Douglas A/B-26 Invader

The John Whitehead collection

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In a reponse to a former article "On Mark or Rock Island" I had a mail from John Whitehead ( 18/05/2012 )
Martin: I can confirm that the A-26 N137WG/sn 44-35201 was a Monarch and not an On Mark.

I flew on that airplane several times in the early '60s.

My father worked at Woodward Governor in Rockford. In that time period Woodward had two Twin Bonanzas and a Twin Beech. (Before that it was two Bonanzas and an Apache.) The headquarters and main plant was in Rockford but there was a newer, second plant in Fort Collins and the Twin Beech was pretty slow westbound. The Twin Bonanzas were used, as I remember, on sales trips closer to RFD - like to GE at Cincinnati or to Hamilton Standard at (I think) Hartford. Also, it was necessary to carry the chairman and his family to Yuma to his winter home and the A-26 was much more suited for that mission than the Twin Beech.

I remember flying on that airplane to Kenora, Ontario at least once and to Cheyenne, Wyoming at least once. Cheyenne was used because the local airport in Fort Collins was not adequate to serve the airplane.

I now live in Cheyenne. I saw your photo and an MB CLK is in the background. I have had one of those - a '98 CLK 320 in quartz blue. Also I noted you are experienced with the Casa/Heinkel 111. One of those crashed in Cheyenne, into a school bus terminal, several years ago. It was on approach to CYS from the east southeast and went down about two miles or so short of the runway (about eight miles southeast of my home).

I went to Hutchison, KS one time with my father on his or the company's trip to inspect/buy the Monarch. This must have been in about 1961 or 1962. I do not remember which airplane took us there - either the 18 or one of the Twin Bonanzas. I remember a row of A-26s parked on a ramp near the Rock Island hanger - awaiting potential civil conversion.

I knew the pilot of N137WG - Martin Bender. He was bald and difficult but well respected. I knew his two blonde nieces in later years. I remember the seating arrangement in the airplane and especially the crawl through space under the spar on the starboard side of the fuselage to get through to the cockpit. There was a little jump seat in the cockpit that was ideal for a 12 year old kid. As I remember, I was told the airplane had DC-6 engines and a DC-6 landing gear.

There is a photo of the airplane on the site when it was, at some time, parked at Louisville/SDF. It was loud, fast, intimidating and "awesome".
When Woodward bought the A-26 there were required changes to the aviation program. The 18 and the Twin Bonanzas were based at Machesney Field. This was a grass covered historic airport only a few miles north of the Woodward headquarters in Loves Park (the northern suburb of Rockford). It had close access to the plant but certainly could not handle the A-26. So they built a new hanger for the airplane at Greater Rockford Airport - on the far south side of the city and much less convenient to the headquarters. The hanger is still there, on the north east end of the airport but it has been many decades since Woodward owned or used it. Machesney Field was closed in the '60s or '70s and a shopping mall was built on the site.

- John Whitehead / Cheyenne, WY -

See for original photographs





Serial #: 44-35201
Construction #: 28480
Civil Registration:
  Monarch 26
Status: Unknown
Last info: 1977


L.B. Smith Aircraft Corp, Miami, FL.
- Registered as N8025E.
Woodward Governor Co., Rockford, IL, 1963-1966.
- Registered as N137WG.
Supreme Machine Products, Rockford, IL, 1969-1970.
- Registered as N437W.
Stan Burnstein, Tulsa, OK, 1972.
Lester Risley, Anchorage, AK, 1976-1977.

Les (Risley, the last owner) was taking off from the Aniak Airport and the flap control rod failed on the right wing causing Les to lose control of the aircraft and it struck some trees off the side of the runway. He left the aircraft there. Last information on it was the airport took the wreckage to the dump.