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The Plane

In May 1966, Detachment 1, 603d Air Commando Squadron (ACS) deployed to NKP from England AFB, Louisiana. The detachment consisted of eight B-26K propeller driven bombers sent to undergo combat tests in Laos.  An early glitch arose prior to their arrival when the Thai government expressed its concern at having foreign “bombers” on its soil. But the problem was finessed smoothly when Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown simply redesignated the Big Eagle B-26Ks as “attack” aircraft, hence their new designator “A-26A.”


These K model -26s were a big improvement over the B models first issued to the Air Commandos in Florida in the early 1960s. At a cost of 13 million dollars, the On Mark Engineering Company in Van Nuys, California, converted 40 of the bombers to the upgraded K configuration. Rebuilt fuselage and wing components, more powerful engines, wingtip fuel tanks, additional wing pylons to carry more munitions, and improved avionics all combined to produce one of the most deadly fighting machines of the war in Laos.
IF 679 (sn 64-17679) - USAF In Flight Photo
Detachment 1, 603d Air Commando Squadron B-26K
(Last B-26K to come off On Mark Production Line)


The plane is propelled by Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-52W engines of 2,500 hp ... has a Max Speed of 323 mph (281 knots) ... a Range of 2,700 statute miles (2,346 nautical miles) ... and a Service Ceiling of 30,000 feet ... Fuel Consumption 180 gallons per hour.


IF 679 while in USAF Service
IF 679 Taxiing while in USAF Service
IF 679 with full load of ordinance
IF 679 at boneyard, Davis Monthan AFB
November 1969
photo copyright Lindsay Peacock
Jane's All the World's Aircraft

IF 679 "Special K" - Taxiing in Billings MT

Wing Span 71 ft 6 in. ... Length 51 ft. 7 in. ... Height 19 ft. ... Weight 38,314 lbs max. 



IF 679 "Special K" - Cockpit Photo
Crew - Two (Pilot and Navigator)


IF 679 "Special K" - "Make My Day"

Great Depiction of the Eight Forward Firing .50 Caliber Nose Machine Guns. The plane also has eight wing pylons capable of carrying 8,000 lbs of mixed ordinance ... and ... 4,000 lbs of bombs internally! 



IF 679 "Special K" on Ramp in Billings MT
BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff
Pilot Al Maxwell checks screws on a Douglas B-26K as the plane was prepared to be flown Saturday from Billings to Texas, where it will be refurbished for its new owner. The plane is the last owned by Lynch Air Tankers.
IF 679 "Special K" ready to depart Billings for Denton TX
To KDTO for Paint Stripping
BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff
Randy Lynch and pilot Al Maxwell chat by the B-26K before Maxwell and co-pilot Steve Swift took off from Billings.
BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff
The Lynch family, Lennis Ryan, Randy Lynch, Rhonda Richling, Leonard Lynch and Alyssa Lynch, shoot pictures and video as the A-26K rolls down the tarmac to be flown to Texas from Billings Saturday January 9, 2010. The plane formerly owned by the Lynch family will be refurbished for it's new owner in Texas
BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff
The B-26K takes off from Billings for Texas on Saturday.
BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff
The A-26K takes off from Billings to be flown to Texas Saturday January 9, 2010. The plane formerly owned by the Lynch family will be refurbished for it's new owner in Texas.
IF 679 - Arriving in Denton TX at Sunset
For Paint Stripping
IF 679 "Special K" in Denton TX
Stripping the Paint
IF 679 "Special K" in Denton TX
Removing paint from the wings
Ferry Flight to Fort Worth Complete
Arriving at KFTW after paint stripping in Denton TX
IF 679 "Special K" in KFTW - Finally! 
Ready for restoration
Snow on "Special K" at KFTW
In Fort Worth TX  ... in March???  Brrrr! 
More snow on IF 679 at KFTW
6" snow fall in March!  Crazy!
Vintage Flying Museum, Fort Worth TX
Restoration Home for "Special K'"
Don Vogler, Chairman and "Special K"
At The Vintage Flying Museum, Fort Worth TX
Jim Terry, Founder of the Greatest Generation Aircraft Organization, and "Special K"
The man (and the organization) behind the curtain that made this acquisition happen!
Inside the bomb bay
Hatch to radio compartment/"green house" in back
Jim Reynolds, Chairman of the Greatest Generation Aircraft Organization (L) and Don Vogler, Chairman of the A-26 Legacy Foundation (R)

"Special K's" Radio Compartment
This aircraft is historically complete!



Col. Tim Black, Nimrod Pilot visits "Special K" 

IF 679 after 40 years ... The first A-26A he ever flew!
Interview with Col. Tim Black visiting IF 679
Fully Operational Mk 20 Mod 4 Gunsight acquired for "Special K" !!!
(Thanks to Jason Wall, San Diego CA [gunsight collector/owner of the Mk 20 Mod 4 Gunsight] for offering it to us.)

Steve Nelson showing side view of Mk 20 Mod 4 Gunsight in "Special K"
Pilot's view of Mk 20 Mod 4 Gunsight in position
Yellow Daylight Reticle view thru the Mk 20 Mod 4 Gunsight
White (or Opal) Dawn/Dusk Reticle view thru the Mk 20 Mod 4 Gunsight
Red Night Reticle view thru the Mk 20 Mod 4 Gunsight
IF 679 bathed and ready for paint

New Tires for "Special K" courtesy of Good Year Aviation Tires!!!  Thank You!!!

Pulling the nose gear for inspection
It took max effort to pull it with 4 guys and a gal tugging plus a jack to support it!
Restoration Team pulling the Left Stab
Don't think it has been off since 1965.  The bolts were very tight and we had to soak them several times to get them to loosen. Took 4 guys to lift it off because of the height involved. 
Oil Cooler removed for service/repair
Tank was clean, but the cooler has a leak we will have to chase down. 
A&P student treating corrosion inside empenage, viewed from tailcone.
Restoration Team removing the Right Stab
Four new volunteers today from American Airlines!  It was 103 deg, but, everybody stuck with it ... all 10 of them!!! 
Our inspector, J.R. Hofmann, gets a first look at the carry thru structure of the horizontal stabilizer spars.
(First look since 1965)
New main gear door hinge fittings courtesy of Jerry Davis.

We completed the inspection of the nose landing gear cross beam assembly as required by an FAA airworthiness directive (AD) thanks to the help of Todd Jackson, owner of JET's Inc., Carrollton, Texas. JET's is an FAA certificated facility specializing in non-destructive testing (NDT)

The photo, taken under ultra violet or "black light" depicts one end of the cross beam as it was being magnetic particle inspected. This is sometimes referred to as "Zyglo."
The nose gear inner cylinder -almost all apart. There's some damage to the centering cam. Should be okay after a little TLC, and some new "O" rings & seals
Great shot of the Left Side Gun Bay in IF 679
Close Up Shot of the Gun Mount in the Nose
Close Up Photo of the Flexible Feed Chute Assembly Diagram on the Gun Bay Door
J.R. Hofmann and Amy borescoping the vertical stab!
Inspecting the vertical stabilizer attach points are difficult due to lack of accessability - we used a borrowed borescope from J.R. Hofmann's P&W  friends. 
Thank you friends!



Honored by a visit from Alfredo Maza (a navigator who flew in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba). How cool is that!

Punch list on the bomb bay door.  We are essentially doing a C check on the airplane. Something it has needed since it left the Forest Service of the State of Georgia in 1972.  We are running all of the control cables and pulleys to see if we need any replacements and lubing everything as needed. The control columns had a little bit of corrosion to deal with, but nothing too serious.
We were pleased to have a visit from two Nimrod pilots today at the hangar.  Joe Maynard and Bob Bakken.  Both signed the airplane for us under the armor plate on the right side of the nose.
Bob Bakken and his son Brian were very happy to see our progress with the restoration.  Bob flew our airplane during training before joining the 609th Special Ops Squadron at NKP in 1967. 
The team pulled the oil screen on the right engine and found it to be clean.  Mark and Denis are gleefully enjoying the MEK while searching for those elusive chunks of metal that spell bad news.  So far so good. No bright shiny specks or pieces with part numbers on them.  Ditto on the fuel screens. 
David brought his manlift so we could begin work on the rudder inspection and pull.  Wouldn't you know that we would find more bird nests in the tail area... Many thanks to David for providing breakfast burritos for the team on these cold mornings. 
The right prop was hung on the airplane today.  This will allow us to start doing the engine checks.  Although it will be removed again later during final assembly and painting, this is truly another milestone on the way back to flight.  Yall can be very proud of the restoration team.  Many thanks go out to Mark, Amy, Stevo, Ricky, Denis and Pat for all the help getting it done today.  When the rest of the team returns on Saturday, they will have a very big surprise!! 



Joe Maynard, one of the original Nimrod pilots, helps to take the gear leg apart. We are very happy when Joe shows up as he is such a wealth of knowledge about A-26's. He flew one of the airplanes over the Pacific via many island stops to get to NKP. That alone is quite a story. They were more concerned about running low on oil than fuel. Note that our Floor Mgr is keeping a watchful eye on the gear work.

JR was pleased that no problems have surfaced yet in the NDT of the left main gear leg.  When the outer cylinder comes back from replating, the gear should be ready for reassembly and installation.  Some repairs need to be made in the nacelle and wheel well after Mark finishes the soda blasting. 
Parting of the rudder from the vertical stabilizer was such sweet sorrow.  It had to be lifted very gently from the bottom in order to manipulate the torque tube past the tail cone.  David ran the mainlift while the rest of the gang guided it out. 

The Conga Line moved a very heavy rudder over to the work table and gently laid it down.  Talk about precious cargo.  It was done without making another scratch on it.  Thanks to the whole team who stayed late to get this done.  This is a very important milestone.  Did I mention how happy we are to get this done? 

Clay is building a Mold for the tail light lens. Wow that's beyond my skills. These guys (and gals) are awesome.
The left brake housing showing the brake logo
These are the new parts going into the left brake overhaul at Aviall. This will keep Special K out of the overrun. Thanks Aviall !!!
From left, Amy Lamere "in the books" looking up part numbers, Rand Sanders refurbishing cockpit panels. Mike Fritcher & Denis Meyers in technical consultation, Tim Shimko finishing up on the wing formation lights. Thanks to Tim, all the formation lights are operating once again. You can see for yourself "Special Kay" is getting lots of TLC.
IF 679 displaying her name!
After the prop shop made a special trip to install the correct prop de-ice slip ring the prop was hung on the starboard (for you navy guys) engine so that compression checks and other diagnostic tests can be completed. Looks good.....don't you think? I can hardly wait to hear it run.
May 5, 2012 Reunion of Crew, Volunteers and Family of Special Kay.

Captain Leon "Crazy" Poteet (Nimrod Navigator) and Colonel Tim Black (Nimrod Pilot) chat with JR Hoffman at May 2012 Reunion.

Mike Stratemeier "Strat"  using the newly donated Cherry Max Rivet Gun ... What a tool!  Couldn't fix the tail without it!  (Thanks Tom Haas for your donation!)

Magnificent Rivet Gun!  Check out the angles this can handle.  Impossible without the Cherry Max!
All repairs to vertical stab spar complete!  Here's the newly overhauled upper hinge assy in place. Fin tip installed, next week we install the rudder. This is a huge mile stone for us.

The team got together for the big moment and installed the newly overhauled rudder back in it's rightful place today.  It was removed last January 21st and hung Aug 25th, 2012.  Easier said than done as it took nearly 6 hours to make this all come together.

Ready for the lift, the rudder is raised just a few inches at a time to give everyone a chance to adjust their positions and re-position the manlift.  As it got higher, the lift got a bit more unstable so the load was carefully controlled and stabilized.


Even Too Tall Tim had to stretch to reach the top hinge with the rudder still supported in part by the lift.  We were all holding our breath when he was up there and JR was at the top of his ladder.  A lot of guys were turning blue before it was all said and done. 








Tah dah!!, The finished product in place and ready for hook up to the rudder cables and install of the gap seals.  What an incredible day the team had!!  Many thanks to all for their commitment and dedication to making the airplane fly again!  They all deserve our greatest appreciation.

We bid farewell to Ethan Crisp, our youngest A-26 volunteer. His family is relocating to the Houston area. Ethan has plans to join the Civil Air Patrol to continue his aviation education. We wish him all the best and we know that our loss will be the CAP's gain. Good luck Ethan.
The leading edge of the horizontal stabilizers were removed to repair rib damage underneath and patch the holes left by the deicing boot pneumatic line removal.  Thanks to our new Cherry Max rivet gun, the team was able to make quick work of this part of the project.  We are just waiting to find some special sized rivets to finish the job.

Arnold, Tim and JR put the finishing touches on the gear assembly this morning.  All of the smiles resulted from finding that the gear checked out perfectly in operation and alignment.  Many thanks to these guys! 

Lou, our latest metalsmith to join the team, helps Felipe and Mike run rivets to attach the leading edge to the underlying ribs.


Here is the finished product!!!  The left main gear is ready to go into the wheel well next weekend!!   This means we can tow her over to the ramp where the GGA Fall Fling will take place on 13 Oct so we can show everybody what we have done so far.  We hope to have the stabilizers on the tail by then as well, now that the rudder has been installed. 

2 brand new Cable Tensiometers donated by our friend Tom Haas!  Thank you Tom!  The extremely small size of these tensiometers permits entry through small openings, and permits accurate readings on cables located in confined areas.  We'll be using these to set the proper tension on all of the control cables for the ailerons, elevators, and rudder!
The team is installing the much discussed left hand stabilizer.  This is the one that needed the most repairs.  Thanks to the Cherry Max rivet gun that was recently donated to the effort, we were able to expedite the repairs, installation of the leading edge and get it mounted today. 
Ray, the cookie monster, leads the team of Lou and Felipe in prepping the leading edge and ribs of the right hand stabilizer.  It will probably be finished tomorrow and ready to join to the fuselage next weekend.  The empennage is coming together nicely now.
Big news of the day!  The left hand gear was gently raised into the trunnions today and fitted into the wheel well.  Nimrod Joe Maynard was there to supervise the alignment and help with the installation.  Joe has been a regular on the team and we certainly appreciate his contributions, then and now! 

The left wheel was fitted and the strut serviced.  Ta dah!!  Everybody held their breath when it was time to let the jacks down so the airplane could rest on her own wheels.  What a beautiful sight!! 

The area around Special Kay is now bathed in light!  David Arber, owner of Total Electric and J.R. installed four metal halide 400W lights. The light Is incredible! No more need to use drop lights.
It was a mighty cool in the hangar last Saturday morning so the avionics guys moved into our heated area which we call the "Mancave" to peruse the illustration of the instrument panel. They have completely removed the panel now and are starting work on the wiring, lights, instrument lines and doing some cosmetic work on the panel itself.
Here's an idea.... how about putting a Garmin GTN 750 behind the heads for the radio stack in the middle of the panel? We could velcro the heads so they could be in place for show, but removed for flight??? Rand is doing some measurements to see if it could be made to work. 
Panel Restoration ... Looking good!!!
Our avionics team completed the stripping and painting of the pilot's instrument panel recently.  Stan McClellan, an USAF retiree, is shown here starting to remount the hardware and attachments.  We have the instruments out to the shop for overhaul or replacement.  The pitot-static system has been tested and all leaks plugged by replacing old with new hoses where needed.  It is 100 % go for now. 
The newly overhauled left brake was mounted for the gear swing tests.  This added significant weight to the assembly, but it still performed flawlessly.  The team engineered a hydraulic "mule" to be able to run retract tests without using the entire aircraft system.  This keeps the possibility of contaminating the fluid down to a minimum. 

New brake installed
The left main gear was cycled up and down hydraulically for the first time last weekend.  The team rigged the gear up and down locks while completing full extension and retraction tests. 
 2 brand new TIME-RITE® DELUXE COMBO KITs donated by our friend Tom Haas! Thank you Tom!  There is no easier way to time the R-2800 engines! Just fit the cone into the spark plug holes of the timing cylinders ... and ... turn the engine through one complete cycle leaving the slide pointer at top dead center ... re-position the scale to read zero at the slide pointer position and we're ready to get our timing angle. It's just that easy. Very COOL!


We got these two new toys to help set up our engines. That should not be too far off in the future. I love the smell of 2800 oil smoke at start up!! Thanks Tom and Don for the help.





RH Landing Gear all ready to be re-installed.
View of Special K from above 
Nimrod Joe Maynard working on the Kay. Eighty one years young. We are blessed with his fellowship and wisdom.
Our engineering dept, that would be Arnold, built this hydraulic mule using an 18 hp tractor engine and got it rigged so that it will swing all three gear when that time comes in the not too distant future. Mark and Denis are checking out one of the actuators from the overhauled right main gear to see what kind of pressure the mule puts out. Turns out to be exactly on the money. It doesn't get any better than this!! Attaboy Arnold!!
Well, we have talked about the string of miracles that have kept K alive, but another one came visiting this weekend.  Meet Rob Stuessy from Denver, Co. He is an old Montana boy who worked for Denny Lynch back in the air tanker days.  We deeply appreciate Rob stopping by to share his experiences with us.