CAF A-26B Invader Night Mission Update

The Commemorative Air Force’s Douglas Invader Night Mission will be flying early in the New Year after almost three years on the ground.

The Invader has been ground-bound since 2021, when a precautionary tear down on the left engine revealed some issues to be resolved. Photo by Gary Daniels.
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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.

To support the Commemorative Air Force A-26 Invader Squadron click HERE.

Night Mission taxies in after another successful sortie at the 2016 Fort Worth AirPower Airshow, a sight enthusiasts should get to see again this coming airshow season. Photo by Gary Daniels

1 Comment

  1. I flew on this plane when it was in Waco Tx airport air show . Joe from Nimer electric was flying it at that time . They had just done something to the left engine and it kept coughing and making unhealthy noses 🙈. It flew out over lake Waco and TSTI with a blue and white navy plane . It had plexiglass panels over the top seating area . You could see the other plane as we turned out over the water of lake Waco . I paid 50 dollars and signed a waver to fly on it ! It roared to life once we started down the run way ! It was way fun ! That had to be in the early 90’s . I can remember it had electric motors to operate the flaps on the wings . I can remember thinking those motors for the wing flaps looked old and from 1942 or so 🙈. That thing pulled hard and you could feel its power ! I’d give anything to be able to work on something like it ! Thanks Dan Golder

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