In a judgment filed Nov. 2, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the National Museum of the United States Air Force (USAFM) in the ownership dispute of a P-82 Twin Mustang. While the ruling supports the original judgment of the District Court in July, Commemorative Air Force (CAF) officials say they are disappointed by the outcome.
“We had hoped that the de novo review would end in favor of the CAF,” said President Stephan Brown. “After countless hours of dedication on behalf of the CAF, our member-volunteers and staff are disheartened by the decision to place the P-82 in the hands of the USAFM permanently. Despite our extensive documentation of ownership, the plane has been returned to the USAFM as directed by the District Court in July.”
The documentation in the CAF’s possession chronicles the history of the P-82 and includes a “Donation Certificate” issued in 1966. This certificate transferred physical possession of the aircraft from the USAF to the CAF. Also included is a “Transfer Certificate” issued in 1968 that confirmed the CAF’s request to fly the airplane and stated, “This will certify that F-82B aircraft Air Force serial number 44-65162 has been officially donated by the Air Force to the (CAF), Mercedes, Texas, under the provisions of 10 USC 2572.” The transfer certificate allowed the CAF to establish title to the aircraft for the purpose of obtaining FAA certification and license for operation, CAF officials explain.
The P-82 Twin Mustang joined the CAF Ghost Squadron in 1966 and was flown in support of the CAF’s mission to honor American military aviation for 20 years, before it was damaged in an accident in 1987. Since the accident, the CAF had been searching within its membership for someone willing to help restore the aircraft. This P-82 would have been the only flying Twin Mustang in the world had the CAF had the opportunity to proceed with restoration, officials note.
Ironically, it was the efforts to find someone to help restore the aircraft that triggered the recent court cases. In December 2002, MG (ret.) Charles Metcalf, director of the USAFM, sent a letter to the CAF claiming the United States Air Force Museum had revisionary interest on the airplane and demanded its returned after reading an article about the plane in a magazine.
Despite the non-flying status of the P-82, throughout its stay with the CAF it was an integral part in the education of military aviation history, according to CAF officials. Since 1987, the P-82 was kept in the hangar at CAF International Headquarters in Midland, Texas, where it was viewed by CAF Airpower Museum and AIRSHO visitors. In the summer of 2009, following the judgment of the District Court, the P-82 was dismantled and shipped to the Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio.
For more information: CommemorativeAirForce.org