CAF’s Douglas A-26 Invader Returns to Flight

“Lil Twister” taxis in from its first flights at Guthrie, Oklahoma. Sierra Hotel A-26 Sponsor Group

The third Douglas A-26 Invader in the Commemorative Air Force fleet, Lil Twister, took its first two flights on November 1, 2020, at the Guthrie Municipal Airport in Oklahoma. Originally scheduled for October 23, the flights culminate the efforts of 21 years of restoration work by the airplane’s supporters in the Sierra Hotel A-26 Sponsor Group based in Guthrie. The first flight lasted 11 minutes and returned with a few minor squawks to resolve prior to the second flight, which clocked an hour. Commanding both flights was pilot Mark Novak.

The Commemorative Air Force posted videos from the two flights, and CAF marketing director Leah Block indicated that the organization is looking to bring all three Invaders together sometime—somewhere—in 2021. The Sierra Hotel group weathered setbacks during the long restoration process, including a tornado that hit the hangar in which the project was maintained.

The Douglas A-26 Invader entered service during the latter part of World War II, but it saw action in two later conflicts—the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Douglas Aircraft Company built 2,503 of the light bombers (A-26 and later B-26 designations), with a long list of modifications that kept the subsequent models relevant and on active duty.

Actually, Lil Twister is a temporary name, according to James Dudnelly, SH A-26 Support Group leader. “Our first flight on November 1 only had two squawks: the number one engine didn’t quite develop full takeoff power and the control wheels [were] deflected about 30 degrees to the right to maintain level flight,” Dudnelly told Flying. “We solved the power issue with a simple prop governor adjustment and are still working on the control wheel problem. Our test pilot did not consider the control wheel thing a grounding write up, so after a quick ground run to check the engine power, he opted for another…45-minute flight. We are planning on touring with the aircraft [and] doing airshows. However we can legally operate the aircraft to raise funding, [and] that’s what we’ll be doing. The aircraft was built at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Tulsa in late 1944, as Douglas serial number 28922. It was accepted by the US Army Air Corp in early 1945. It had an interesting and varied history—its service took it around the world and then back to Oklahoma again. Its last flight before being grounded was in August 1994, so it had not felt the air under its wings for more than 26 years.”

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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