The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) has chosen Dallas Executive Airport (KRBD) as the location for its CAF National Airbase and corporate headquarters.
The selection comes as “after an intensive one-year nationwide search, which began with 23 cities and narrowed to six, then three finalists,” noted Stephan C. Brown, president and CEO.
According to Neils Agather, CAF chairman of the board, “From the start, the CAF Board of Directors laid out disciplined criteria for the location, such as having an airport large enough to operate our aircraft and airshow, being part of a large metropolitan area, having interstate access, and so on. We unanimously found Dallas Executive to be the best fit with our needs.”
The CAF will move a few initial staff in 2014 from its current headquarters in Midland, Texas, with the full operations of its headquarters arriving in Dallas by the end of 2015.
“We also have the goal of constructing a world-class aviation visitor attraction, unlike any other in the United States,” said Brown. “It will educate and entertain young and old alike using the very best of modern display techniques, including interactive displays, 4D movie experiences and hyper-realistic flight simulators. We will also be using the most interactive assets we have — the largest fleet of flying vintage military aircraft in the world. And to that end, we are announcing our plans to raise the funds necessary to build this facility, initially estimated at $40 million.”
“This will be a major tourism and educational asset for the city of Dallas,” said Adam Smith, CAF executive vice president and National Airbase project leader. “We have a unique opportunity at this location to inspire hundreds of thousands of children and adults with some incredible airplanes and also to share the important stories the aircraft carry, of human endeavor and sacrifice in the name of freedom.”
“I can see yellow school busses dropping our children off to learn history through the sights, sounds and smells of real aircraft, not just a computer screen,” Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins echoed. “Seeing these aircraft fly makes history real. I am especially excited about the CAF’s ‘Rise Above’ initiative which uses a Red Tail P-51 Mustang and the lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen to show our youth that if these brave men could ‘rise above’ their circumstances of discrimination to fight for their country, then they too can rise above their own circumstances to succeed.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings led the pursuit of the CAF and his team worked closely with the CAF and its consultant Jones Lange LaSalle over the past year to agree to terms and find the right location on the airport, CAF officials noted.
“I told the CAF folks from the start that Dallas was the only clear choice for their National Airbase. I am excited they agreed and look forward to their role in helping our city grow south,” Rawlings said. “The CAF will be a welcome addition to the museum and educational community here in Dallas, and it will provide cultural and recreational activities for residents and visitors alike.”
Along with the planned year-round public attraction, the CAF plans to hold up to three major events a year, including an annual World War II airshow. CAF’s 164 aircraft nationwide perform in more than 300 air shows every year, nine of which the organization produces itself.
“Our goal is to make the Dallas airshow the preeminent Warbird airshow in the nation,” said Brown. “We plan to bring in aircraft and re-enactors from all over the country so the community can enjoy a family event unlike any other.”
CAF’s National Airbase will become the permanent home to the world’s only flying B-29 Superfortess “FIFI” and the B-24 Liberator “Diamond Lil,” one of only two left flying. Other fighters, cargo and transport aircraft will also make Dallas Executive their home.
The CAF reached initial terms with the City’s Economic Development and Aviation Departments in early April and the City Council’s consideration of a proposed lease and associated financial arrangements will take place in the near future.
In 1957, a small group of ex-service pilots pooled their money to purchase a P-51 Mustang, beginning what is now called the Commemorative Air Force. With the addition of a pair of F8F Bearcats, the CAF became the founders of the Warbird Movement, an effort to preserve and honor our military aviation history with the rallying cry “Keep ‘Em Flying!” Now, nearly 60 years later, the CAF operates 164 airworthy vintage aircraft. A non-profit educational association, the CAF has more than 10,000 members and its fleet of historic aircraft is distributed among 83 units in 25 states.
For more information: CommemorativeAirForce.org