Douglas B-26 "Invader"  


 

 

As operated by the University of Illinois in 1965.

 

 

Parked at Deurne between 1969 and 1979.

Deurne between 1969 and 1979.

 

Shortly before being dismantled and transported to the Museum in 1979 .

The Invader that never went to war

Built towards the end of World War 2, this Douglas A-26 Invader (Constructors Number 28044/ Serial Number 44-34765) was destined never to participate in any conflict.

Sold and modified for the civil market, it was used by various companies as a business aircraft in both the United States and Europe until finally impounded by the Belgian Customs authorities.

It retained parked in the open at Deurne (Antwerp) airport for several years before being donated to the Air and Space Museum in Brussels.

Once at the Museum, volunteers started work to restore the Invader back to its former military specification, including armament. However, due to having spent many years outside in all weathers, the A-26, despite being in good general condition suffered from corrosion and treatment for removal and further prevention was required.

History of Invader 44-34765

The Douglas A-26B Invader belonging to the Air and Space Museum in Brussels came off the Douglas Aircraft Company production line towards the end of the Second World War, following a manufacturing contract for a batch of 21 attack aircraft of the A-26B-65-DL designation.

It was never to see use in U.S.A.A.F, service as the contract was cancelled at the cessation of hosilities and all twenty one aircraft were mothballed.

Although a great number of A-26 Invaders were provided to the French Air Force and other foreign operators, Serial No. 44-34765 was bought in February 1946 by Charles H. Babb and allocated registration number N67160. It was to retain this registration number throughout its life up until its arrival at the Museum.

 

The B-26 arrives at the "Cinquantenaire".

 

 

Inside the Great Hall, still adorned with the mural painting of the Yser battlefield scenes .

The aircraft was dismantled and transported in the museum in 1979.

 

A few more picture of the B-26 at the time

In January 1947, the aircraft was acquired by the Hudson Engineering Corporation, a Texas based petroleum company and transformed into an executive aircraft.

The Sperry Gyroscope Company, a division of the Sperry Corporation bought the Invader in February 1951 and removed the last gun turret bearings which had been left in place.

Sperry used the aircraft for six years in its executive configuration which despite having a high cruising speed (more than 500 km/hour) was to prove to be both noisy and cramped.

As an example, the toilet for the passengers was situated between the main wing spars and was difficult to reach and use .

In 1959, the Invader was flown to the On Mark Engineering Company based at Van Nys airport in California for a thorough inspection and overhaul that included having DC-6 wheels and wing tip fuel tanks fitted and being repainted.

After these modifications, the aircraft was used carrying personnel and freight between the Sperry factory on Long Island and the various other Company plants, as well as flight evaluation of Sperry products.

During 1965, the F.A.A. (Federal Aviation Administration) informed Sperry that the aircraft's Certificate of Airworthiness would be withdrawn as cracks had been found in one of the wing spars.

As N67160 was now grounded, Sperry decided to donate it to the Institute of Aviation at the Illinois University. The F.A.A. issued a limited Certificate of Airworthiness allowing the aircraft to make a delivery flight to the University on September 7th 1965.

After necessary repairs were completed, the University received a new Certificate of Airworthiness and used the Invader for several months for transportation of staff members. Because of the high operating costs and very limited passenger capacity, N67160 was transferred to the University flight training fleet where it remained untill March 1966.

It was then acquired by Walston Aviation Inc. of Alton in Illinois, who became one of several companies to own N67160. In 1969 the aircraft was sold to a German citizen, Walter Rall and exported to Germany. Although the German registration number D-CAFY was allocated, it was never taken up.

 

 

 

The tip -wing tanks were never reinstalled.

The Interior of cockpit before restoration.

 

Machine guns re-installed in the nose.

A few years after arrival, its civil colours have gone.

During 1969, N67160 flew to Deurne airport with an American crew charted by an Antwerp based seafoods company for transport of shrimps and lobsters from Turkey to Belgium and France.

On one flight from Ankara with a full load, N67160 was refused landing permission at Lyon by the French Civil Aviation authorities since its owners had no valid Permit to fly in France.

During the same year, the Invader was impounded by the Belgian Aviation Administration authorities due to non-payments of parking fees at Deurne Antwerp airport.

After many years spent in the open, N67160 was donated by the Belgian authorities in March 1976 to the Air and Space section of the Army Museum in Brussels.

The " Invader " arrives at the Museum

During November 1979, the A-26 was dismantled at Deurne and transported by road to the Museum for display inside the Great Hall.

From the onset, the Museum was determined to present the Invader in its original military configuration and work was started to remove remnants of its past civil career as N67160.

All the electronic equipment was removed from the nose section to allow eight .50 inch calibre machine guns taken from an F-84 (and thus of slightly different pattern to the original A-26's guns) to be installed. Two gun turrets were discovered in Antwerp by Jean Booten and together with some wing mounted machine guns were refitted in place.

During the restoration work, the civil paint livery was removed entirely and replaced by a yellow zinc chromate primer. It was to remain in this state for a long time with a few Museum volunteers working on the Invader from time to time but without any clearly defined goal. Some of the aircraft's components were painted black with visibly the intention to finish the Invader in a Korean War colour scheme.

 

The B-26 in his green-yellow livery.

 

 

Sub- assemblies being removed.

The nose, without the machine guns.

 

The back of the instrument panel.

Back on the bench

Towards 1997, a Belgian Air Force technician, Jean Moulin took over the control of the A-26 project.

The list of outstanding tasks was considerable since the prolonged stay in the open at Antwerp had caused a lot of corrosion.

Since the project had commenced with restoration back to a military configuration, it was decided to display the aircraft with the original serial number and in the colours of the only A-26 Invader squadron that served in Belgium. The only difference between the airplanes serving in this squadron and N67160 is the disposition of the eight machine-guns in the nose.

To enable the aircraft to be displayed without too much delay, priority was given to preparation of all the sub-assemblies and the external surfaces before applying the correct paint scheme.

As the Invader project was a considerable undertaking, Museum volunteers working normally on other restorations were transferred to help out.

All the sub-assemblies such as the nose, fin, rudder, flaps, ailerons, bomb and undercarriage doors etc. were stripped of paint, repaired, corrosion treated and repainted.

The skin of the aircraft had to be completely sanded to eliminate the corrosion as well as "orange peel" present since Museum volunteers working during the 1980's had applied the zinc chromate primer using pieces of foam sponge which caused a very thick and uneven layer.

Many hundreds of steel screws and other fasteners used on the assemblies would be treated against corrosion too.

The pictures illustrate better than words the tremendous task that has been accomplished.

 

Ready for painting operation.

 

 

Masking and preparation before spraying.

First application of zinc chromate primer coat.

 

Followed by a coat of aluminium paint.

By the end of 1999, all external painting completed.

Painting and markings

After the preparatory work was finished, the Invader was repainted and all markings including squadron codes, serial numbers and stencilled data applied.

Much needed Information for these tasks was obtained after a visit to examine Historic Aircraft's B-26.

The pin-up has been drawn by Jean Berthet, author of the "pin-up" cartoon series, and painted on the aircraft.

 

We still have to…

Although a major proportion of the Invader restoration project work has been completed, there still remain other details that require attention.

The undercarriages remain to be dismantled for a thorough inspection and renewal of parts.

The undercarriage bays need to be treated against corrosion, in particular the nose wheel bay which suffered most from having mud and water thrown inside by the unbraked nose wheel spinning on retraction.

This will involve removing all of the various accessories inside the bays, uncoupling all the hydraulic, pneumatic and electrical circuits, stripping all painted surfaces, treating the corrosion, re-painting and finally re-installing everything back together again.

Other tasks also ahead are restoration work on both engines, the re-creation of the gun sighting system and the re-installation of certain internal fuselage frames.

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