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Tue, Jan 24, 2023

CAF Rocky Mountain Wing Installs Engine on TBM Avenger

Well Hung

The Commemorative Air Force’s (CAF) Grand-Junction, Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Wing announced on 23 January 2023 that volunteers had successfully mated a rare and precious, 1,900-horsepower Wright R-2600-20 14-cylinder, air-cooled, Twin Cyclone engine to the TBM-3 Avenger the Wing has been lovingly maintaining since 1985.

Volunteers will next begin installing the engine’s intake, oil, and electrical systems, in preparation for extensive ground and vibration testing. Barring unforeseen complication, the Rocky Mountain Wing hopes to get the TBM functioning and airborne in time to participate in the 2023 airshow season.

The Grumman TBF Avenger—specimens manufactured under license by General Motors were registered TBM—is an American World War II-era torpedo bomber developed initially for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, but eventually fielded by several Allied air and naval aviation services.

The Avenger entered U.S. service in 1942, and saw its first action during the Battle of Midway, where five of the six machines committed to the fight were lost. Notwithstanding its inauspicious combat debut, the Avenger would go on to be the most effective and widely-used torpedo bomber of the Second World War. In addition to being credited with sinking thirty Axis submarines, Avengers share credit for sinking the Japanese super-battleships Yamato and Musashi—the only battleships sunk exclusively by American aircraft while under way.

The CAF Rocky Mountain Wing’s Avenger—Bu. No. 53503—was delivered to the U.S. Navy in June of 1945 and did not see combat service in WWII. Rather, the aircraft served with the VT-17 Fish Hawks torpedo squadron until 1947, then transferred to VT-82 Devil’s Advocates torpedo squadron before being allocated to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1950 via a lend/lease program. During its Canadian tenure, the Avenger performed Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) duty aboard the RCN aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent.

In 1958, the 13-year-old Avenger was retired from military service and commended to storage. The aircraft was subsequently sold to a private concern and, in 1963, embarked on a seven-year stint as an aerial applicator—read “crop duster.”

In 1970, the world-weary Avenger was donated to the CAF’s Harlingen, Texas Wing and flew with the CAF’s Ghost Squadron until 1981. Regrettably the period spanning 1981 to 1984 saw the Avenger packed off to Mesa, Arizona, where it languished in the desert awaiting repair/restoration.

In 1985, the sun-bleached and forlorn Avenger was adopted by the CAF’s Rocky Mountain Squadron and limped to Grand Junction where it began the protracted process of resurrection.

Throughout its 78-years, the old Avenger racked up numerous distinctions, serving as the lead aircraft in a formation flyover of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation review of the Royal Navy’s fleet, and appearing as on of the Flight-19 aircraft in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 blockbuster, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Avenger 53503 is the one and only aircraft ever to be placed on the Colorado Register of Historic Properties, the seventh aircraft to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and one of only three Avengers still flying.

FMI: www.commemorativeairforce.org/aircraft/13

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