The Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force (then, "Confederate Air Force") was chartered 5 April 1992. If a single individual can be credited as the founder, always risky, it would be Col Harold Smith. Col Smith was chosen as the first Squadron Leader and is still an active member of the Squadron.
The Squadron's first organized events were held in April 1992, a fly-in (held two days after the Charter was received from CAF Headquarters) and a hangar dance. The fly-in was repeated in March 1993. From 1994 to the present we have sponsored the annual Bluebonnet Air Show held in Burnet, TX. Originally held the second weekend in April, coinciding with the Bluebonnet Festival, the date has been moved to the second weekend in September.
Initially the Squadron had no aircraft assigned although the B-25 Yellow Rose was in our hangar for our first hangar dance. The first aircraft based in our hangar was a red Stearman owned by Larry Lorenzo. This plane was restored and flown by Lefty Gardner. The second was the CAF's P-40. The P-40 is the aircraft that appears on the squadron logo that was used until the current logo featuring the C-47 was adopted. A L-5, later sold, was the next aircraft. Then came a P-51 owned by Lefty Gardner and the CAF's founder, Lloyd Nolan.
The famous P-38 "White Lighning" owned by Lefty Gardner arrived in 1993. This aircraft was based here until a 2002 accident resulted in significant damage to the aircraft. In 2003 the P-38 was removed from our hangar and eventually sold to an Austrian company. Other privately owned aircraft that were based here were Stearmans (PT-13) and a PT-19. The L-5 currently based in our hangar are privately owned.
The other aircraft in our hangar, the L-17, AT-6/SNJ, PT-19, and C-47, are owned by the CAF. The L-17 was the first Squadron airplane. We obtained it from another CAF Squadron in 1996. The C-47 was purchased from a private operator in 2002 and restored by us over a two year period. The PT-19 was on static display at CAF Headquarters in Midland, TX until we moved it to Burnet for restoration in 2005. The SNJ, while owned by the CAF, is operated by a sponsor group. It was restored, primarily by a Squadron member, and moved here in 2005. More information on the planes currently in our hangar is available here.
Artifacts on display in our museum were obtained from numerous sources and the collection is continuing to expand. Most have a local and personal flavor having been donated by veterans or their families from the Burnet and Marble Falls, TX area. These include artifacts from a P-38 pilot who served in New Guinea, from a B-17 gunner and engineer who flew 35 missions over occupied Europe, from a B-17 Navigator who was shot down and spent 18 months in a German prisoner-of-war camp, from a B-17 co-pilot who flew 30 missions over Europe, from a B-24 gunner, the brother of our founder, who did not return from a mission he volunteered for after his tour of duty was over, and a German test pilot. Most of the WW-II gun and knife collection we exhibit was originally assembled by Col Bill Pair. After Col Pair's death his collection was purchased by the Pilots Auxiliary, a temporary sub-group of the Highland Lakes Squadron, and then donated to us.
We have no paid personnel. All flying, maintenance, and the operation of the Museum is performed by volunteers. In addition to appearance fees obtained by our historic aircraft, the Squadron is financed by contributions, the Bluebonnet Airsho, and PX sales. PX Sales are principally general military service mementos, calendars, models, dog tags, and metal pictures. Our dog tag machine was procured by Col George Taylor from an Austin Department store where it had sat gathering dust and rust for more than 10 years. Col Taylor partially rehabilitated the machine so it was a useful revenue producer. In late 2006 the machine received a complete restoration and now functions as it did during the war years. (This is a mixed blessing. The operator can no longer blame the machine for typing errors.)
Squadron membership currently exceeds 60 members and we are always actively recruiting new members. In addition to recruiting additional members we are investigating the possibility of displaying and restoring additional aircraft and have goals to expand the museum and the hangar.
Much credit must be given to the Centex Wing of the CAF in the founding of the Squadron. Of the 26 initial members, 20 including Col. Smith were also members of the Centex Wing. To the right is the Squadron's first logo. The founding members were: