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Looks Can Be Deceiving

By Stephan Wilkinson 
Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: September 16, 2011 
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The Martin B-26B Marauder Flak-Bait drops its ordnance. (Ken Isaac/
The Martin B-26B Marauder Flak-Bait drops its ordnance. (Ken Isaac/

Flak-Bait is right up there with Enola Gay and Memphis Belle as a superstar of the air war.

One of the most famous bombers of World War II is back in the air. Flak-Bait, a Martin B-26B Marauder that completed 207 missions over Europe—an Air Force record that is unbroken to this day—is right up there with Enola Gay and Memphis Belle as a superstar of the air war.

Marauders are of course best remembered through myth, rumor and innuendo as crew-killers too dangerous to fly. Though the B-26 ultimately had the best combat safety record of any U.S. medium bomber, "One a Day Into Tampa Bay," "Widowmaker" and "Baltimore Whore" are its popular legacy, the result of a combination of high (for its time) wing loading, a brisk approach speed (again, for its time) and young, low-time pilots who had never flown anything more challenging than a dumpy Cessna AT-17—the infamous "Bamboo Bomber." With a high single-engine minimum control speed, an engine failure on takeoff almost always meant a crash, and even at safer climbout speeds the engine needed to be feathered right quick. (Those 1,950-hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800s were the first examples of the ubiquitous 18-cylinder engine to see combat.)

Okay, we're kidding about the real Flak-Bait flying again, since anybody who has been to the National Air & Space Museum knows that the bomber's entire forward fuselage and cockpit is on exhibit there. It's hard to believe, but the B-26 shown here is actually a 1/6th-scale radio-controlled model powered by two 6-hp, 2-cycle Zenoah engines, with fully operable scale landing gear, bomb-bay doors, bomb-dropping mechanism, flaps, flight controls and pneumatic wheel brakes. It was built by a team of professional English modelers for Brian O'Meara in Denver, Colo., who paid well into five figures for the finished model.

The model is made of wood and weighs 102 pounds, and the project took almost a decade to complete. To read more about it and view a remarkable in-flight video filmed from an on-board camera, go to builder Stephen Carr's website,

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