Camarillo, CA – In the spring of 1981, the CAF Southern California Wing was formed in the greater Los Angeles area by a small group of CAF members, who gathered together with a dream. Ron Fleishman and Clay Lacy were among that small group. They are still CAF So Cal Wing members. I don’t think they had any idea that this CAF unit would ever be as successful and active as we are today. Most of us didn’t know each other before we started but we quickly found we had the same dream and a real “can-do” attitude. The C-46 Commando Transport was available in Conroe, Texas. It needed two new engines, but it was available if we could get the engines and fly it out. That took a member with a $10,000 no-interest loan to step up, and Ron Fleishman with a crew of aircraft mechanics working almost every weekend during the summer of 1981 in hot and muggy Conroe, TX to procure the new engines and then hang them on the plane. That “can-do” attitude kept them going. We needed an airplane that could haul our members to air shows so we could set up a PX, give tours of the aircraft, and make some money. For many years the C-46 fulfilled that chore until the price of fuel became a problem we could not control. There are only eleven members of the Wing today who were members in the spring of 1983. I don”t have a roster from 1981, but if I did, we would probably find only four or five members still active who were members that year. Most of the early members have passed away. There are many funny stories that we could tell, and many great memories to cherish. The talent among the members is amazing, but the “can-do” attitude has been one of the major attributes that kept us all going. We have received many awards from CAF Headquarters for our major successes.
The following are some of many major milestones in our journey together through the years:
Moving the C-46 transport to Camarillo Airport in June,1982
Seven women in the So Cal Wing were among the first women to become CAF Colonels in July, 1982.
Becoming a CAF Wing in September, 1982
Hosting a banquet for Chuck Yeager at the Airtel Hotel Grand Ballroom, Van Nuys,CA September, 1984
Stripping paint off the C-46 in 1985
Changing name of C-46 from Humpty Dumpty to China Doll in 1986
Moving to the old Nose Hangar from east end of Camarillo Airport in October, 1986
Receiving donation of SNJ-5 #290 from ten So Cal Wing Members
Accepting artifacts from the public setting up displays in our small Aviation Museum and inviting the public to visit
Participating in the Camarillo Air Shows, and in air shows all around Southern California, and sometimes in other parts of the country.
Acquiring all the great warbird aircraft through the years.
Accepting the artifacts and display cases from the Goleta Aviation Museum.
Building the two hangars in 2000-2001.
Accepting the artifacts and display cases from the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica.
Over the years, our aircraft have been featured in many aviation publications, including: calendars, books and magazines. Our aircraft have been used in movies and TV commercials. We flew the C-46 in circles over the 1980s Grand Opening of the Spruce Goose display in Long Beach. We have taken the China Doll to Kalamazoo, Michigan and St. Paul, Minnesota once; and to EAA’s Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin three times for air shows. We have been up and down the Western States to air shows many times over the years. Our Japanese Zero fighter and pilots went to Wanaka, New Zealand to be the main event aircraft at the famous “Wings Over Wanaka” air show several years ago. We have more flying aircraft than most of the CAF units, and we are one of the most active units in aircraft restoration and maintenance. Earlier this year, our Wing was again awarded a national Distinguished Unit Citation by the CAF Headquarters or an outstanding record of accomplishments on aircraft maintenance, restoration, flying record accomplishments and a fund raising program to expand and build additional hangars and a new museum building at its facility. The So Cal Wing has had more success with our Cadet Program for teenagers than other units. The Wing was one of the first units in the CAF organization to start a Cadet Program, with Steve Barber,Jr. when he was a teenager. The members of the Southern California Wing CAF should all be very proud of what they have accomplished over the years and all with volunteers!
The CAF So Cal Wing is a non-profit, self-supporting, tax-exempt, all volunteer organization honoring American military aviation through flight of restored WWII aircraft, educating young people about aircraft history and keeping alive the memory of those who served our country.
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For further information contact: Pat Brown, PIO, 805 479-2221 or Mike Greywitt, PIO 805 908-1548