By Gary Daniels and Zac Yates
The A-26B (s/n41-39427/N240P) is the namesake for the Commemorative Air Force A-26 Invader Squadron, which was formed in February 2009 to restore the aircraft to flying condition. Once known as Spirit of Waco, after the extensive work reported by Vintage Aviation News was completed the aircraft was finished in the Korean War color scheme of the B-26B of Captain John S. Walmsley, Jr, the United States Air Force’s only bomber pilot Medal of Honor recipient during that conflict. The aircraft is based at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport in Texas, sharing hangarage with the Vintage Flying Museum (VFM).
In Spring 2021 the unit’s leader Steve Swift, one of Night Mission’s pilots and a trained A&P mechanic, formed a team to perform a precautionary teardown on the Invader’s left Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine. During the work, the team found some issues and sent the engine to Anderson Aeromotive in Grangeville, Idaho. During engine removal, a left nacelle structural member was also found to be damaged so a new unit was fabricated by Ezell Avionics in Breckenridge, Texas.
Steve and fellow A-26 pilot Pat Mahaffey told Vintage Aviation News that the team took advantage of the opportunity presented by the vacant firewall to install new hoses, and the oil cooler is ready to be refitted.
Night Mission is one of three Invaders on the CAF’s inventory, the others being A-26B 41-39230/N9682C Lady Liberty (the 130th of the type off the production line and the oldest airworthy example) flying with the Lady Liberty Squadron at Enid, OK; and A-26C 44-35643/N626SH Lil Twister, operated by the Sierra Hotel Sponsor Group of Guthrie/Edmond Oklahoma Municipal Airport, Oklahoma, which after more than 21 years of rebuild work flew again in November 2020 (as reported by Vintage Aviation News). There are believed to be about 20 airworthy examples of the type worldwide.
It is also one of two Invaders housed at the VFM, the other being the B-26K Counter Invader 64-17679/N4988N Special Kay, and for some time folks in the hangar would get confused between them. Steve and Pat explained that when discussing the two aircraft theirs would be referred to as “the black airplane”, and so they jokingly nicknamed it “BUBA” – the Big Ugly Black Airplane!
The repaired R-2800 is now back at Meacham and will be re-hung on the airframe in January or February, to fly again sometime in Spring 2024. Further inspection of the airframe and engines will be carried out in early Winter 2024.