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Soaring spirits! Team which restores vintage aircraft in Ventura County makes toys for kids in need

Volunteers making toy jet planes for kids.
Volunteers making toy jet planes for kids.

Commemorative Air Force volunteers using woodworking skills to make toy aircraft.

In a hangar at Camarillo Airport, a team of workers is sanding, painting, and putting the final touches on some planes they’re building. Some members of this crew have decades of experience in the aerospace industry.

They’re members of an all-volunteer group called the Commemorative Air Force. It’s a non-profit organization which restores, and flies World War Two vintage airplanes. But, the planes they’re working on will fit in your hand, and are intended for kids.

"We build parts for planes, we built parts for maintenance guys...but we're taking the opportunity to use the shop we've developed, and the talent that some of members have developed over their lifetime to do a project to give back..and have some fun doing it." said Bob Fischer, who worked for decades as an engineer on manufacturing lines.

Now, he helped design a line at in the CAF’s workshop to build wooden jet plane toys, which will be given to kids in need during the holidays.

CAF's Bob Fisher helped design the building process for the toy airplanes being built by volunteers at Camarillo Airport.
CAF's Bob Fisher helped design the building process for the toy airplanes being built by volunteers at Camarillo Airport.

In another part of the shop area, Gene O’Neill is sanding the nose of one of the nearly finished wooden toys. "It needed some repair," he said as he sanded it.

The Camarillo man says it fun making the toys. He admits it’s also a lot easier then the technology-heavy aircraft he used to work on for McDonald-Douglas:

It’s a big twist for the Commemorative Air Force Team, which usually uses this shop area to make wooden parts for rare historical aircraft.

CAF’s Southern California Wing has 15 aircraft at Camarillo Airport, including a dozen which fly, as well as a World War Ii museum. Lucien Pillai is with the wing.

"We are an all volunteer organization. The passion we have is to restore, and maintain World War II era aircraft."

As the volunteers put the finishing touches on the toy planes, Fisher, who helped set up the operation, walks us over to some tables covered with some of the wooden toys.

"What you see on these tables over here are the finished planes. There are about three dozen of them," said Fisher. He point to another table, where there are another dozen waiting for final sanding and a finish coat.

Dozens of the planes will go to the Ventura County Fire Department for distribution through its annual toy drive.

The crew is excited about the CAF's latest project, even though it’s a very non-traditional one. They say while these wooden planes won’t fly, they hope they will make some young hearts soar during the holidays.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.