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September 5, 2013

First plane in Commemorative Air Force fleet to visit LSA Expo

MT. VERNON — — Another World War II warbird will be joining Maid in the Shade for the Light Sport Aircraft Expo — Red Nose.

"She's a P-51 Mustang fighter made by North American Aviation," said Dave Gross of the Commemorative Air Force. "She's part of the Commemorative Air Force Dixie Wing and will be arriving on Friday."

Red Nose is the plane that launched the Confederate Air Force, now known as the Commemorative Air Force. Lloyd P. Nolen, one of the founding members of the organization, purchased the warbird on Oct. 17, 1957, for $2,500. Later that year, someone painted "Confederate Air Force" on its tail — the official start of the Commemorative Air Force. The aircraft was officially donated to the CAF in 1977 and was restored in 1993. It was assigned to the CAF Dixie Wing in November 2002, and took to the air for the first time in four years in September 2003.

"It can be expensive to fly these war birds," said airport manager Chris Collins. "Right now, the cost of aviation fuel is $6.50 per gallon, and some of these aircraft take 100 to 200 gallons per hour to fly."

Rides are being made available on Made in the Shade, a B25 bomber, and Red Nose. Collins said fewer war birds are being flown all the time, so getting both historic aircraft in one place for the public to view is a special event.

The two ladies are at the airport in conjunction with the LSA Expo, which will get underway today. Crews of volunteers were setting up Wednesday in expectation of more than 40 vendors and thousands of visitors.

"This year there is no admission," Collins said, adding the expenses of the expo have gone down, so admission charges were no longer necessary. "We just urge people to come out for the Commemorative Air Force, and to support aviation."

Collins said in addition to the expo and CAF, a fly-in will be hosted at the facility and an aircraft wash to raise funds for scholarships. The veterans memorial museum will also be open to the public, as will Wilkey's Restaurant.

The Expo will be open today, Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the CAF will also be at the airport through Monday.

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