BIDDEFORD — Residents may have heard a loud plane coming in for a landing at Biddeford Municipal Airport this afternoon, but what Jim Sheppard heard was a piece of his past.

Chris Griffith, the president of the nonprofit group Texas Flying Legends, arranged to surprise the 87-year-old former Tuskegee Airman this afternoon with a Redtail P-51 C Mustang. The World War II aircraft, now part of the Commemorative Air Force Redtail Squadron, was similar to ones Sheppard worked on as a crew chief in the 332nd Fighter Group during World War II.

As the plane approached the runway, Griffith said, “They’re coming here for you. This is your Redtail.”

Sheppard tracked the plane as it taxied down the runway. Nearly two dozen people had gathered at the airport to meet Sheppard, see the plane and share in the surprise.

As the loud engine shut off, Sheppard looked at those around him and said, “Now, can you imagine seeing 48 of those taking off at one time?”

Sheppard said during his time as a member of the first all-black unit in what was then the Army Air Corps, P-51Cs would take off en masse for a mission.

“Boy, this is a real picnic for me,” Sheppard said when he learned that pilot Alan Miller, a member of the Commemorative Air Force, was taking him for a ride.

It’s been nearly 66 years since Sheppard took flight in a Redtail.


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