience.

The P-51C model Mustang, which is a very rare version of the Mustang and one of the few operating in the world, was the aircraft flown by the Tuskegee Airmen and is decorated to commemorate the men and women of the Tuskegee experiment.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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