September 10, 2008
By Alton K. Marsh
The Commemorative Air Force, based in Midland, Texas, is appealing a court decision giving ownership of a rare North American F-82—sometimes called the Twin Mustang but actually a new design—to the U.S. Air Force.
The CAF claimed that the U.S. Air Force first donated the aircraft in 1966 with provisions for its eventual return, then in 1968 gave permission to fly the airplane and referred to it as an official donation to the CAF, with no provisions for its return. The USAF issued a “transfer certificate” to the CAF as well.
The National Museum of the USAF, which has ownership of the issue, has refused to comment on the issue, since it is under appeal in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. However, Stephan D. Brown, president and CEO of the Commemorative Air Force, said the Air Force has changed donation and transfer rules since the 1970s and feels the change in rules is retroactive to the F-82. The museum is located in Dayton, Ohio, and is headed by MG (ret.) Charles Metcalf.
The CAF flew the aircraft at airshows until 1986 when it was damaged in an accident. It has been restored to display status, and donations of up to $1 million have been located in recent years to restore the aircraft to flight status. The Air Force museum wants the airplane transported to Dayton immediately at a cost to the CAF of $28,000 without waiting for the year-long appeal process.
“What is to be gained by this?” asked Brown. “What is the noble purpose? More people will see it if we fly it than will see it if it is put in a museum.” But the Air Force museum already has an F-82 on display, one just a few serial numbers older than the one at the CAF hangar.
The F-82 saw action in Korea (it was delivered too late for World War II) and featured twin cockpits, one for a pilot and the other for a co-pilot/navigator.
In early 2007 the U.S. Air Force reclaimed a painstakingly and expensively restored Lockheed A-12 (SR-71 Blackbird) that was mounted on a pedestal at the Minnesota Air Guard Museum in Minneapolis. It was sent to the CIA as a lawn ornament, although other A-12s in less perfect condition were available around the country.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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