SHEARWATER, N.S. – The Shearwater Aviation Museum unveiled its latest exhibit today. It’s a vintage torpedo bomber, one that used to bomb forests in New Brunswick with water.
It’s the last of the Grumman TBM Avenger aircraft. They were originally built as torpedo bombers, but converted by the Royal Canadian Navy for anti-submarine warfare. Twelve of them were eventually sold to Forest Protection Limited in New Brunswick, where they were used in the 1960’s and 70’s to spray forests for bugs and fight forest fires.
Last year the Shearwater Aviation Museum foundation bought the last of the airplanes back, and returned it to it’s original look as a navy plane. “Their work today will leave a beautiful exhibit in the museum for years to come,” says Christine Hines, the Curator at the museum. She adds, “It’s a lasting legacy to our visitors to understand the role of the Royal Canadian Navy, the work of anti-submarine warfare and to create a link – a bridge – to the serving members.”
The crowd applauded. Among those in attendance were some former pilots, including one who flew this plane, Ed Smith. “It was a good aircraft to fly. We flew it in all kinds of weather,” says Smith, a Lieutenant Pilot at the time in the Navy. “It had good instrumentation in it. The radios weren’t very good. It’s not like IFR commercial aircraft you get now a days. IFR for instrument flight (radio). So it was a busy time for a pilot to fly these in the dark or in bad weather.”
But smith is delighted with the restored look of the plane. “To see it done like this, the guys have done a magnificent job of putting it right back,” says Smith. “I just felt like I was almost back for a few minutes except that I can’t climb into the machine anymore,” he says, as he laughed.
The plane was flown from New Brunswick last year and the museum plans to keep the plane operational. But it likes to burn fuel, notes John Webber, an engineer at the Shearwater Aviation Museum. “It burns 95 gallons an hour, not litres, galloooons.” he emphasises. “So you have to have deep pockets. There’s not too many of these flying.”
Fully loaded, the airplane weighs more than 17-thousand pounds. “They’re tough,” says Webber. “The old expression up in the budworm was the pilots would say if you crashed one, it would cut ten cord of wood on the way in. They are a very tough old airplane.”
The airplane is now on display at the Shearwater Aviation Museum.