In our Aug/Sept issue, Rob Erdos muses on float flying and we discuss night aerial firefighting. Plus: Air Canada in the pandemic, KF Aerospace at 50 and Canadians in the Battle of Britain.
So close…if it were not for delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest aircraft restoration at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum would be airborne by now.
“We’re nearly there,” said Glen Craigie who, along with 14 other volunteers, have put in about 50,000 hours of restoration work on the aircraft since it arrived on the back of two flatbed trucks on Oct. 21, 2009.
The aircraft — a Grumman Avenger — is an American torpedo bomber most recognized for military action during the Second World War at the Battle of Midway. In June 1943, future U.S. President George H.W. Bush was shot down while flying an Avenger. Another famous Avenger aviator was Paul Newman, who flew as a rear gunner.
In Canada, a total of 125 U.S. Navy Grumman TBM-3E Avengers were taken on strength with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in the spring of 1950, making the Avenger the most numerous aircraft to serve in the RCN. The Avenger replaced the Fairey Firefly because of its long range, heavy load carrying capability, rugged construction, and the easy procurement of spare parts. After taking delivery of their TBM-3E Avengers in May 1950, the RCN modified the aircraft for a specialized anti-submarine role. Avengers were flown from the air station HMCS Shearwater and the aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent until they were officially retired in July 1960.
The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Avenger was built in 1945 by the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors and flew with the U.S. Navy until the early ’50s. It was then converted into a spray plane and flew over parts of California from 1963 to 1972. In 1976, the aircraft was acquired by Forest Protection Limited in Fredericton, N.B., where it continued as a budworm spray aircraft until it was retired in 1992. Eight years later, the aircraft was sold to a French preservation group who were unable to arrange for transport across the Atlantic. In October of 2009, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum acquired the Avenger thanks to the help of a generous donor.
Craigie, a retired airframe mechanic, flight service engineer and tech support person at Bombardier, recalled the Avenger was in rough condition when it arrived. “It was a mess,” he said.
Over time, the aircraft was stripped down to the bare fuselage and soda blasted (using baking soda instead of sand to remove old paint). New bomb bay doors were added and the aircraft was repainted in the colours of a Royal Canadian Navy Avenger.
Hopefully, later in 2020, things will return to normal and the Avenger can take to the skies once again!