As some of you may remember, I went on a winter road trip with my good friend, David Lee. The weather held off just long enough for us to make a swing through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, taking in quite a few museums. I know that winter is not the traditional time for visiting aviation facilities (many are closed, or have limited access), but there are benefits. Many times you get to see aircraft undergoing maintenance, and you will definitely not be worried by crowds of other visitors getting in the shot! David and I had planned to go to Geneseo, NY, to view the collection of the 1941 Historic Aircraft Group; despite heavy snow at the start of the trip we managed, on the second day, to reach our goal. Crowded hangars can be a bit of a pain at times (see diary on the VS-44A at NEAM), but when they are crowded with an assortment of aircraft which includes a B-17, B-23, YO-55, DC-3, An-2 and an A-20H (and they are ‘opened up’ for winter maintenance), you tend to forgive the owners!
The A-20 Havoc has its roots in a 1937 USAAC specification for an attack aircraft. The first attempt by Douglas at the requirement was a disaster (two 450 hp engines were not going to be sufficient), but the second try was much better. The French military authorities were desperate for aircraft, as they could sense that the German Blitzkrieg was about to roll across Europe. With a change in wing position and two 1,100 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G radials, the French ordered 270 aircraft, as the DB-7. Just prior to the outbreak of WW2, A-20s began to roll off the Douglas production line for the USAAC and the RAF (who took over the remains of the Armee de L’Air order and bought more, as the Boston bomber – and Havoc nightfighter and intruder). Over 3,120 A-20 aircraft were sent to Russia as part of Lend-Lease out of a total production run of 7,478.
Here we see the A-20H-D-01, serial number 44-0020, fitted with the much more powerful (1,700 hp) Wright R-2600-29 Twin Cyclone engines; this was typical of the late model Havocs. This particular A-20H was recovered by the late David C. Tallichet, Jnr. from Central America, and shipped to Chino, California; it was in open air storage there, from 1980 to 1991.
Following WW2 service with the USAAC, this aircraft was bought by Delta Drilling Co, and registered as N5066N. It passed through several civilian owners until 1955, when it had an ‘executive’ interior fitted; the A-20 was then sold to the Nicaraguan Air Force (as ‘FAN 50′) and flew until the mid-1970s. After eventual recovery to the USA, it was passed to Air Heritage at Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania; it is now with the 1941 Air Historical Group Museum at Geneseo, New York, for restoration to flight status! This particular varient was fitted, as were approximately 50% of this model, with 4 x 20mm Hispano cannon in the nose alongside 2 x .5″ Brownings, however, this installation proved unreliable, and later A-20H models had more .5″ Brownings substituted for the 20mm cannon. You can see that the flashgun has revealed the different reflectivity of some of the new panels on the A-20. When this extremely rare warbird takes the air – I would very much want to be there.
As you might have guessed, I can’t resist the occasional quote from Shakespeare. ‘Cry ‘Havoc’! and let slip the dogs of war’ is from ‘Julius Caesar’, Act 3, scene 1. I suppose that I could have written, ‘Cry, ‘DB7′! and let slip the dogs of war’, but that would have been rather cryptic and therefore more appropriate for Shakespeare’s contemporary, Christopher Marlow (Elizabethan espionage joke, there). I could have even tried, ‘Cry ‘Boston!’ and let slip the dogs of war’, although I just couldn’t understand why Will Shakespeare would have focussed on a small town in Lincolnshire!