Some Facebook posts are better than others, especially when they bring much-awaited news.
Kermit Weeks, the founder and owner of Fantasy of Flight, made the day of warbird enthusiasts with a post announcing the successful 30-minute test flight of his Douglas A-26B Invader that took place on Monday, February 20. The aircraft has been under restoration for several months by Aero Trader, an aircraft maintenance and sales business location at Chino Airport (KCNO).
“Some minor squawks with two engine instruments and smokey engines as they settle in, but everything ran smoothly and worked fine!” Weeks stated.
FlightAware captured the February flight, showing the aircraft’s takeoff from Chino at 10:38 a.m. and landing at 11:01 a.m. The flight path depicted shows elongated orbits over the airport and then southeast of the field. The aircraft never climbed higher than approximately 2,000 feet and the speed was approximately 250 mph.
Monday’s flight was quite the improvement from the first post-restoration flight that took place last May. The May flight, complete with the surprise ending, was captured on GoPro and is available for viewing on Kermit Week’s video channel.
The A-26B Invader is a twin-engine aircraft designed circa 1944. They were used in Europe in the latter days of WWII. This particular Intruder was used in France. According to the video, when Weeks took possession of the aircraft decades ago, the cockpit was configured with dual controls. During the restoration it was returned to single-control.
The May flight was touted as the first post-maintenance flight for the airplane that had not flown since 1992. The aircraft was damaged by Hurricane Andrew and underwent extensive restoration. The test pilots were Steve Hinton and Mark Moodie. Both men are familiar names in the warbird pilot community with decades of flying experience between them. Hinton was in the left seat and pilot in command for the test flight. Moodie’s job was to observe and document the performance parameters of the aircraft.
The first flight post restoration was made out of Chino Airport (KCNO) in Chino, California in May 2022. The flight was captured on GoPro cameras mounted at the rear of the cockpit.
For the test flight both Hinton and Moodie were wearing military flight suits and helmets. Both had the face shields lowered, although the A-26B is an enclosed cockpit airplane. This will prove to be very helpful.
Timeline of the Invader Flight
The aircraft lifts off from the runway at Chino. The intent is to circle near the airport on this the first test flight.
Air traffic control warns the flight of a gyrocopter 3 miles south of the field, descending out of 3,400 feet.
Hinton responds, “Out of 1,200 feet looking for traffic thank you.”
The tower warns the gyrocopter of the Invader orbiting south of the field, saying, “Caution, wake turbulence, they are large.”
Hinton levels the aircraft off at approximately 2,000 feet, and with the change in pitch attitude the airspeed increases. At approximately 3:13 into the video the right side of the gullwing canopy sort of twitches then at 3:15 both canopies unlatch and fly open.
Both men duck, and there is a moment of confusion as the sound in the now-open cockpit makes it hard to hear anything, including ATC.
At 3:40 Hinton radios that they would like to return to land, stating that they are on a wide downwind. The tower responds, “Invader 401 make left traffic for Runway 26 Left.”
Moodie asks a question drowning out the rest of the tower’s response. Hinton replies to the tower asking if they are cleared to land, stating that the canopies have come open and it is difficult to hear the radios.
The tower clears them to land on Runway 26 left and warns them about the gyrocopter that is on approach and lower.
Upon obtaining the clearance to land, Hinton lowers the landing gear. The video overtext calls the viewer’s attention to the loose debris flying around the cabin, presumably drawn out by the excessive wind in the cockpit.
“Gears down, good, good, good, flaps to go, we’re approach flaps,” Hinton says, tapping the controls with his right hand as he flies with his left hand on the yoke.
“You’re a little slow,” observes Moodie, pointing at the airspeed indicator.
“Naw, we’re okay, we’re fine,” says Hinton. The text-over notes he slowed the aircraft intentionally to avoid damaging the canopies, which are flapping and bouncing in the slipstream.
As they approach the runway, Moodie verifies gear down and boost pumps are on.
“Speed 135,” says Hinton.
At this point the video switches perspective to a ground shot, watching the aircraft come in. You can see the canopies open and raised.
After touchdown the men discuss the hatch locking prior to takeoff noting it was “as far as it would go,” and there was an audible snap which would seem to indicate that it was locked.
They clean up the airplane, adjusting flaps and mixtures, then communicate their desire to return to the ramp.
There is a discussion about the engines’ performance during the brief flight, noting the left engine during takeoff was starting to go over 2,700 rpm, while the right one was at 2,500. Both should be at 2,700 for takeoff. Moodie dutifully documents these discrepancies.
ATC gives them a clearance to taxi back to the ramp including permission to cross Runway 26 Right at Foxtrot, then contact ground.
As if that isn’t enough excitement for one day, during the taxi they discover the number 1 radio is also out of commission.
During the taxi to the ramp, Hinton remarks that the nose gear seemed a bit slow going down, giving him a moment of concern.
The aircraft was taken back to Aero Trader, a few tweaks were made, and the vintage machine returned to the skies this week, after a canopy modification that was actually used on the airplanes during their heyday—just for this reason.