Douglas A/B-26 Invader

N7079G, Sexy Sue wing spar repair - August 2013

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Peter Hambling owner and operator of N7079G, recently contacted me to know if I could help him with a recently identified wing spar issue on his Marketeer, "Sexy Sue".
I put him in touch with an Invader fixer call Darcy Hankins ( formerly of Air Spray ) and this is part of their communication.

See feature - Darcy Hankins - Ex Air Spray Invader engineer

Hi Martin,

Hope you're well, and I just realized I never got back to you about supporting your daughter on her charity bike ride last year so big oops sorry for missing that, a little too much on me plate I guess.

We just got to England and we're here for a month, I'd like to catch up with you when you have a chance.  Back in Seattle our Chief Pilot Mechanic Brad Meeuwse just called me yesterday, he's started into the B inspection on Sexy Sue and per the 500h AD he's found some cracks in the right wing rear spar.  Yikes!  Apparently they can be addressed and in the case of many A26s such as Airspray's previous fleet they were indeed fixed with a spar strap etc. In fact the left wing on Sue was repaired about 12 years ago and there's pix of the plane sitting out in the snow in Minnesota with the left wing removed when Wally Fisk of Amjet had her.  However I'm wondering if in your immense knowledge of these planes you can refer us to anyone we can consult on that repair process who would have some sage advice and guidance for us?

Hope to talk with you soon.

with kind regards,

Hi Martin,
Sorry for line goin dead we're on a trip this time without Sue //:-( to get our two oldest boys back in school. I'll tune in more later but I am SO grateful to you for introducing us to Darcy what a class act he is. We are into the wing and expect to pull it next week I'll keep you posted. I'll copy you the first email I sent to Darcy. Would love to see you next we're in England. More later...

with kind regards,


Hi Darcy,

I was referred to you by Martin Simpson in England last week.  We have a beautiful On Mark A26 N7079G "Sexy Sue" based in Renton in the Seattle area and though I've not met Martin I feel like I've come to know him from our passion for these planes.  I'm half British (my dad) half American (my mom) and we have a farm in Suffolk England which has been in our family for almost 100 years and we visit there 3x a year so I often email or talk with Martin when we're there.  He has an extraordinary website which is so cool and so big I usually get lost looking around on it, and Sexy Sue is one of the On Marks showcased on the site so you can see her there with some good photos I've sent Martin.

We've found a cracked Right rear spar on Sue and we could really use your help.  I understand you're wary (or maybe weary) of giving free advice on A26s and I don't blame you one bit, but I would be delighted to pay you whatever you want to help us if you can and if it works for you.  I'll try not make this email too long but I feel I'm going to have to go to work to talk you into helping us and I'd to at least explain who I am and how I operate, maybe I can have a reasonable chance of talking you into consulting to us... we really need it.  If not I certainly will understand.

Aviation has been in the English side of my family for a very long time.  My great grandfather Herbert Hambling started Imperial Airways in 1924 and was made a Baronet for it, the winged crest which was given to him for that by King George is next to the air stair door on our Invader.  Imperial Airways became BOAC in the 1930s and my godfather Alan Campbell-Orde laid out all of the overseas routes for BOAC in their early years.  My dad Hugh Hambling was an RAF Atlantic Ferry Command pilot in WWII based in Dorval Montreal flying B24s and B25s across the Atlantic to Europe, North Africa, and the Far East.  My dad's sister Margot became a pilot at 19 (in a Puss Moth) and ran in those circles, one of her friends being Alex Henshaw one of Supermarine's Spitfire test pilots, and with one of her boyfriends she flew in and got my dad out of Vienna the day before the Nazis marched in, my uncle Maurice was chief test pilot on the Vickers Wellington bomber.  After WWII my dad went to work for BOAC in 1949 and stayed until 1973 when he went to Royal Brunei for 22 years until he retired at 76.  

We moved from England to Santa Monica in 1957 when I was 4 because at that time BOAC was buying Douglas DC7Cs, then a year later we moved to Seattle when BOAC started buying Boeing 707s.  I grew up in Seattle and have lived here most of the time since then but we'd go to England every summer and in those days it was quite an experience:  Northern Pacific train to San Francisco then United DC6 to New York then a BOAC DC7C or Britannia or VC10 or 707 to London, for a young lad it was an incredible experience which put airplanes and particularly radial engined transports in my bloodstream forever.  I went up to the cockpit on all these flights and often met Jimmy Percy on the Atlantic run, he was chief pilot of BOAC at the time.  You'll see some photos at the bottom of this email with the names of all these people and some others who have given me the love of flying and we now carry them with on Sue everywhere we go.

I've liked A26s since I first saw one when I was in Aero Engineering at UW here in Seattle in 1975.  I ran the wind tunnel at UW and one of the guys working there Fred Johnsen was into them and would go to the local air shows where tankers such as from Conair would fly in.  Fred wrote one of the little gems on A26s, that Tech Series book, with many of his photos that he took at that time.  I didn't really know much about A26s but I just thought they were super pretty and very cool, and I liked the look of them.  When our company began to do well I started thinking about buying an A26.  I flew to Billings in 1998 with one my good flying friends Dave Menzimer (he now runs the FSDO here in Renton and his office is in charge of Sue) and looked at buying one of Denny Lynch's tankers "Fire Eaters" which was one of two in the movie "Always".  I liked Denny but the plane was really beat and it looked like it would take a LOT of time and money to put it right so I passed on buying it.  Then I looked at another tanker a few years later when I was towing gliders out of Ephrata, it was owned by a NW pilot Jerry Sater but it was the same thing, really beat.  11 years later in Feb 2009 after thinking about it all that time I remembered Denny also had a K model so I called and it turned out it was for sale so I went back to Billings to look at it, this time it was for for sale by Denny's son Randy since his dad had passed away.  But it was the same story again, it had been sitting out for many years and looked very, very weathered (amazing someone had cajones big enough to a year later fly that plane out and all the way to Texas at that) so I passed on it yet again.  So I called Fred yet again and he suggested I look for an On Mark.  I'd always been interested in Mustangs and particularly Spitfires (the British in me), but I didn't like that you couldn't take anyone along for the fun, and I'd realized the same thing about A26 bombers you really couldn't take many people with you to share the thrill.  I'd never heard about the On Marks so I got very interested in them because I realized they could carry a lot of people to share all the fun, so I went looking for one.  One night milling around on the internet I found photos of a beautiful A26C completely polished and pristine and then the next night I found another one, this time an On Mark also gorgeous polished, and I was really taken with both of these planes.  I tracked down where they lived and called the company in Van Nuys, they were both owned by Thermco which was Howard Keck and they'd both been restored and maintained by Matt Jackson.  I started talking with Matt about restoring an On Mark and a month later he mentioned one he knew about in Guthrie OK that might be able to be bought.  It turned out the timing was just right, and I went to see it in Las Cruces after Matt had flown it there from Guthrie to show it to me.  At that time one of my best friends had gone under the knife for cancer (and we're about to lose him after a long struggle now) so when I saw Sue I thought it was the coolest, baddest, most bodacious, gorgeous, classiest plane I had ever seen, I realized these sort of things come along once in a lifetime, and I just caved in and bought her for $1.6M..  That was March 2009.

After I bought Sue I realized soon enough I needed spare parts and a full-time mechanic, but I hadn't met anyone in the warbird community I was very impressed wit, a lot of them seemed to have big egos, pompous indifference, regaling lots of stories and bravado, and a lot of them wore those dumb flight suits with name tags and sewn-on patches etc.  I guess I just didn't feel like I fit in and that whole scene didn't seem very interesting to me.  But I had an idea.  A few years earlier I'd bought a Cessna 206 on floats which I had restored and one of the A/P guys I met during that complete overhaul was Brad Meeuwse a sharp 23 year old guy who was assigned to the job at Galvin at Boeing Field in Seattle.  I'd observed he was a very careful and very methodical and thorough mechanic, and he was a dirt biker, a skater dude with a soul patch and faded jeans, and pretty cool.. I liked him and we kind of hit it off from the start.  Then one day I flew with him on a test flight in the 206 and found he was also a very good pilot, and he told me he grew up in Indonesia flying 206s and Caravans for MAF and had started flying at 14.  So it occurred to me I'd much rather take a smart, stoked, passionate fun young guy like this who was a very careful mechanic and a quick study, and offer him the job learning to take care of and fly an A26 even though he had no experience with warbirds or radials or any big plane stuff, instead of some experienced older guy who had become jaded and arrogant and worse yet, closed minded.  I hired Brad full time as Chief Pilot and Mechanic right after that and it turned out to be a very smart decision.  Matt Jackson and his guys referred to Brad somewhat condescendingly as in "...get your Cessna guy to do it"….but he is extraordinary and a VERY good young man in every way.

In the last four years Brad has got Sue running like a top and we have flown her almost every week usually flying 120-150 hours a year.  We fly her for fun, we fly her for work and business, we fly auction flights and just take people up to share the experience with almost anyone who wants to go, we fly her in all sorts of weather, day and night, year round, on all sorts of cross country trips mostly throughout the Western USA, and last year we took her on 8 stops in 6 days across the USA to New Haven for an overnight and back, we take all sorts of people along for the ride, our family (3 sons 15, 19, and 21), their friends, our 2 dogs, I mean anyone goes with us.  This Spring we flew her twice to SoCal putting 36h on her in two weeks.  We don't do air shows we get too antsy sitting around and would rather fly, we don't do warbird stuff I just don't feel it's that interesting.  We fly Sue like On Mark designed her for, and that is to take a bunch of folks up and have fun on the way to somewhere interesting.  We put her to work, and she loves it.  It is a complete blast and we have an absolute BALL doing it.  Brad and I fly her as a crew, trading seats every other flight.   We fly her ALL the time, we fly the pants off her.  I feel it's an incredible honor to be able to own and operate such a fine airplane as she is, a real national treasure.  I have 8000 photos of Sue and a fraction of that of my wife Lorrie

SO.  We've found a crack in the right rear spar, so we're down, at 487h close to the 500h spar cap AD.  On one hand I'm glad it's now because we're planning on flying her across the Atlantic next summer and probably keep on going likely all the way around the world, so better we find this now rather than later somewhere remote.  On the other hand we have two of our boys at University in Montana Missoula and we've been flying Sue there every 2 months or so to visit them, and since this is their last year there it's sad not to be able to do that.  At least until we get this fixed.  So I'm asking, no actually I'm kind of begging you to help us, and if so I would be very grateful.  I don't do deals, I don't spend my time chiseling, I don't waste my time driving down costs and saving money I'm not interested in that.  Instead I focus on the positive creative side of things.  I either get into something 110% and do it the right way or I don't do it at all, and anyone who knows me would tell you that whether it's in my company or with Sexy Sue.  We run that plane top shelf, we don't cut corners, we don't do it later, we keep after it until we're sure, Sue is a national treasure and deserves to be babied because she's priceless.  I think as they say you get what you pay for….I like experts and you are THE expert on A26s.

So how can I talk you into it?  I don't know anything about you or your situation except from what I've heard from Martin and second hand via some of the Airspray guys like Zoltan. Ideally I'd like to fly you here to guide us through this wing removal and reattachment, and pick your brains on everything you know about A26s.  I will pay you enough to make it worthwhile for you, something you'll look back on in 10 years and say yeah that was fun.   If we bring you in it will be to accelerate the repair time so we can fly Sue at the earliest, because not flying her we're going nuts fast.  If you'd rather consulting to us by telephone or email that's ok but not as good, although we could start with that and see if it fits you and us, sort of feel each other out as it were.  I'd much prefer to have you with us here in Seattle, but either way tell me how you can or want to help and what you'll charge for it.  Tell me how I can talk you into it.

I see this has turned into a super long email, forgive me for that….  I'm just trying my best to persuade you to help us.

with kind regards,


Here's some pix:  first one a January trip to Idaho snowmobiling (L to R Brad, my cousin Steve, his son Blake, our #1 son Colin, our #2 son Austin, and me), next few pics a Feb trip to San Francisco and Missoula with 10 of us and our 2 dogs all comfy in the cabin (back left is Lorrie, back right our #3 son Mitch), last two all the good souls now gone who have given me the love of flying my dad, my uncle, my godfather, chief pilot of BOAC, one of my flying mentors who heeled over of a heart attack the day we flew Sue home to Renton (I had a heart attack 4 years ago so I know how fragile life can be), my aunt, my best friend in high school, and my mom, next to them the BOAC speed bird, last pic the winged crest of our family.








Previous wing spar repair on N7079G





The above 4 shots show N7079G at Holman Field during work to repair her wing spar.
It was at the CAF airshow where 7079G (re)broke the spar.
There were several B-25's and this lone A-26 flying a figure 8 pattern with the A-26 being the last in line.
The incident occured during a banked turn, not a loop.
IIRC the spar had been previously repaired and was the subject of some litigation.


The above shot belongs to Bryan D via and shows "7079" just about the time her spa "popped" for the second time.

...........And so it begins, 12th September 2013

Martin,  We are about to pull the wing off next week, here's a shot of her waiting for surgery, love that pink pallet rack for support eh?  I'll send more as I get 'em.



I mailed Peter to ask how progress was going ( 26/09/2013 )
What?!  Do you have a remote cam on us or tapping the CIA or something?  We JUST pulled the wing last night 930PM!!….here's a few iPhone shots I'll send more high rez Nikon shots this evening.  We've got telepathy or some Martian (or maybe more to the point Martin) comm going on here…//;-)  Sue looks happy for getting all the attention mending her broken wing.. That's Brad Meeuwse (our Chief Pilot and Mechanic) riding the wing down to the cradle with a grin on his face right after we pulled it, Ryan our other mechanic hanging onto the spar to keep it balanced, and Rick Butler our very clever machinist in the black t shirt who fab'd all the jigs and cradles except for the Pepto Bismol Pink fuselage support made from pallet racks and who will be shortly milling the 6' spar cap splice.


Hi Martin,    As promised here ya go with lotsa pics, if you want the full size files let me know which ones and I can send them.  You'll see a lot of detail here.  One of the interesting things is we could only set up the 3 point lifting sling with the length of the each of the 3 cables set as close to the Douglas artist's rendering as we could guess from the hand-drawn image.  Therefore when we finally disconnected the wing after removing all 4 pins (that took a while) we weren't sure where the CG of the wing was exactly so that's why you see Rick our machinist pulling down on the tip with a sling and a jack positioned under it for a while, then when we pulled the wing free of the fuselage it turned out the tip was heavier and luckily the wing teeter-tottered and the wing root came up and the forward longer spar caught itself in the fuselage slot and prevented the tip from going to the ground, then in the shots taken after we figured that out you see Ryan our other mechanic holding the spar down and Brad sitting with his weight on the root to balance it.  Quite an interesting dealio here.


Wing Spar repair

Repair of Sandwich Structures

This mod is a  typical in-service damage to a sandwich structure with composite face sheets. The damage to composite face sheets is visible damage with surface indentation. Delaminations are seen in the composite face sheets as well as disbonding between the face sheets and honeycomb core. In addition, core buckling is seen.

The repair of a sandwich structure will depend on the extent of the core damage. Full depth and partial through the depth repair concepts are shown in the photos.

The core damage has to be machined out and a plug prepared before performing the repairs. Various steps involved in the repair are illustrated in the figure.

The core damage has to be machined out and a plug prepared before performing the repairs. Various steps involved in the repair are illustrated in the figure.































Fixing and putting her back together

































































Wing on






Hi Martin,  
Sexy Sue’s first flight in 18 months last week and we are STOKED! Sue is running like a top.  

Here’s a pic of us at Ray Anderson’s in Grangeville ID:  Brad Meeuwse 3rd from left, Ray next to him to the right standing tall n proud in the middle of the lineup, me next to him to the right and my cousin Ricky next to me.  It is so lucky we have Ray only 1h away I believe he is the best P&W 2800 man anywhere and we consult him often on all sorts of stuff.  He has done the engines for Red Bull’s B25 and 6 for the Breitling Connie (two spares for them were in the shop being prepped when we were there).

We have flown her 6 flights since then and we and she are right back in the groove where we left off, really a special moment after all this time.  Thank you for all your support and bringing us in contact with Darcy we are grateful to you and to him for the encouragement and his advice.

Happy Holidays to you and your fam and look forward to seeing you in the New Year!

with kind regards,