The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

October 21, 2012

Former U.S. Marine pilot needs caretakers for WWII-era craft

ENID, Okla. — Enid is home to war heroes, none more famous than the A-26 Invader that flew 17 missions against enemy forces during World War II.

The A-26 Lady Liberty moved this summer from Wiley Post Airport to Enid Woodring Regional Airport, where it stands as a monument to American military flying, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Ed Kostiuk, a former U.S. Marine pilot, is seeking volunteers to help maintain the plane at the airport’s hangar, where he also plans to establish a World War II and Korea museum.

The A-26 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney R2800 radio engines, each having 2,000 horsepower. During its military career, the plane provided speed, agility and the lifting capacity to deliver 4,000 pounds of bombs from its internal bay. It also could be reconfigured to a gun attack mode with 18 50-caliber machine guns, which could shoot 10,500 rounds per minute at a target.

Kostiuk said the aircraft flew 17 missions over England against enemy aircraft during World War II. It received damage to the tail, and by the time the damage was repaired, the war had ended. It also was used during Korea and as a training plane during Vietnam, he said.

“It’s in real good condition,” Kostiuk said.

The plane flies across the United States to air shows. Helping to maintain it could be of major interest to Vance AFB retirees, as well as establishing the World War II museum. Part of the museum would be showcasing the stories of WWII-era veterans in the area.

Kostiuk told the story of a 94-year-old man he recently talked to. The man is small, barely weighing 70 pounds. He was a military pilot during World War II, and in spite of damage to his aircraft, flew out of a cloud and shot down two enemy aircraft.

The plane is down for maintenance now, after developing engine problems returning from an airshow at Boeing Aircraft in Wichita.

The plane also was used in Europe to dispatch clandestine personnel to their missions, at night, behind enemy lines. The Douglas A-26 was built in 1944 and saw service until about 1965, though some highly modified aircraft served in combat through 1969.

After World War II, Lady Liberty was stored at Hobbs, N.M., then, after refurbishment, assigned to an Air Force Reserve in Georgia. In 1958, it was declared surplus and sold. For a period, it served as research aircraft for Texas Instruments, then used as an air tanker before being sold again. The plane was seized in a drug operation by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Later, it was purchased at auction and donated to the Commemorative Air Force, where it spent time in Texas and Las Vegas before being restored to flight status and taken to Oklahoma City in 1999.

The plane is stock configuration with operable bomb-bay doors, and additional original equipment is being sought for the plane. Kostiuk said parts for it are scarce. Experience is not necessary to work on the aircraft, and all work will be monitored. One man told him he would like to come out just to wax the plane.

The aircraft will be at the airport for the fly-in, the final one of the year.

Kostiuk is senior engineer for the plane. His goal is to establish a museum in the hangar where the plane is parked and preserve stories of World War II veterans. He also is collecting stories of women in the service and “Rosie the Riveters.” Those stories will go to the museum.

“When you walk into that hangar, I want you to walk into World War II,” he said. “The stories of those World War II veterans are just amazing.”

Volunteering is easy; join the Commemorative Aircraft Association for $100 a year, then come on out, he said.

For more information, call Enid Woodring Regional Airport at (580) 234-5476.

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