CAF Highland Lakes Squadron Announces C-47’s Return to RCAF Colors

The Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force seeks to restore the Texas Zephyr to her Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Search and Rescue days.

Aircorps Art Dec 2019


By Luc Zipkin

The Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), based in Burnet, Texas, has announced an initiative to restore their 1945 Douglas C-47B Skytrain, known as Texas Zephyr, to its appropriate markings from its service as a Search and Rescue aircraft of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The Squadron is pursuing the initiative independently, though it coincides with the CAF’s annual 12 Planes of Christmas campaign that draws attention to 30 different aircraft projects and is seeking donations to complete the project. A donation page page can be found HERE.

KP224 as RCAF 12905 in search and rescue service. The Squadron seeks to return Texas Zephyr to these markings by spring 2024.

Texas Zephyr was manufactured in June 1945 as a C-47B-35DK in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and transferred to the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in Montréal, Quebec as KP224. By the fall of 1945, KP224 was further transferred to the RCAF’s 436 Transport Squadron, with which it served transporting freight and mail in Burma. After returning to Canada, KP224 remained with the RCAF until 1976, serving with the 435 Transport Squadron, 414 Photographic Squadron, 4 Operational Training Unit, 102 Communications and Rescue Unit, 111 Communications Flight, and 429 Transport Squadron. After RCAF service, KP224 flew air charter and freight for a variety of Canadian companies as C-GGJF and C-GSCB, before being exported to the United States in 1994. Falcon Aero of Fredericksburg, Texas operated KP224, now known as N346AB, until 2007, when Karl Ritter bought her and christened her first Spirit of Hondo and later Texas Zephyr. In November 2019, Mr. Ritter donated the Zephyr, by then no longer in airworthy condition, to the Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force. The Squadron completed her restoration, including two engine replacements, at Brady, Texas until May 2023, when she joined the rest of the Squadron fleet at Burnet, Texas.

 

Texas Zephyr, now N346AB, in her current markings.

Because of the Zephyr’s long service with the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Highland Lakes Squadron seeks to return this historic World War II veteran C-47 to her original markings as KP224; the Texas Zephyr is currently in a polished aluminum scheme. In addition to the new paint, the Squadron is planning a Canadian tour with the Zephyr in 2024, with plans to visit Montréal, Ottawa, and Winnipeg in commemoration of the RCAF’s 100th anniversary and related centennial celebrations. The Squadron hopes to have her painted in RCAF markings in time for their 2024 Bluebonnet Airshow in Burnet, Texas, scheduled for March 16th, 2024.

The Highland Lakes Squadron, formed in 1992, also operates an L-17B Navion and SNJ-4 Texan, with a PT-19 Cornell under restoration to airworthiness. Until 2018, the Squadron operated another C-47B, Bluebonnet Belle, which was destroyed in an accident on July 21, 2018, with serious injuries to six passengers and crew, during takeoff on its way to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Bluebonnet Belle, known in her RAF service as KN270, also served with the RCAF 435 Transport Squadron. Despite the serious setbacks for this CAF unit after the accident, they have pressed forward and continued their mission to commemorate military aviation history.

To support the Highland Lakes Squadron click HERE.

 

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