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Meticulously restored and very rare warbird Takes to the skies again

Story courtesy of the Collings Foundation. All photos by David Leininger

Collings Foundation A-36 Apache  - Photo by: David LeiningerAfter more than ten years of restoration, the Collings Foundation’s A-36A s/n 42-83738 is complete. This is one of three A-36 aircraft in existence and one of two currently flying in the world. The quality of craftsmanship and atten­tion to detail is some of the finest in the his­tory of warbird restoration. The dedication and commitment provided by American Aero Ser­vices of New Smyrna Beach, Florida is clearly evident in the restoration of this legendary air­craft. In recognition of its rarity and high qual­ity of restoration this A-36 was awarded Grand Champion at EAA’s 2012 AirVenture.

The A-36 Apache was the ground-attack /dive bomber version of the early P-51 Mustang. The A-36 is similar to the P-51A Mustang, with the notable exception that it sports large slatted dive brakes above and below the wings. De­signed by Edgar Schmued and manufactured by North American Aviation, the A-36 was introduced in 1942 (original designation was NA-97) and retired from service in 1945. Five hundred were built, and they served in the Mediterranean, North Africa, Italy and China/Burma/India theaters.

Between the warbird enthusiasts and historians, there is some confusion and disagreement about the correct name for the A-36. According to the research and findings of some like Joe Baugher, “names such as Invader and Apache have been associated with the A-36, but the more correct name is the Mustang. There was a brief effort to change the name of the A-36 to Invader following the invasion of Sicily in order to distinguish it from the fighter versions in press coverage. The Army turned down the request, as they didn’t want to reveal to the enemy that they were facing a dive-bomber version of the fighter. In addition, the name Invader had already been assigned to the Douglas A-26. There is a per­sistent myth that the A-36 was initially called Apache, which was the name that the Army had initially assigned to the very early P-51. However, this story has no basis in fact, and was supposedly a myth that originated in the 1980s.”

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