Grumman TBM-3E Avenger VH-VTB has undergone considerable restoration at Aerotec, Toowoomba Qld following a number of years in “hibernation”. Constructed in 1944 as a TBM-3S by General Motors, the aircraft was delivered to the United States Navy as Bu No 53337 – currently the WWII service history is unknown.
Following WWII the TBM was refurbished and went to The Royal Canadian Navy as a TBM-3E and was taken on charge as 53337 on May 29, 1952 and struck off charge. On Jan. 10, 1958 the aircraft was almost straight away taken on charge by Skyway Air Services, Langley, British Columbia, Canada as a Fire Bomber and was converted as such, from 1958 until 1969 served in this role. Registered as CF-IMI and was bomber #601 (The original *601 had crashed and this was the replacement aircraft) Victoria, BC, firebombing as part of a fleet of 6 Wheeler and 6 Skyway TBMs.
From 1969 the aircraft moved to Conair Aviation Ltd., Abbotsford, BC still as Tanker number #601 until 1977. From 1981 the TBM moved to Forest Protection Ltd, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada as tanker #1.
In 1984 the aircraft was withdrawn from service and remained in storage until 1994,when it passed on to Jeff Thomas/Vintage Wings, Seattle, WA in the USA, then on to Warren Al Pietsch, Minot, N North Dakota USA from 1994 until 2000 and flew as N337GA.
Then in 2001 the aircraft was passed on to R.D. “Crash” Williams/GWG Inc., Seattle-Boeing Field, WA, Apr. 27, 2001 until 2006 and was restored to an award winning TBM Warbird still registered N337GA and flew as USN/337 in 2006.
In 2006 the TBM was acquired for the fleet of Australian collector Stephen Searle, Kallangur, Queensland, Australia, Apr. 5, 2006-2007 – Registered as VH-VTB.
Steve Searle amassed a fleet of 3 TBM Avengers over a period – VH-VTB, VH-MML and VH-TBM and they remained in the fleet until his untimely death in 2011. VH-VTB had in the meantime experienced engine problems at Mackay Qld and was stored in the open at Coolangatta, Qld.
In mid-2012 the TBM was transported by road to its new owner in Toowoomba Qld and placed into the care of Aerotec for a complete refurbishment to airworthy condition. The work on the aircraft has taken two years and has included the fitting of a new reconditioned engine from the USA and many other detail repairs and maintenance.
Following all the hard work, the aircraft took to the air again on the 10th December 2014. A great addition to the Australian Warbird fleet!
– Test flight photographs courtesy Aerotec, Toowoomba.
© John Parker 2015