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Douglas A/B-26 Invader

N58Y, a family story - Nick Decker














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This is a very special feature due to the rarity of the data available on this airframe and because of the nature of the additional information supplied via Nick Decker, who shared history with the aircraft during its long and distinguished history, thank you Nick.
 
 

The story so far.....

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Above, in the colour scheme of Minnesota Airmotive in Minneapolis

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Above, in the colour scheme of The Rexall Drug Co

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Serial #: 44-34524
Construction #: 27803
Civil Registration
N558,
N58Y, HK-999E

Models: A-26, B-26B-61-DL

 

History:

Constructed as an A-26B-61-DL by Douglas at Long Beach, Califoria, USA.
Douglas A-26B-61-DL 27803

Taken on Strength/Charge with the United States Army Air Force with s/n 44-34524

Minnesota Aeromotive in Minneapolis

Purchased by Rexall Drug Co. in Los Angeles in April 1959, repositioned back to Van Nuys on Sept. 2, 1959 untill Aug 1961/2.

Converted while at Rexall by On Mark but to executive ( but not to a Marketeer ) to N58Y, then N588

Sold back to Minnesota Aeromotive, later to unknown buyer in Colombia as HK-999E in 1962/3

Additional info: Visited Prestwick Airport in 1957 as N58Y, belonging to Minnesota Aeromotive. It also visited Prestwick on 23rd September 1957 routing from Madrid to Iceland.
 
This A-26 was a one-off modification undertaken  by a previous owner, Stahmann Farms of Las Cruces NM circa 1964 when it was modified for extra long-range using a Marksman wing with tip tanks which were salvaged from an unidentified Marksman badly damaged by fire at Phoenix AZ.

 

 
 
 
Nick's story, a wonderful addition.

 
I recieved a really interesting mail the other day ( March 2013 ) from a Nick Decker of St. Louis , Missouri, Nick wrote:

My name is Nick Decker and I am writing to you from St. Louis , Missouri in the U. S.

I have only just recently found your web site and am absolutely amazed by it.

There is one Invader that is near and dear to my heart and it is N58Y.  However, as I look at your web site and a couple of other places there appears to be some confusion about the old bird. I am personally acquainted with the airplane and if you would like some updated information on it I would be happy to provide it.

Best regards,

Nick Decker

 

Nick continued:

MY EXPERIENCES WITH DOUGLAS A-26 "N58Y" IN THE SUMMER OF 1959

BY NICK DECKER

In your section on N58Y, you show a nice black & white picture of it when it was owned by Minnesota Airmotive in Minneapolis , Minnesota . According to internet discussions in 2001, this airplane had been seen in Prestwick about September 1957.

In 1959, the Rexall Drug Company in Los Angeles purchased a plastics company in Chippewa Falls , Wisconsin . They wanted an aircraft that could provide fast and nonstop service between Chippewa Plastics and the Rexall home office in Los Angeles .

Rexall purchased N58Y from Minnesota Airmotive in April 1959 and sent it to On Mark for updating. (I don't know who did the prior interior conversion.) At the same time, Rexall hired my Dad (Mark Decker) as the pilot and he followed the airplane through all the modification phases until it was finished. He did the first test flight on the 18th of June 1959.

On Mark went through the entire airplane and also added the 103" nose with radar, installed the DC-6 landing gear with Hytrol anti-skid, and added the 165 gal, wingtip tanks. Nothing else was done to the cockpit or interior. The airplane was repainted in the colors of the Rexall company. The orange arrow, or dart if you will, on the side of the fuselage, was made part of the color scheme at the request of the president of Rexall Drug, Mr. Justin Dart.

I remember an interesting comment my Dad made about the painting of the airplane. He was completely fascinated and amazed by the talents of the painter. He said the guy masked out the paint scheme from one side to the other without ever really measuring anything. Dad said the final paint job was flawless.

The airplane was based at the Eau Claire , Wisconsin Municipal Airport (just south of the Chippewa Plastics facility) and the flight from there to Van Nuys , California could be flown nonstop in six hours.. just about as fast as anything could fly in 1959. However, once the managers discovered how fast the airplane was, they began crisscrossing the country daily with it.

I was an 18 year old at the time working at the FBO, so I got to help Dad service the airplane and also flew right seat with him as often as I absolutely could. Saturday mornings were spent washing the airplane, especially the exhaust streaks on the nacelles. Often, we would "dry the airplane off" by practicing approaches and doing touch-and-goes.

Sometimes we would make the 25 minute/100mile run over to Minnesota Airmotive for maintenance that we couldn't do at our FBO. The short exhaust stacks that would crack at the cylinders are a good example.

One day we took it back up to Minnesota Airmotive for some electrical checks. It required carrying one of their mechanics with his meters while we did some take offs and landings so I got to fly right seat. Taxiing out to the active runway put us on a taxiway that took us by the Minnesota Air National Guard Base and each time we went by, at least a dozen Airmen would run out to chain link fence to wave and cheer us on. N58Y in her outstanding paint scheme with the orange wing tip tanks and those big R2800's with that wonderful loping sound at idle was enough to give anyone goose bumps (or chicken skin as some say).

We did have a problem with the Hytrol anti-skid brakes one day. We were doing engine run-ups before takeoff when all of a sudden the airplane gave a huge lurch forward. We had lost the brakes!!!! Dad chopped the power and instantly flipped the two Hytrol switches to off. The brakes grabbed and we didn't move another foot. It was decided another trip to Minnesota Airmotive was necessary. I don't remember what was accomplished.

One day in July, a horrific thunderstorm pounded it with 3-1/2 inch hail. My Dad was scared to death the airplane had been ruined, so he told me to climb on top to check her out. With that glossy paint, hail dents would really stand out, however, all surfaces were as smooth as glass. That was one tough airplane. (All light aircraft at the airport were totaled that day.)

My Father flew N58Y daily until it was repositioned back to Van Nuys on Sept. 2, 1959. Dad and I visited the airplane at VNY in August 1961 and it still looked the same. Rexall operated it for one more year and then it returned to Minnesota Airmotive. I saw it on the ramp there, still in Rexall colors, in the summer of 1962. Sometime after that, we heard that Minnesota Airmotive had sold it and it went to South America still in the Rexall colors. (Minnesota Airmotive also sold their B-17 to someone in SA about the same time. Taking our 1945 mint condition B-17 manual with it!!! Still unhappy about that.)

Your black & white picture of it in Colombia , HK-999E, is the last evidence of it that I know of.

Everyone (except for myself) that was ever connected with the airplane in the 1950s and 60s has passed away. Even the retired old timer guys at Gopher Aviation south of Minneapolis in Rochester , Minnesota don't know anything of N58Y.

I have never been able to identify the N588 registration.

A couple of years after the airplane went to South America I found a statement that "N58Y" had been dropped from the FAA Registry and no other number had been assigned to the airframe. Sometime after that even that statement disappeared. So for me, the "N588" number remains a mystery.

As I have already stated, when N58Y was updated in April, 1959, the cockpit and interior were basically left untouched. The interior looked to be several years old, however I always thought it looked like it was an early On Mark conversion with the seating, window configuration, and belly entrance door.

In the summer of 1959, I was just 18 years old and now I am almost 72. My Dad flew N58Y for only three months, but I was so lucky to have been able to join him during that time. I learned so much that summer and we had so many interesting experiences with the airplane. N58Y was seriously powerful, seriously heavy, seriously fast, and you had to pay serious attention to everything you did with it, but OMG was it ever fun to fly. It was like pushing an overgrown fighter around the sky. My Dad went on to finish his corporate flying career in a Falcon 20 and Gulfstream II, retiring in 1974 with almost 20,000 hours in his log books.

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Above is Nick's dad who flew B-17's during WWII, in front of N58Y back in July 1959

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Above, this is a picture of N58Y in June 1959 taken at the Eau Claire , Wisconsin Municipal Airport where the airplane was based.

It is parked where we normally washed it. A puddle of water can still be seen under it.

It was parked in this very same spot in July when a horrific thunderstorm pounded it with 3-1\2 inch hail. My Dad was scared to death the airplane had been ruined so he told me to climb on top to check her out. With that glossy paint hail dents would really stand out, however, all surfaces were as smooth as glass. That was one tough airplane. (All light aircraft at the airport were totaled that day.)

The Rexall Company had purchased a plastics company in Chippewa Falls , WI, about ten miles north of the airport.

The original intent for the airplane was to provide direct fast and nonstop service between Chippewa Plastics and the Rexall home office in Los Angeles .

They quickly discovered the big Doug could also quickly whisk them all over the United States.

 

 

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Above two shots, these were taken at Van Nuys Airport in California , August 1961, the airplane was still owned by Rexall and we were visiting the West Coast Chief Pilot of Rexall.

The engine nacelles are severely exhaust streaked, we never let it get that dirty when we had it.































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