Douglas A-26 Invader Restoration project, End Of An Era

For the past decade, at a small airport in Provo, Utah, a small band of dedicated volunteers have been restoring what is believed to be the last complete Douglas A-26 Invader to be produced.



By Stephen Chapis

For the past decade, at a small airport in Provo, Utah, a small band of dedicated volunteers have been restoring what is believed to be the last complete Douglas A-26 Invader to be produced. This aircraft, A-26B USAAF #44-34774, holds a unique distinction. This aircraft was in the last batch of ten Invaders built and when it takes to the skies again it will be the youngest airworthy Invader. It currently stands as the second youngest airframe in existence. When ‘774 left Long Beach in October 1945, it was flown directly into storage in Kingman, Arizona. When it was sold to its first civilian owner, Standard Oil Company, on September 26, 1946, it had less than nine hours on the airframe.

Like so many Invaders of the day, this aircraft was converted into a high-speed executive transport by Grand Central Aircraft Company of Glendale, California and On Mark Engineering in Van Nuys. In its two decades with Standard Oil, N917Y traversed the continent many times over, but in 1966, Standard Oil sold the aircraft and over the following two decades it was flown by two notable warbird personalities of the day, Jimmy Leeward and Junior Burchinal.



By 1993, the aircraft was outdoors and was disassembled for transport to The Air Station Air Museum in Arlington, Washington. It continued to sit outside and was traded to Jimmy Leeward in 2010, and he in turn sold the aircraft to David Fronk and Peter Garraty in March 2011. It was disassembled once again for transport to Provo, where Vintage Aviation News caught up with Fronk and Bob Schroeder in December 2023.

According to Schroeder, the gravity of the project became apparent once they got the aircraft to Provo and spread it out on the hangar floor, “I thought, ‘Holy mackerel, what have we done?’ There had been a lot of work had already been done and that was a godsend. Probably the first six or seven years of a project like this, you’re saying, ‘We’ll get this done in two years.’ It never happens.”

As the years went by the team progressed through corrosion clean up, to systems installation, to overhauling and assembling the wings and fuselage. The R-2800s were overhauled by Anderson Airmotive and have been sitting in the corner of the hangar waiting for their big day. In the last few months, the aircraft has been wired and power applied. Schroeder spoke of the ‘glorious’ day when the flaps became operational, “They work absolutely perfect. The flaps on this airplane, they’ve got to be the eighth wonder of the world.”





However, as Dave explained, it was no easy task getting them to work properly, “It was a game. A puzzle. It was a real circus putting those together because when two bolts pass each other, they’ve got to be in the right direction, or they will contact each other and stop the flap. We had all of those little learning experiences…”. The crew worked over two weeks, but they finally got the flaps working properly and to watch them work is really a thing of beauty.

In closing Bob and Dave expressed their hope that while they are by no means going to rush anything, they hope that they will be able to have the aircraft done to a point where they can perform taxi tests in time to celebrate its 80th year. Watch VAN for continuing updates as the restoration progresses

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2 Comments

  1. There is (or at least was) an A-26 assembled and parked in the Tucson Aeroservice Center hangar at the Marina, AZ(KAVQ) airport. The owner was flying it occasionally up until a few years ago until he went west. No one there seems to have any interest in getting it in the air again.

  2. Dear Sir/Mam
    The A-26 has nearly the same flight characteristics as the A-10; and can field the GAU8 gun and canister; and cost $4m in reproduction.
    Information if you should decide to contact DOD for contractual agreement for production.
    Sincerely: Rodney Phelps

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