Meet "Special Kay":
Honoring 609th Special Operations
Squadron Of The Vietnam War...
Their story was never featured in the nightly news,
nor was it broadcast over any radio station. The missions they flew were perilous and were accomplished under extraordinary
secrecy in what became one of the first, and possibly most public wars in the modern age. Now, 40 forty years later, their
experiences are coming to light and are being honored by the people that their efforts protected; their children.
Few people have heard of the 609th Special Operations Squadron, otherwise coined
the "Nimrods" and even fewer have seen their trademark aircraft, the Douglas/On- Mark B-26K Counter Invader, in
flight over the United States. The A-26 Legacy Foundation is bringing the last flying B-26K back to the American skies, flying
in honor of the "Nimrods" and allowing the public to learn more about the seldom-mentioned, but heroic missions
of the 609th.
The Nimrods were tasked with the covert, nighttime interdiction of enemy troops
and truck convoys transporting supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the communist forces in South Vietnam. Their A-26s proved
to be a deadly truck-killing aircraft. These aircrews and their redesigned WWII propeller-driven aircraft had a destructive
effect far out of proportion to their numbers. Awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for “extraordinary gallantry in
connection with military operations in Southeast Asia,” the Nimrods were recognized as the best truck killers of the
Only six of the original forty Douglas A-26s that were rebuilt for
service in Vietnam as B-26Ks by On Mark Corporation, Van Nuys CA survive since the war in Southeast Asia. The last Counter
Invader to come off of the On Mark production line in 1965 (sn 64-17679), is the last flying Counter Invader in world today!
The other five have succumbed to age/metal fatigue and have been retired to static museum displays.
Affectionately named “Special K,” “IF 679” is truly a special plane with a
very special mission in its future!
Our mission, Operation Final
Flight, is dependent upon financial support from people and corporations like yourselves who believe as we do that aviation
history should be kept alive in the sky above us for our future generation’s education and enjoyment ... not just "preserved"
in obscure, isolated museums for only a few to see. This historic plane is the Final A-26 produced, the world’s Final
flying Counter Invader, and will be preserved and flown in honor of the aircrews who have taken their Final flights. We wish
to afford the public (particularly our Nation's children) the opportunity to see, hear, touch and feel this magnificent aircraft
in its natural aerial environment: a sensory educational experience that cannot be presented in a better format!
"Operation Final Flight" is our Mission to restore and operate the
World's "Last" Airworthy Douglas A- 26A/B-26K Counter Invader as a "flying" memorial to the valiant aircrews
who flew in the secretive service of the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. Their famous aircraft will be shared
with air-show visitors nationwide in a tailored aerial display; designed to captivate public interest and attention ... and
... to raise younger Americans' educational awareness of the now "declassified" military service provided by these
heroic Air Commandos in Southeast Asia.
You can see the progress and history of the restoration
and see past photos of when we started it at this on our Facebook Page.
Going to Texas to fly "Special Kay": It was a call that I had been waiting for forever.
"What are you doing July 22-25, 2022? I need a co-pilot to fly the bomber to the Great Falls Air Show." Well, it
really did not matter what was on the schedule. This took priority. So I studied the flight manual; played with the Garmin
650 and AV-30 simulators and tried to gleen as much as I could about the panel layout from the pictures posted on Facebook
.... all while finishing my duties as VP of The Ninety-Nines. It was a busy few weeks. But, hey, who cares: I am going to
fly the ONLY flying A26A/B26K remaining in the whole wide world. AND, as I was told by the plane owner, I will be the first
female to fly this model of A26. She is a special A26A indeed!
I departed from LaBelle with a stopover
in St. Petersburg then left early Monday morning, July 18th for the 6 hour flight to Fort Worth. There were a few storms well
off-shore moving on shore so I choose the off-shore route, a short cut, to avoid the daily heating and rapid build-ups. I
ended up climbing to 8000' to avoid the lower build-ups and the crazy pilot maneuvering direcly in my path and not talking
to anyone. Most of the first leg to Clarke County, MS was spent ducking and weaving around the build-ups. The last part of
the leg was good except for the storm that I saw coming. I made a quick turn-around and launched into another sea of build-ups
through Mississippi. After deviating, ATC gave me direct DODJE for the DODJE6 arrival into the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
into Texas was hot - very hot. The temperature was 110 degrees, and it felt every bit of it. I was vectored around quite a
bit and put in a very wide downwind until I was turned over to the tower. He "invited" me in for a closer downwind
and cleareed me to land right away. I parked Wild Mama and headed over to see Kay for a brief visit. I was tired
from the trip. Tomorrow will be another day.
Getting to know you:
Today was my familiarization day with Kay. Jim ushered me into the cockpit where I was fitted into the seat - I did not need
the booster seat that I had purchased. We spent the next 2-3 hours with me looking for the various switches, gauges and playing
with the avionics. I had a much better feeling for the whole thing as the Flight Manual is not the clearest thing in the world
... and trying to locate "the yellow handle on the overhead panel" on a grainy black and while picture with no identifiable
"overhead" panel was frustrating.
With a better feeling for Kay, Jim next let me know
that all the flight planning is done on Garmin pilot. I use Foreflight. So I downloaded Grmin pilot for the 30 day free trial
subscription and got to work learning how eto use Garmin pilot. I was doing OK until I tried to build the weight and balance
envelope and struggled to figure out which numbers and arms to put in the little boxes. A call to Vern greatly clarified things
but in the end I still could not get the box built correctly and made all the calculations manually to figure out that we
were within CG which is 20%-30% of MAC. .... Talk about dusting off some skills that I had not used in a while. Automation
does have its pitfalls.
Thursday was meet the crew day and pull Kay out of the hangar. I
have been to the VFM Museum that houses Kay on many occasions and knew many of the guys. Lefty was there to do a short video
interview to post on his YouTube page. (Link to follow when I get it). There were more pictures taken, bags stowed in the
bomb bay and Kay was all buttoned up for the night.
As I sit here Thursday evening, I am
still excited about the flight tomorrow - an aviation dream come true!!!!
July 22nd: Flying Kay: