As I sit to write the final column of 2015, the first thought that pops into my mind is: A lot has been accomplished this year! Unfortunately, we don’t have the space to outline all of the amazing things that the wings, squadrons, sponsor groups and detachments have done across the country this year. I read the unit newsletters that are sent to me—feel free to add me to your mailing list—and am amazed at all the cool happenings across the CAF. Keep up the great work, and know that you are accomplishing the CAF’s mission!
From a national recognition perspective, the Arsenal of Democracy (AOD) was a huge leap forward in the worldwide profile of World War II warbirds and the CAF. Having 56 aircraft fly down Independence Avenue in Washington, D.C., on the 70th anniversary of VE Day, was a sight unseen in recent memory and a real feather in the cap of all who worked on it—including U.S. governmental agencies, which found a way to make it happen. All of our members should be proud that the CAF was so strongly represented, alongside friends in the warbird world, as Washington, D.C., came to a standstill to gaze skyward as history flew overhead. And the presence of more than 300 WWII veterans on hand was moving to both participants and observers alike.
The CAF also gained international attention this year with the rescue and acquisition of the lead D-Day C-47, That’s All, Brother. The popularity of this project became overwhelmingly apparent when the Kickstarter fundraising campaign exceeded all expectations. With a boost from Hollywood actor and military adviser Dale Dye, along with 93-year-old D-Day paratrooper Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, That’s All, Brother was a big hit at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and the airplane is now beginning the first stage of restoration.
With those two projects came a growing social media popularity. We have gone from 40,000 Facebook followers a year ago, to over 130,000 as of November. But, what does that mean? Well, it means that when someone sees your airplane or the logo on your shirt, the odds of them knowing about the CAF and liking what we do is much greater than just a year ago. And this knowledge leads to more of everything: members, riders, donors, PX sales, participants, etc.
The Headquarters Staff completed a big year, by physically moving their families, offices and artifacts out of Midland and into the offices at Dallas Executive Airport. As you can imagine, this was hard for those with families, as well as staff members who had lived in Midland/Odessa for decades. I am grateful to these dedicated employees who have sacrificed a lot for the organization that they love. It wasn’t easy, and all departments ended up shorthanded by the last days in Midland, so I want to publicly thank all of them for sticking with us.
Finally, we have made quite a bit of progress as an organization over the past few years. Since 2006, the entire CAF has more than doubled in size, from a financial standpoint. In 2005, when you wrap up all revenue from the units in the field and Headquarters, we had gross revenue of just under $13 million. In 2014, 10 years later, we had gross revenue of just over $27 million! That is outstanding work in the field, and every member should feel proud that their efforts have resulted in this growth. And from everything I see going on around the CAF, I am sure that this trend will continue!
I wish you and your families very happy and healthy holiday season. And hope you are excited, as am I, to begin another fantastic year with the Commemorative Air Force!