Bacardi and air force

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Bacardi and air force

However, as we worked on the aircraft in preparation for its ferry flight north, I found this was an Invader with a most interesting history.

The failure of the Central Intelligence Agency, Brigadaand the Ferza Aerea de Liberacion in the Bay of Pigs invasion had sparked a world of subterfuge and intrigue through Latin Bacardi and air force and the southern portion of Florida to which many Cuban refugees had fled.

In smoky bars and cafes, hundreds of plots were hatched on how to topple the hated Castro but few came to fruition.

Bacardi and air force

However, one plot - and a strange one at that - did actually take on a form of substance and involved an Invader. The Bacardi rum empire had large holdings in Cuba which, of course, were confiscated by Castro. The family-held business had revenge on its mind and intended to inflict a lesson on Fidel that could also possibly topple the communist government.

In the United States, Beech Aircraft Corporation had just finished up testing a new aerial refueling rig with a leased Invader. Upon completion in Aprilthe Invader was returned to its original owner who, in the next month, was approached by a representative of an insurance company who was, in reality, acting on behalf of the Bacardi Corp.

In Miami, two Cuban pilots who had flown Invaders in the Bay of Pigs fiasco were also approached and sounded out on their interest to fly a strike into Cuba.

The Invader, registered NC, was relatively stock and the bomb bay was mostly intact - a strong point for the prospective buyers.

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Obviously, with the political climate in southern Florida, the arrival of any Invader would immediately have made the authorities very suspicious. In California, some surplus military equipment was installed in the Invader while most systems were quickly inspected and repaired where needed.

After this work was done, the plane was flown to Texas. At this point, the registration had been altered to N - a spurious number to apparently confuse American authorities.

It must be remembered that, at this time, computer checking did not exist and numerous ex-military aircraft were smuggled out of the country in this manner.

In Julythe two pilots flew the Invader from El Coco to La Llorona and landed on a beach, which must have been quite interesting. The complex plan called for the arrival of a C from Guatemala which would be carrying a half-dozen bombs.

The bombs would be transferred into the bomb bay of the Invader and the aircraft would then takeoff to strike the Cuban oil refinery and then fly on to recover in Miami where facilities were set up for the pilots to hold a press conference, extolling their "freedom" raid against the communists. The pilots sat by their Invader and waited for a promised crew of bomb loaders.

They also waited for the C Neither ever showed up. With tide rising, they decided to get airborne to save the airplane and flew back to El Coco. One can only imagine what the various parties had to say to each other once they were reunited.

Even though this attempt to bomb Cuba was almost farcical, the group pressed on with their plans and the Invader was flown to a sugar cane plantation near the border of Nicaragua but apparently suffered some minor damage on landing.

By this time, an A flying around Costa Rica started to draw attention and information was supplied to the US government. The two pilots were visited by representatives from the American government who informed them that the mission would not be allowed to proceed.

At this point, the Costa Ricans would not let the A takeoff from the airport - citing a problem with the paperwork. The two pilots left the Invader and took an airline back to the United States.

Reports indicate that the Invader was used on several clandestine smuggling flights while at El Coco but had received some further damage. From that point, little is known about the aircraft and its operations, if any, until it was sold to buyers in Honduras in It was the last battle of World War Two piston-engine fighters as Corsairs and Mustangs attempted to gain control of the airspace.

Honduras did not have any bombers and, after the conflict concluded, there was an arms race between the countries to acquire new military equipment. At this point, middlemen arrived on the scene and assured Honduran officials that the Invader was just the aircraft they needed.

They stated it could easily be returned to full combat configuration while also failing to mention that it had received some damage during its anti-Fidel escapades. The plane had received Honduran civil registration of HR but it is thought that this may have been fictitious.

Transferred to Toncontin Air Base, mechanics went to work on the Invader and attempted to get it into offensive condition. This involved a lot of work on the bomb bay plus an attempt to take rocket launchers from the Corsairs and mount them under the Invader's wings.

Also, the Hondurans were very interested in restoring the nose guns to the A26 which would make the plane a very potent weapon in the eyes of the Salvadorians just across the border.

This rearming was met with limited success and, at one time, black-painted broom sticks were mounted in the aircraft's nose! Painted an overall dark blue, the Hondurans made it known in numerous public displays that the Invader could strike Salvador at night.

The plane was also given full national markings and the military serial FAH Problems plagued the aircraft and included an unsafe gear warning light which resulted in a landing at Toncontin in which the gear collapsed. The faithful FAH mechanics managed to rebuild the aircraft into flying shape and at this time a Vietnam War-style tactical camouflage was applied.

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