The Commemorative Air Force’s Douglas A-26 Invader known as Lady Liberty is stranded at an airfield in Kansas after blowing out an engine. They need our help to get her flying again. The estimated cost to get the old girl back in the air is about US$60,000. “It’s just been [about a month] since the engine was blown,” said Dee Ann Ediger, finance officer for the group that cares for Lady Liberty. “We have air shows we’ve had to cancel because the plane is not operational.” Ediger said Lady Liberty was attending an air show in early June at Hutchinson, Kanas, when she lost an engine on landing. “We were invited to go up there,” she said. “When they landed at the airport it was just a big puff of black smoke.” Since then, Lady Liberty has been grounded. The left engine was a total loss. “We have since located an engine that can be rebuilt,” Ediger said. A shop in Oklahoma City will work on the engine, with an estimated cost of about $60,000. “We’ve just started raising funds,” Ediger said. “All funds are going directly to the engine fund.”
Lady Liberty has been based in a WWII-era hangar at Enid Woodring Regional Airport in Enid, Oklahoma for the past two years, since the sale of her previous hangar at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City. The base is fitting, as TB-26 trainers flew from nearby Vance Air Force Base from WWII until about 1955. The Air Force Base is still operational, and has a TB-26 on static display at the gate. About thirty people from Enid and Oklahoma City, sponsor Lady Liberty. She performs at air shows across the USA, as well as taking part in honor flights and life heritage experience flights. Following a suitable donation, members of the public can fly aboard the the Invader to get a small taste of what it might have been like for aircrew during her operational days.
Lady Liberty is one of the oldest surviving Invaders, and the oldest still flying. With the US Army Air Corps serial, 41-39230, she was the 130th Invader to roll off the production line, and entered military service on Aug. 18, 1944. She flew to Great Dunmow in England on September 20th, 1944, joining the 410th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force. She entered combat operations in early 1945. Patches covering battle damage from enemy night fighters remain on her tail to this day.
After World War II, Lady Liberty endured a period of storage in Hobbs, New Mexico. After some refurbishment, she joined an Air Force Reserve unit in Georgia, before being struck off and sold in 1958. She then served as a radio research aircraft with Texas Instruments, before modifications at another company for use as an air tanker. Under different ownership, the Invader was involved in smuggling operations, and the Drug Enforcement Agency seized her as bounty. They sold the tired old bomber at auction in 1980, and the purchaser donated her to the organization now known as the Commemorative Air Force. The Invader spent time in the Texas Panhandle and Las Vegas, before undergoing restoration to flight status, and relocation to Oklahoma City in 1999. She has served her community well, but now the Lady Liberty sponsorship group is seeking additional donors, sponsors and benefactors to help raise the necessary US$60,000 to replace the bad engine, and get the Invader flying again. Anyone can become a member of the Commemorative Air Force, however, sponsor-members have the ability to fly aboard the aircraft after air crew training at no further charge.
Donors are afforded the privilege of joining the CAF as members if they choose, and as such may participate in the activities of the sponsor group including flying. The Commemorative Air Force is an IRS 501.C (3) tax deductible charitable organization and any donation is fully tax deductible.
Those wanting to donate can mail donations to the Lady Liberty Sponsor Group, 1026 S. 66th, Hangar 11, Enid, OK 73701.