GUTHRIE, Okla. (KFOR) – Seeing the bright sun of an early July morning, this Douglas A-26 Invader cuts a proud profile at the Guthrie Airport.
“You come taxiing in at an airport with an aircraft like this, and people take notice,” says technician Jim Dudnelly.
Prouder still are the retired Army and Air Force volunteers who worked decades to get the Sierra Hotel A-26 back to this point.
“Now,” says another volunteer tech, Tom Parsons, “this plane is, physically, ready to fly.”
Parsons and Dudnelly, the group leader, both worked at Tinker Air Force Base on weekdays until they retired.
They still spend their weekends with this old war bird.
Parsons continues, “The A-26 Invader is the only airplane in the U.S. Air Force inventory to have served in three wars.”
Built in Tulsa just before WWII ended, this aircraft saw service as a trainer, then in Korea, then in Vietnam.
“This aircraft has 18 months of combat service in Vietnam,” he states.
It was executive plane after that.
This wing of the Commemorative Air Force found it with broken wings at an airport in Pine Bluff, Ark.
Tom says, “Originally, we anticipated it would take four to five years to get it flying.”
That was 21 years ago.
It took longer to restore and upgrade.
It took longer to raise the money, to overhaul the engines, to bring it back to life.
“Nothing was going to stop us,” says Dudnelly. “The airplane was going to fly and that’s all there was to it.”
Of the more than a thousand originally built, there might be a dozen left that can still fly, including Oklahoma-based Lady Liberty.
But you can soon add this one to the list as well.
“It’s really nice to see it’s ready to go,” continues Dudnelly.
While most of Oklahoma waited for the weekend fireworks, these happy volunteers of the Sierra Hotel Group celebrated freedom with their own smoke and loud noises.
The big engines are finally ready to lift this piece of history back into the sky.
The aircraft is fully restored. The engine test passed muster, but the group is still looking for an A-26 rated pilot to test fly the aircraft, and there aren’t many of those people left.
For more information on the project or how to help out, go to their Facebook by clicking here.
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