Civil airplane used to take photos after 9/11 finds new home at U.S. Air Force museum

A small plane that was used to take photos the day after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center is finding a new home at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force after it was retired from use by the Civil Air Patrol.

In the wake of the attack, the plane, a Cessna 172, was flown on a mission from the U.S. Air Force and FEMA to circle lower Manhattan and take photos of the damage done, according to pilot Edward Phelka, who along with one other pilot brought the plane to the museum.

The plane is planned to go on display at the air force museum along with the camera it used and some of its film.

It was used by the Civil Air Patrol since 1986, was used by the New York wing at the time of the attacks, and retired last week after being used by the Connecticut wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Phelka said he and another pilot took the Cessna from Hartford, Connecticut on a flight that included a recreation of its historic circle of lower Manhattan, meeting with two of the original crew members from that flight in Islip, New York, a circle of the Flight 93 National Memorial in memory of those who died in the attack, and a flyover of the home of Gen. Carl Spaatz in Boyertown, Pennsylvania.

“The flight in was a real privilege,” Phelka said, later adding that planning the flight was emotional, since he was an airline employee at the time of the attack. He said that this was his first time landing a plane at the Wilbur Wright Airfield.

The Civil Air Patrol has existed since 1941, Phelka said, and was an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force once it was established. He added it has three congressionally mandated missions, including emergency services like homeland security and search and rescue operations, its cadet program and aerospace education.

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