Warbird Grumman TBM-3 Avenger VH-MML put on a fantastic display at the Great Eastern Fly-In air display at Evans Head NSW in January 2014 and illustrated the excellent handling characteristics of the type. As an impressive aircraft, it is worthy of a news article in its own right.
TBM-3 Avenger Bu. 53857.VH-MML was built in The USA in 1943 and delivered to the US Navy. Its Military service is fairly vague. It served as a Fire bomber post war with Central Air Service at Lewiston Montana from 1963 until 1972 and carried the civil registration N7017C.
After serving in the USA the TBM-3 moved to Canada where it again served as a Fire Bomber with Forest Air Protection of Frederickton, New Brunswick from May 1976 until it retired in 2002. The aircraft in common with most Fire Bomber Avengers was to remain on sale for some time until it was purchased by Australian Warbird enthusiast Steve Searle and moved to the Gold Coast airport in Queensland where it was restored to airworthy military stock condition and flew at airshows throughout the country with Steve’s other TBM-3’s VH-VTB and VH-TBM (the ex-Randal McFarlane aircraft).
Following Steve Searle’s untimely death in 2011 the Avenger has passed on to the ownership of Paul Bennett of Redhead NSW and is an active participant at many Australian Airshows with Paul’s other Warbirds and Aerobatic machines. The aircraft is currently for sale and if it sells it is to be hoped that it will remain in Australia.
VH- VTB is now being returned to Flight at Toowoomba following engine and other work and VH-TBM has returned to New Zealand from whence it came all those years ago and is on the Airshow circuit there.
The TBM3 Avenger is a beautiful aircraft as an airshow performer. It is very graceful and quite aerobatic Warbird in the air especially considering it large bulk. The advantage of this maneuverability is that it remains in view for longer during a display and gives a photographer the time to frame the aircraft correctly. On the ground the TBM also has the excellent party trick of being able to fold and unfold the wings while taxying which gives a crowd something extra to see.
VH- MML is a particularly nice example of the breed. Most fire bombers had their bomb bay doors and all of their military equipment removed when kitted out for forestry duties and these components are quite rare now. MML has been fully restored with all of her military equipment and functioning Bomb Bay doors which open and close as a part of her display routine.
It is to be hoped that this magnificent aircraft will remain flying in Australia for many years to come.
© John Parker 2014