Douglas A/B-26 Invader

Round the world, distance and record breaking flights














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Air Racing

The Aircraft

 

Eventhough the records achieved on the round the world flights do not strictly constitute air racing, the flights undertaken do warrent mention in this section

            

 

Plane type: Douglas A-26 Invader

Date: 1945 U.S.A.A.F. End of war round the world flight

From: 11/25/45 To: 11/29/45 (Savannah GA to Washington DC)
Miles Flown:  24,859 miles
Duration: 96H 50M
Pilot: Col Joseph R. Holzapple

Co-Pilot: Lt Col Charles R. Meyers
Navigator: Lt Otto H.Schumacher

Navigator: Cpl Howard J.Walden
Comments: This flight Proved that US light bombers could be dispatched to any point in the world

 

Note: His crew included Lt. Col. Charles R. Meyers, co-pilot; Lt. Otto H. Schumacher, navigator; and Cpl. Howard J. Walden, radio operator. They headed westward from Savannah, Ga. Four days and 24,859 miles later, they returned to Washington, D.C., after successfully circumnavigating the earth, thus demonstrating the ability of U.S. light bombers to reach any point in the world quickly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plane type: Douglas A-26 Invader "Reynolds Bombshell"

Date: 1947 Bill Odom / Milton Reynolds round the world flight

From: 04/12/47 To: 04/16/47 (New York to New York)

Miles flown: 20,000 miles

Flying Time: 78H 55M 56S

Pilot: William P. "Bill" Odom 

Co-Pilot: T. Carroll "Tex" Sallee
Comments: Set new Round-the-World record.

         Used same A-26 that completed the 1945 round the world  flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plane type: Douglas A-26 Invader "Reynolds Bombshell"

Date: 1947 Bill Odom Solo round the world flight

 From: 08/07/47 To: 08/11/47 (Chicago, IL to Chicago, IL)

Miles flown: 19,645 miles

Flying Time: 73H 5M 11S
Pilot: William P. "Bill" Odom
Comments: Broke all Round-the-World records

 

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Above, on the eighth of July 1947 before starting his second attempt from Chicago after turning back after mechanical problems.

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The above data was donated by Robert Lindley

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The above shot was donated by Robert Lindley

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Above, at Shannon in the 50's

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The above shot was very kindly sent in by Don Felton

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The above Photograph was donated by Robert Lindley
 
 
 

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Businessman Milton Reynolds, who made millions with the commercial success of the ballpoint pen, took his profits and indulged his hobby, a lifelong love of flying. In the 1930s, he had owned a Stinson Reliant biplane he named the “Flying Printasign” after his signmaking company. Even as he was planning to exit the pen business, he bought a used A-26 bomber. He had the armor stripped off and retrofitted the plane with new commercial engines, christening it the “Reynolds Bombshell.” He hired war-hero Bill Odom as pilot, Tex Sallee as copilot, and in 1947 the three of them flew around the world in 78 hours, 55.5 minutes, making four stops for refueling, to set the world record for twin-engine propeller aircraft. The previous record, set by Howard Hughes, was 91 hours, 14 minutes. Both records were surpassed in 1957. Reynolds had timed the flight to coincide with the international introduction of the Reynolds Rocket, a pen that wrote in two colors.

 
One of the first surplus Invaders to go on the US civil register was NX67834 which was purchased with a very specific mission in mind - to defeat Howard Hughes's global flight record.

Bill Odom, a former military transport pilot with 102 crossings of the Hump to his credit, approached Milton Reynolds - the ball point pen king and extremely wealthy individual - to help sponsor the flight. In February 1947, a telephone call from Reynolds told the pilot to get to Chicago as quickly as possible.

The meeting produced an agreement, a check for $11,500, and a condition that the pilot did not expect - a demand that Reynolds go along on the flight. The Invader was purchased and modified to hold another 1000 gallons of fuel. On 12 April 1947, Odom, copilot Tex Salee, and passenger Reynolds tookoff in the Invader - named Reynolds Bombshell - from La Guardia Airport on their epic flight which was completed on 16 April with a flight time of 78 hours 55 minutes 56 seconds which handily beat the Hughes record.

 

 

When Bill Odom started to look for sponsors to finance his round the world flight and a friend suggested he contact Milton Reynolds - the ball-point pen king. Reynolds, one of the first to mass produce the ball-point pen, was enjoying tremendous success and making very large sums of money. In February 1947, after a few minutes of phone conversation, Bill was asked how soon he could get to Chicago to discuss the round the world flight! The meeting produced an agreement, but not the one Bill had in mind. Reynolds agreed to sponsor the flight but, being interested in publicity for himself, he insisted on being on the flight. Odom left the meeting with a check for $11,500 to buy an airplane. Noted for doing his homework, he knew exactly what airplane he wanted: A Douglas A-26 Invader. This aircraft had a large bomb bay which could contain extra fuel tanks while the Pratt & Whitney R-2800s were extremely reliable.
A Douglas A-26 Invader. This aircraft had a large bomb bay which could contain extra fuel tanks while the Pratt & Whitney R-2800s were extremely reliable. An A-26 normally carried 1000 gallons of fuel, but Bill wanted to add another 1000 gallons to increase the aircraft's range. The Douglas engineers he contacted said if he added another 1000 gallons the airplane would not lift off. However, Bill flew the plane to Teterboro, New Jersey, where three tanks were installed to hold the additional fuel. The name Reynolds Bombshell was painted on the nose of the aircraft along with Little Willy, possibly the name of his son. Bill considered this flight a shake-down for his planned solo round the world flight. Bill Odom was listed as pilot, Tex Salee was navigator, and Milton Reynolds was the passenger. The flight was launched on 12 April 1947, from LaGuardia Field at 5:31 pm. Bill had no trouble lifting off with his full load of fuel - he really wasn't concerned about it as he was planning his next flight with even more fuel. He flew to Gander for the first stop. Approaching Gander, the autopilot failed and the plane had to be flown manually for the balance of the flight. From Gander they flew to Europe and on to Cairo where he made the only mistake of the trip by landing at a military airport instead of the municipal airport. He also blew a tire on landing, which caused a several-hour delay. The trio was greeted by government officials at the airports. Milton Reynolds showered them with many ball-point pens. These officials, in return, showered many expensive gifts on the crew such as wrist watches, Persian rugs and other items which they were unable to carry in the airplane. Bill and Tex took turns flying the airplane. While Tex was listed as navigator, Bill had his sextant with him and actually did all the navigating. Bill reportedly carried very few charts as he was well acquainted with global navigation. The American public, tired of the years of war news, was eager to hear news of the round the world trip. Newspapers carried large headlines of the flight's progress and it was estimated that up to 100-million people knew Bill Odom's name and were following his progress. The flight arrived back at LaGuardia on 16 April to a very large crowd - Bill Odom was now an American hero. Soon after the flight, Odom, Reynolds and Salee were invited to the White House where President Truman awarded each a citation. While Bill was pleased with the flight, he still wanted to do it solo. So he approached Reynolds and asked to use the plane for a solo attempt on the world record. Much to his surprise, Reynolds agreed. Bill arrived at O'Hare Airport on 4 August 1947. The solo attempt would takeoff and return to Chicago's O'Hare Airport - the decision to use O'Hare was based on the field's longer runways which Bill would need due to the extra fuel he was going to carry. In addition to the extra 1000 gallons of fuel, this flight would carry an additional 460 gallons for a total 2460 gallons of fuel - weighing 15,000 pounds. Early Warbird collector Earl Reinert said, "the tires were so flat from the extra weight that it looked like the wheel rims were touching the runway." A few hours before his departure, Bill walked over to where Earl was preparing his P-38 for the Bendix Race. Bill introduced himself to Jane Page, the very attractive pilot of the P-38. Jane had been a World War Two ferry pilot and knew about almost any military aircraft or Air Force base. During this conversation, Bill said he had entered a Republic YP-47M Thunderbolt (see Air Classics March 2002) in the Bendix Race and would see them at Van Nuys - the Bendix was just 23 days away. Bill taxied out, turning very slowly, to keep the tires from coming off the rims. He used all 6000 feet of runway to become airborne and as he passed over the first few streets he was less than 150 feet high. He headed north for Gander but, as he approached Gander, he started losing aileron control. He felt the only choice was to return to O'Hare and by the time he arrived back at O'Hare there was almost no aileron control left. An inspection found one aileron cable tom loose. He also discovered a disengaged carburetor heat linkage. This could have spelled disaster later in the flight. The repairs were made and the second attempt was launched - this time there were no mechanical problems. Bill's goal on this trip was to knock ten hours off his first flight time. To do this, Bill refused to eat or sleep while on the ground. The only sleep he managed to get was some short naps while on autopilot. This practice was almost his undoing - while flying near Edmonton, Canada, he woke up at 4000 feet looking up at a mountain only a few miles away. This shock kept him awake the rest of the way to O'Hare. The solo flight was accomplished in 73 hours, 5 minutes - a record that still stands today for piston-engine aircraft.
 

Note: This A-26 was one of the brand new, never AAF accepted Invaders that went direct from Douglas to Kingman, to the RFC for disposal. There is no AAF record card for the airplane since it was never accepted. Charles Babb purchased a bunch of them for $2000 each...brand new airplanes with the cushions still wrapped in plastic, or so I've heard. This A-26 went to Milton Reynolds and registered with his company then, the Printasign Corp. of America. After his round-the-world 1947 flights with Bill Odom at the controls, it went to Phillips Drilling in 1948. They had a large window installed in the aft fuselage and a cabin door installed.

In 1954 it went to Earl Slick of Slick Airways, of Burbank, CA. Aviation Power Supply of Burbank installed the tip tanks in January 1956, and also did some other fuel system work and other modifications. In July 1956 On Mark at Glendale installed a weather radar unit with the radome on the nose. In October 1956, a company in Denver replaced the Bendix brakes with new Goodyear brakes. In August 1957, On Mark did some aft fuselage mods, including lowering the aft floor. In July 1961, On Mark did some more fuel tank work. In March 1967, the airplane went to the Ventura Division of Northrop, and pylons were installed to handle "Horkey Moore launcher" rails to mount RP-78 targets. Not sure about these items but it appears the Invader was used as a launcher of new target drones. Shortly afterwards, or maybe when the wing racks were added, the airplane went to On Mark again to have fatigue straps added to the front wing spars and shear plates added to the rear spars, and the wing structure and attach points were also inspected with the wings and engines off the fuselage.

In 1973 the airplane was apparently in Tehran, Iran, for what purpose, who knows? It was sold by Northrop in March 1973 to three partners, Jerry Cornell, Lloyd Shipley, and Paul Warren, initial Bill of Sale shows the address as "c/o Iran Aircraft Industries, Tehran" and later, this is crossed out and shows "c/o Bell Helicopter Industries, Tehran".

In October 1974 it was sold by Cornell to five, apparently, USAF officers: a Maj. Patrick O'Donnell and Capts. Edward Hopkens, George Casares, Roger Reece, and Charles Miller, for $2000. Their address was the "Charle Morghi Airport" (spelling?). This included spares. This bill of sale was never processed by the new owners and the FAA contacted Cornell to determine why he hadn't responded to its routine request for information about the airplane. The FAA eventually revoked the registration.

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Serial #: 44-34759
Construction #: 28038
Civil Registration:
  NX67834
  N67834
  N28W
  N956
  N956R
Model(s):
  A-26B
  On Mark Marksman
Name: None
Status: Displayed
Last info: 2001

 

History:
Delivered to Reconstruction Finance Corp as 44-34759, 19??.
- Immediately put up for dispossal, 1945-1946.
Milton Reynolds, 1947-1948.
- Registered as NX67834.
- Flown as "Reynolds Bombshell".
- Around world flight Records.
-- Pilot Bill Odom, Apr. 12-16, 1947.
-- Bill Odom solo, Aug. 7-10, 1947.
Philips Drilling Corp, San Antonio, TX, 1949-1954.
- Registered as N67834.
- Executive conversion, Slick Airways, San Antonio, TX, Oct. 1949.
- Equipped with 4 passnger cabin.
Earl F. Slick/Piedmont Airline, 1951-1953.
Jack Davis, NC, Dec. 1955.
- Advertised for sale.
Registered as N28W by ??, 19??.
Colorado Interstate Gas, Colorado Springs, Co, 1959-1964.
- Registered as N956.
Colorado Oil & Gas Corp, Denver, CO, 1966.
- Registered as N956R.
Northrop Corp, Newbury Park, CA, 1969-1972.
Jerry Cornell, Teheran, Iran, 1977.
Bell Helicopter International Inc, Tehran, Iran, 1978.
Open Storage, Tehran, Iran, 1976-1986.
Aerospace Exhibition Centre, Hehrabad, Teheran, Iran, 1997-2001.
- Displayed.

Round the World

FLIGHT,  APRIL 24TH, 1947

Successful Completion of 20,000-mile Flight in the Douglas Invader, "Reynolds Bombshell

FLYING his converted Douglas A-26 Invader Reynolds Bombshell, Mr. Milton Reynolds, the American pen manufacturer, has completed a flight round the world in 78 hr 55 min. This time is 12 hr 19 mth better than the previous one of 91 hr 14 min set up in 1938 by Howard Hughes flying a Lockheed 14. There is no true comparison, however, between these two flights as the routes were different and Milton Reynolds was compelled to fly some 5,000 miles farther to avoid Soviet territory, having previously been refused permission to land.

Neither flight conformed with F.A.I, requirements, and, in fact, no official round-the-world record has ever been set up. Reynolds flew approximately 20,000 miles, and the distance round the Equator is almost 25,000 miles. Times and route are given in the accompanying table. For comparison Hughes' route was : New York—Paris—Moscow— Omsk—Yakatsk—Fairbanks—Minneapolis. Only two changes of plan were made by Reynolds and crew after their take-off on Saturday night, April 12th ; Gander was used in place of Goose Bay, and Adak instead of Anchorage in the Aleutians, both as a result of weather troubles. Stripped of its military equipment and armour the three-seat attack bomber should be rather faster than in military form, when the top speed was 345 m.p.h. at 5,000ft, and its weight, fully loaded, would now be about 30,0001b. The engines are Pratt and Whitney R-2800-71S, each of 2,000 h.p., and the fuel capacity is over 2,000 gallons. Mr. Reynolds flew as navigator and his pilot was William O'Dom. An engineer, T. C. Salle, was also carried. For various reasons—the fifty-minute turn back to Adak due to
severe headwinds, inability to overfly Calcutta, and cumulative delays at airports—the original idea of completing the flight in 55 hr had to be modified to 75 hr, which agrees quite well with the actual timetable.
Over certain parts 9i the route average speeds of 350 p were achieved, and the overall average for the, 20,000 miles, for which the flying time was 64 hr 37 min, works out at about 310 m.p.h. Several of the point-to-point flights on the route will constitute unofficial records, and a time of only 7 hr 4 min from Newfoundland to Paris is particularly striking. This whole successful flight, whatever its motive, reflects great credit on the crew of '' The Bombshell '' and on the makers of the airframe and engines. (Photograph on page 365.)

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The sad remains of the cockpit the once famous Bill Odom sat when he set his world records for the round the world flights

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Above, when she was with Colorado Interstate Gas, Colorado Springs, Co

 
 
 
Below, a couple of other "Bombshells"

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Engine testbed 44-34586 - General Electric (XA-26F)

XA-26F  - Chief test pilot - Gene May
Serial no. 44-34586 prototype for a high-speed A-26F powered by two 2,100 hp R-2800-83 engines driving four-bladed propellers with a 1,600 lb.s.t. General Electric J31 turbojet installed in the rear fuselage. The prototype reached a top speed of 435 mph but the series was cancelled as performance gains were not sufficient.

In 1940, the United States, although neutral, was beginning to support the Allies. GE started expanding to meet their defense needs and built two new plants for turbo production. By mid-1941, GE turbos were in mass production in four states and were seeing combat service with Allied Air Forces under the Lend-Lease program.

Moss also led GE in developing its early gas turbine engine, which in America of the late 1930s, was still experimental and confined to the laboratory. Britain and Germany, on the other hand, had made steady progress in use of the turbine as a primary source of propulsion. Both Germany's Hans von Ohain and Britain's Frank Whittle had independently invented the turbojet engine in the mid 1930s.

Finally in 1941, GE received its first contract from the U.S. Army Air Corps to build a gas turbine engine based on Frank Whittle's design. Six months later, on April 18, 1942, GE's engineers successfully ran their I-A engine—the first jet engine to operate in the United States. On October 1, 1942, a Bell P-59 powered by General Electric I-16 turbojet engines made its first flight at California's Muroc Army Air Field. The jet age had come to America. The company followed shortly with the J-31, the first turbojet produced in quantity in the United States.

General Electric J31 and the XA-26F

The General Electric J31 was the first jet engine produced in quantity in the United States, essentially a production version of the prototype Whittle W.1 that had been sent to the US after the Tizard Mission successes. General Electric's extensive experience in turbocharger production made them the natural choice for producing the engine, which they initially referred to as the I-16, I-A referring to the original prototype. The USAAF later decided to standardize all their jet engine naming, at which point the I-16 became the J31.

Like the W.1, the I-16 produced 1,650 pounds force (7.3 kN) of thrust and weighted about 850 lb. Production started for the P-59 Airacomet in 1943, and by the time the lines shut down in 1945, a total of 241 had been built. GE also used the basic design to produce the much larger I-40 with 4,000 lbf, but this design was passed on to Allison Engine as the J33, much to GE's chagrin.

Given the designation XA-26F, the modifications were fairly straightforward. The extra powerplant was a General Electric Model 7E-116-4 gas turbine and to install the unit in the rear fuselage, the gunner's sighting station and all related equipment was removed. The upper and lower turrets were also removed along with the Station 0 armor plate. The electrical equipment in the former gunner's compartment was relocated along with the radio compass. The SCR-695 (IFF) radio and radio compass loop antenna were also relocated while the aft portion of the flight control cables had to be rerouted.

A large air scoop for the jet was added atop the fuselage while the tail cone was refashioned into a tail pipe. A long exhaust pipe and shroud assembly ran from the engine to the tail cone. Under where the top turret would have been, a 125-gallon fuel cell was installed to hold the jet's Spec. AN-F-32 Grade K JP-1 (kerosene) fuel along with an eight-quart tank for the AAF Spec. 3580D medium grade oil. The fuel system was controlled by the operation of a master switch and the throttle. Fuel pressure ranged from 20 psi at engine idling speed to 380 psi maximum engine operating speed. The turbine would act as an assist to improve combat performance and make takeoffs possible from short runways or with extra heavy loads.

All flight controls, their maintenance and operation, remained unchanged except for cable routing in the vicinity of the aft engine installation. The throttle for the aft engine was isodraulically operated. This unit was self-contained and was in no way connected to the airplane hydraulic system.

The XA-26F was not to be a stripped-out test vehicle for it carried an eight-gun nose and a six-gun wing. Also, large four-blade paddle-style propellers had been added along with a set of spinners that had been made for the prototypes and early production aircraft. The engines were P&W R-2800-83s capable of 2100-hp each.

Before serious testing could really get underway, the war was over. However, the Air Force considered the XA-26F an important test vehicle and continued flying the aircraft in different configurations. On June 1946, the XA-26F covered a 621-mile (1000 kilometer) course with a 1000 kilogram load at an average air speed of 413 mph. The aircraft was being flown by Lt. Col. T.P. Gerrity and Capt. W.K. Rickert. With all three engines operating, the XA-26F reached a top speed of 435 mph at 15,000 feet.

With a whole new generation of jet warplanes on the horizon, it was obvious that it would not make practical sense to convert operational Invaders to the A-26F configuration. However, this did not mean the prototype's career was over.

Fitted with standard propellers and minus the spinners, the XA-26F was assigned to the Shell Oil Company in late 1949 for flight test work. Two oil company engineers were positioned in the cockpit while another two were crammed into the rear fuselage along with the jet. Under the direction of D.N. Harris, Shell's Project Engineer of Flight Research, the XA-26F was operated on numerous flights between Los Angeles and Oakland, California, to obtain experimental data on aviation fuels.

As one flight test engineer stated in a period publication, when both P&Ws were running at full power and the jet cut in it was like, "a kick in the butt."

When this valuable research was concluded in the 1950s, the XA-26F was stored for a period and then transferred to a technical school in Florida where it survived until the early 1970s when it was scrapped.

 
Specifications GE-J31

General characteristics

  • Type: Turbojet
  • Length:
  • Diameter:
  • Dry weight: 850 lb (386 kg)

Components

  • Compressor: Single stage centrifugal
  • Turbine: Single stage

Performance

  • Thrust: 1,650 lbf (7.33 kN)
  • Power-to-weight ratio:

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The above shot was supplied by Robert Lindley

Serial #: 44-34586
Construction #: 27865
Civil Registration:
  N66368
Model(s):
  A-26B
  XB-26F
Name: None
Status: Unknown
Last info: 1972

 

History:
Lindsay Hopkins Vocational School, Miami Airport, FL, 1964-1972.
- Registered as N66368

Built as DOUGLAS XA-26F - Prototype for a high-speed version of the Invader
 
Started out as an A-26B but modified in late 1945 as XA-26F with J31 turbojet aft of bomb bay. 
During the years 1950 and 1951 flew for Shell Oil Co. on a bailment contract for the USAF doing fuel research. 
 
Donated to Lindsay Hopkins Vocational
School in the 1950s, and was on the civil registry at least
1964-1969 as N66368.  used for ground instruction at the George T. Baker aviation school in Miami Airport and reportedly scrapped in 1972.
 

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On June 1946, the XA-26F covered a 621-mile (1000 kilometer) course with a 1000 kilogram load at an average air speed of 413 mph. The aircraft was being flown by Lt. Col. T.P. Gerrity and Capt. W.K. Rickert (Pictured above) With all three engines operating, the XA-26F reached a top speed of 435 mph at 15,000 feet."
 
 

Records set by the XA-26F
 
Speed over 1000 km with 1000 kg payload : 660.53 km/h

Date of flight: 20/06/1946
Pilot: T. P. GERRITY (USA)
Crew: W.K. Rickert
Course/place: Dayton, OH (USA)

Aircraft:
Douglas XA-26F (Wright R-2800-83 and GE-1-16, 2000 hp/1600 lbs)

 

 

Sub-class : C (Aviation with engine)
Without refuelling in flight
Speed over 1000 km with 1000 kg payload : 660.53 km/h

Date of flight: 20/06/1946
Pilot: T. P. GERRITY (USA)
Crew: W.K. Rickert
Course/place: Dayton, OH (USA)

Aircraft:
Douglas XA-26F (Wright R-2800-83 and GE-1-16, 2000 hp/1600 lbs
)

 

 
Rex Mays
 
Rex Mays, born in 1913, started his racing career at Legion Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles, California. In 1931, Mays' made his racing mark very quickly, defeating local heroes and terrorizing West Coast midget racing before beginning his big-car career.

     He entered his first Indianapolis 500 in 1934, finishing in 9th place. In 1935, he led for the first 90 laps, but left with a broken spring shackle on lap 123. Mays continued racing at Indy and came in 2nd in 1940 and 1941. His racing career spanned 18 years, but four of those were as a pilot during World War II.

Trained as a pilot duing WW2, Rex Mays competed in the 1946 cross-country Bendix Trophy Air race, finishing 13th, flying from Van Nuys Ca to Cleveland OH in 6 hours and 15 minutes, edging out Bill Lear Jr by 30 seconds.

Bill Lear Jr. was 18 at the time. They were both flying Lockheed Lightnings-F-5Gs, recon versions of the P-38. The Mays airplane, F-5G-6-LO 44-53015/NX57492/Race #55 MacMillan Meteor still exists; it was converted to standard P-38 fighter configuration and is displayed on a pedestal outside of McGuire AFB, NJ, as Tom McGuire's Pudgy V.

Mays never won at Indianapolis. But he did win a pair of AAA National Championships, and his peers held him in high esteem for his ability on dirt tracks.

     Mays was more than a race car driver, he was a concerned professional who put the welfare of others before himself. Two events evidence that concern. In 1947, at Wisconsin's Milwaukee Fairgrounds race track, Mays was challenging for the lead when Duke Dinsmore crashed directly in front of him and was thrown onto the track. Rex intentionally crashed into the wall to avoid Dinsmore.

     In the fall of 1949, at the Syracuse, NY State Fairgrounds. a dispute over prize money delayed the start of the championship 100 mile race for more than an hour, and the fans were becoming more and more upset. Mays prevented what might have developed into a major riot when without a word, he got into his car and started circling the track. One by one of the other drivers followed. He led the race until a flat sidelined him.

     On November 11, 1949, at Del Mar, California, Rex Mays was killed in a race.

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Lady Barbel Abela
 
Lady Barbel Abela owned N7079G from 1991-1992. She is the proud owner of seven "speed over distance" world records, set in her A26 Invader by flying to places such as Cannes, Reykjavik, Helsinki and her hometown of Bremen, Germany.

 
 
 
When one first meets Barbel Abela, her avid enthusiasm for historic aircraft and flying is immediately evident.

It was a different story before when, for Barbel, commercial flights were something to be endured rather than enjoyed. A pilot friend suggested that taking a flight training course might both overcome Barbel's dislike and provide a stimulating challenge. Thirty minutes in a Robin over the South of France proved to be a tasty appetizer for a concentrated course which saw Barbel gain her licence in a mere four and a half weeks.

On returning to the UK and having also developed an interest in vintage tail-wheel aircraft, Barbel set about finding an instructor who could improve her flying skills and introduce her to historic aircraft. Enter Len Perry. Len's passion for historic aircraft gained him the reputation that led to an introduction to Barbel and subsequently the formation of Bar-Belle Aviation.

"Len is a tough instructor, he doesn't let me get away with anything" asserts Barbel. Conversely, when it came to thier entering the first Round-The-World Air Race, it was Barbel who led the way. "Len called and told me about the race on 18 July, 1991, and I immediately decided I wanted to take part and what's more, take part in a bomber".

First they had to find one and a stroke of luck led them to the small town of Saratoga, Wyoming. There they found a Beech C-45 Expediter that had lived in a hangar for 23 years.  Originally built in 1946 with a Beech rebuild in 1953, the aircraft only had 1,970 hrs on the airframe and was in excellent condition. Although not a bomber it was too good to miss and they snapped it up and it was flown to Southwind Aviation for repainting and a little necessary renovation.

Barbel and Len soon dropped the idea of using the Beech for the race because it would have needed modifications and they decided to keep it as a genuine and authentic C-45G. In New Smyrna Beach, Florida they found an A26C Invader that had undergone a conversion to executive transport configuration. It was the perfect choice, comfortable but unmistakably a warbird and so N7079G was ferried to Southwind Aviation for repainting as the
Bar-Belle Bomber.

The visit to Southwind revealed a host of problems including corrosion, non approved parts and most serious of all a cracked main spar. Both Len and Barbel are full of praise for Southwind's pulling out all the stops and accomplishing two year's work in six months in order to get the Invader airworthy. Unfortunately the Bar-Belle Bomber wasn't ready in time to compete in the race but they did tag along for the final few stages. Then they were back in the air heading East via Helsinki for Moscow where Barbel became the first woman to land an American Bomber.

After returning to North Weald via Bremen, Barbel's hometown, Len flew the Invader to the US where Barbel later joined him to attend the giant annual fly-in at Oshkosh. "We were received very well indeed" according to Len. "Barbel and the Invader attracted the media to a point where we almost felt bad because we were cheating others out of coverage".
From Oshkosh they were invited to appear in an Airshow in St. Paul, Minnesota. Barbel was thoroughly enjoying her experience from the left seat when, towards the end of the display, there was a loud bang and the Invader shuddered. There was no alternative but to land without delay. It didn't take long to diagnose a cracked main spar. The new crack was in a different place where A-26's are know to have problems and for which an effective repair exists.

 
Lady Barbel Abela owned N7079G from 1991-1992. She is the proud owner of seven "speed over distance" world records, set in her A26 Invader by flying to places such as Cannes, Reykjavik, Helsinki and her hometown of Bremen, Germany.
 
Barbel holds seven Speed Records in the Douglas A26 Invader "Bar-Belle Bomber" with the National Aeronautic Association.

SPEED OVER A RECOGNIZED COURSE  CLASS C-1.H
(26,455 lbs to 35,274 lbs) Piston Engine.

222.98 MPH

1. July 9th, 1992  -  GOOSE BAY TO REYKJAVIK
2. July 10th, 1992  -  REYKJAVIK TO LIVERPOOL
3. July 12th, 1992  -  LYDD TO CANNES
4. July 15th, 1992  -  CANNES TO LYDD
5. July 19th, 1992  -  SOUTHEND TO HELSINKI
6. July 23rd, 1992  -  HELSINKI TO BREMEN
7. July 24th, 1992  -  BREMEN TO SOUTHEND  
 

Below, Barbel Abela and Len Perry with the A26C at Oshkosh 1992

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"Sexy Sue" - Home page

Serial #: 44-35562
Construction #: 28841
Civ. Registration:
  N707TG
  N7079S
  N9176Z
  N7079G
Model(s):
  A-26C
  B-26C
  On Mark Marketeer
Name: None
Status: Unknown
Last info: 2002

 

History:
Texas Gas Transmission Corp, Owensboro, KY, 1961-1966.
- Registered as N707TG.
Registered as N7079S by ??, 19??.
registered as N9176Z by ???, 19??.
Natrona Service Inc, Casper, WY, 1969-1988.
- Registered as N7079G.
Conrad Yelvington, South Daytona, FL, Aug. 1989-1992.
- Operated by Lady Barbel Abela & Len Perry, London, UK, 1991-1992.
- Flown as Bar-Belle Bomber.
Bar Belle Aviation Inc, Miami, FL, July 1992-1995.
- Forced landing, St. Paul-Holman Field, MN, Aug. 9, 1992.
- Withdrawn from use and placed in open storage, Holman Field, MN, 1992-1998.
Combat Air Museum, Lafayette, LA, 1994-1996.
Amjet Aircraft Corp/Polar Aviation Museum, Anoka County, MN, Jan. 20, 1998-2000.
Vintage Aircraft LLC, Guthrie, OK, Aug. 22, 2000-2002.

 
















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