The following is divided into three groups:
Eastern States – Connecticut
Plains States – Texas and Kansas
Southern Mountains – Utah, Arizona and Nevada
USA EASTERN STATES – CONNECTICUT AND NEW JERSEY
Simsbury Flying Service, Simsbury Airport, Simsbury, Connecticut
Simsbury Flying Service is listed as a dealer in an ad for the Republic Seabee amphibian on page 84 of Flying, issue dated November 1946, on page 67 in the September 1945 issue, and in other issues. In 1966 and 1967, Simsbury advertized in Flying for “Clean Single and Light Twin Aircraft. Immediate Cash.”
An article called “Simsbury Airport Opens Its Doors” in Photorecon, 23 October 2014, give a brief history of the Simsbury Airport:
In the late 1930s, a small sod flying field with two runways sat where the Simsbury airport stands today. Originally a civilian field, military operations quickly arrived with the onset of World War II. A Civil Air Patrol unit moved in, Army flight training commenced, and a parachute company tested equipment such as cargo ‘chutes and assemblies that slowed a bomb when dropped at low altitude. The airport was still operated by a civilian concern though. After the war ended, the Reconstruction Finance Company sold surplus military aircraft like C-47 transports, TBM Avengers bombers, and Stearman trainers from the field. Flight training for returning servicemen under the GI Bill brought business to the airport, as did the increase in aircraft operated by former military aviators.
Did the Simsbury TBMs Spray in Maine in 1958?
Simsbury Flying Service’s eight Avengers would have been flying and spraying in the 1960s to 1970s. However, I’ve learned that eight of them sprayed in Aroostook Co. Maine in 1958, and which is just over the border from New Brunswick. This, however, seems a few years too early, considering most dates I have seen are, e.g., 1963-1977, but the record is in two FPL history reports. Simsbury was familiar to Forest Protection Limited as yellow Simsbury Stearmans sprayed for budworm in 1957 (1) and 1958 (4).
I have gleaned these eight identifications from various places on the Web, and Randie Coulter, in response to my query on the AgAircraft list, also helped me out.
This quote is from an unpublished FPL history report (1960):
The State of Maine launched its second budworm spraying program in 1958. A total of 302,000 acres in northeastern Aroostook County were sprayed … The spraying was carried out by the Simsbury Flying Service of Simsbury, Connecticut, with a fleet of eight converted torpedo bombers and two Stearmans for use around irregular boundaries, lakes, and streams.
And this one is from another Forest Protection Limited history report by William Seto (1995):
Instead of supplying airplanes, FPL supplied Maine with 1.14 million litres of DDT and assisted in a consulting capacity. Applications in Maine were made by Simsbury Flying Services of Connecticut.
Since Aroostook County is very close to the areas sprayed in New Brunswick, and since some of their TBMs eventually were purchased by Canadian companies, I decided to find out more about the eight Simsbury TBMs, listed under registration and Bureau Number below.
1) N33BM – 53119
2) N4039A – 85983 (became CF-BEG)
3) N6580D – 53489
4) N6581D – 53760
5) N6582D – 85506
6) N6583D – 53503
7) N6584D – 85829 (became CF-XON)
8) N6586D – 53488 (became CF-XOO)
All of these Simsbury TBMs originated from the Royal Canadian Navy, which is unusual as most of the RCN Avengers went to Canadian companies. See Military Origins.
Randie Coulter says: All of the planes you have listed were struck from the RCN in 1958. The earliest I find any of them registered to Simsbury is 1960, although I found they apparently had possession of 85983 [N4039A] in 1958 but, as stated, it wasn’t converted by Simsbury. If it was, ”Did they fly in Aroostook Co. Maine in 1958?” I would have to say, no. At least not with Simsbury as far as I can tell.
Bob Parrick (pers. comm. 2013) writes: Don’t know if I can help much. I recall that Simsbury Flying service had 5 TBM’s, a Douglas B-18 and some Stearmans during the 60’s. [Parrick posted an image of Simsbury TBM N6580D at airliners.net.] I had a part ownership in a Stinson we based at Simsbury 1959-60. Although I saw these planes often I don’t ever recall seeing the TBMs or the Douglas actually fly.
Here’s another eye-witness account [Dave Lindauer, in a post to the Warbird Information Exchange, Nov. 10, 2009]: I’ve always had a soft spot for Canadian Avengers. I’ve always thought that they were the best looking of the turret less TBMs. When I was about 14 or 15 I would ride my bicycle 10 miles to Simsbury Airport (Connecticut) to look at the last couple of Simsbury Flying Service TBMs. Previously there had been something like 7 or 8 flying there, parked in a neat row close to the road. My dad used to slow way down as we drove past so I could see them! (Not much, but very exciting to a blossoming warbird fan.) After pulling up on my bike, the airport staff let me climb all over the last airframe (engineless & wingless), with the restrictions being that I shouldn’t take or break anything, not touch any of the other private airplanes and stay away from spinning propellers. How times have changed!
Conclusion: It’s very doubtful that any of these Avengers sprayed in Maine in 1958, given the dates of their acquisition. Perhaps Simsbury had leased some other Avengers for that project; if so, I have not found any records to confirm that.
So, the mystery remains.
The Movie – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
As an interesting aside, two of these Simsbury aircraft appeared in Steven Spielburg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. They are:
53119 / N33BM
53503 / N6583D
The six-minute clip can be seen on You Tube. The registration of N33BM is clearly evident, and N6583D is the one whose engine is running.
The Simsbury TBMs
1) N33BM / 53119
Delivered to RCN as 53119. BOC: May 29, 1952. SOC: May 9, 1958.
Simsbury Flying Service, Simsbury, Connecticut, 19??.
Baron Volkmer, Dallas, Texas, 1970-1973. Registered as N33BM.
Merrill McBride, a pilot who flew an Avenger in the aerial spray program up until he was killed in the crash of CF-ZTA in 1974, photographed N33BM likely in 1973, location unknown.
2) N4039A / 85983 / CF-BEG
Delivered to RCN as 85983. BOC: May 29, 1952. SOC: Mar. 26, 1958.
Simsbury Flying Service, Simsbury, Connecticut, 1964-1972. Registered as N4039A. Stored, unconverted, Simsbury, Connecticut, 1958-1972.
Miramichi Air Service, Douglastown, New Brunswick, May 1974-1979. Registered as CF-BEG.
Hicks & Lawrence Ltd, St. Thomas, Ontario, 1978-1985. Registered as C-FBEG. Flew as tanker #1/”Yogi Bear”.
3) N6580D / 53489
A TBM-3S AS Mk.3. Delivered to RCN as 53489 / 304. BOC: July 28, 1950. SOC: Jan. 30, 1958.
Simsbury Flying Service, Simsbury, Connecticut, 1960. Registered as N6580D. Stripped, unconverted, fuselage stored on gear, Simsbury, Connecticut, 1972-1990.
The hulk was purchased first by Leonard Tanner, Barre, MA, 1988-1990, then by Corwin H. “Corky” Meyer, Ocala, FL, 1990. The hulk moved to FL, 1989 then used in restoration of BuNo 91521 (N4171A). Reported in 1972 derelict at Simsbury still in RCN colors, and destroyed by fire, 1990.
4) N6581D – BuNo 53760
Delivered to RCN as 53760. BOC: June 16, 1952. SOC: Jan. 30, 1958.
Simsbury Flying Service, Simsbury, Connecticut, 1963-1977. Registered as N6581D.
Richard Foote/Professional Aircraft Sales Co., Willimantic, Connecticut and New Smyrna Beach, FL, 1984-1988. Crashed and destroyed on take-off, near Danielson, Connecticut, Aug. 4, 1986.
5) N6582D / 85506
1948 Grumman TBM-3E Avenger. Delivered to RCN as 85506. BOC: June 16, 1952. SOC: Jan. 30, 1958.
Simsbury Flying Service, Simsbury, Connecticut, 1963-1966. Registered as N6582D.
To Israel in 1967.
6) N6583D / 53503
1945 Grumman TBM-3E Avenger. Delivered to RCN as 53503. BOC: June 30, 1950. SOC: Jan. 1, 1958.
TBM 53503 flew in the RCN 881 Squadron from the carrier HMCS Magnificent and marked as sub hunter “ABK”, “AB*P” and later “315” as their numbering system changed over her years of duty. She also flew in this role as part of the flypast for the newly coronated Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Navy Review at Spithead on June 16, 1953. TBM 53503 is documented as being Struck Off Charge on January 1, 1958.
From the Confederate Air Force history of this TBM (HERE). After her RCN military career ended in 1958, TBM 53503 was an aerial insecticide applicator from 1963 to 1970 for the Simsbury Flying Service in Simsbury, CT as N6583D. Acquired by the CAF in 1970 where she was painted as VT-10’s “white 82” with a tri-color Navy scheme for the CV-10 Yorktown, but still lacked the characteristic dorsal gun turret. She flew with the CAF Ghost Squadron until 1981 in this configuration. During this time, her movie debut can be seen in the first five minutes of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind as directed by Steven Spielburg – hint: she is the one whose engine runs!
Joe E. Jones/Confederate Air Force, Harlingen, Texas, 1970-1972.
Robert L. Wick/CAF, Harlingen, Texas, Jan. 13, 1972-1991. Registered as N53503. Commemorative Air Force, Harlingen, Texas, Jan. 13, 1972-2007. Registered as N53503. Flown as USN/82 (later USN/309).
7) N6584D / 85829 / CF-XON
Delivered to RCN October 1950 as 85829 / #369. BOC: Oct. 19, 1950. SOC: Jan. 30, 1958.
To the US as N6584D with Simsbury Flying Service, Connecticut.
Maritime Air Service Ltd, Moncton, New Brunswick. #911 CF-XON 1969-72.
Hicks & Lawrence Ltd, Tillonsburg, Ontario, 1972-1975. Crashed during spray operations, Juniper, New Brunswick, May 21, 1974.
8) N6586D / 53488 / CF-XOO
N6580D (c/n 3551) was transferred from USN to Royal Canadian Navy in 1950 as #312. Purchased by Simsbury Flying Service in 1960 for use as a spray plane. In storage for many years it is reported to be restored to airworthy condition. – [Bob Parrick has posted an image labelled N6580D at airliners.net: the complete registration cannot be seen, but the number “6” appears on the nose. This is probably a typo, and should be N6586D.]
To US civil registry N6586D, Simsbury Flying Service, Simsbury, Connecticut.
To Canadian civil record as CF-XOO with Maritime Air Services, Moncton, N.B. Crashed and burned at Deer Lake, Newfoundland, 13 July, 1969.
USA PLAINS STATES – TEXAS and KANSAS
Frederick A. Johnsen’s video book Fire Bombers in Action presents a list of U.S. companies that had fire bombers. These are listed below under each state.
U.S. Companies Associated with Air Tankers: Texas
Air Tractor Inc., Olney
Plains Aero Service, Dalhart, Texas
Plains Aero Service, Dalhart, Texas
The text of an ad that appeared in a high school yearbook in 1974 describes the Plains Aero Service of Dalhart, which was founded by Delmer Miller in 1945 in Amarillo, Texas:
PLAINS AERO SERVICE
Miller Field, Coldwater 384-2211 AIRPLANE FARMING
Stanley Miller is proud of the planes and of the work done by his father’s business.
For all spraying services, pesticides, fertilizer, and other farming needs.
Located northeast of Dalhart.
As far as I can determine, Plains Aero Service owned the following TBMs:
N7002C / 85632 before it flew as #B18 for Air Tankers of Wyoming and GOBJ of Hicks and Lawrence of Ontario.
N9599C / BuNo not known before it went to Air Tankers of Wyoming. Air Tankers’ TBM #B14 N9599C was contracted to spray in NB but crashed in Iowa on 20 May 1971 before arriving.
[Delmer Maurice] Miller was born May 13, 1914, in Numa, Iowa, to Stanley and Evelyn Stanton Miller. On March 27, 1937, he married Shirley Davis. Uncle Sam called and between 1940 to 1945, he trained in the Army Air Corps, which rated him as the wing commander and director of flying. In September 1945, he founded Plains Aero Service in Amarillo. If not the first, he was one of the earliest commercial appliers of 2-4D by air. This was the beginning of a legacy. Delmer’s operation moved to Dalhart in 1956. [Mr.] Miller, 90, died Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2004, in Germantown, Tenn.
U.S. Companies Associated with Air Tankers: Kansas
Central Air Service, Rantoul
D&D Aero Inc, Rantoul, Kansas
D&D Aero Inc, Rantoul, Kansas
D&D may have owned three Avengers, one of which went to Norfolk Aerial Spraying in Ontario as CF-AYL.
N9307Z / 86091 / CF-AYL
US Navy as Bu. 86091, 1960.
Cisco Aircraft Inc, Lancaster, CA, #E82, 1962-1964.
D&D Aero Spraying, Rantoul, KS, 1966-1969.
Norfolk Aerial Spraying, Nixon, Ontario, 1970-1973, CF-AYL.
Crashed in New Brunswick during spraying operations, June 17, 1973.
N9593C / 69472
Frontier Airways, Visalia, CA, 1963-194.
Operated by Clayton V. Curtis, Boise, ID, 1963, #D5.
Loening Air Inc, Boise, ID, 1966.
Clayton V. Curtis, Boise, ID, 1969-1970.
Bill Dempsay/D&D Aero Spray, Rantoul, KS, 1972.
James Levrett, Reno, NV, 1977.
Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, AZ, 1983-2002.
– Displayed as USN 69472.
N9595C / 53479
Registered as N9595C by ???, 1957.
Cisco Aircraft Inc, Lancaster, CA, 1962-1964, #E67.
Bill Dempsay/D&D Aero Spray, Rantoul, KS, 1966-1977.
Crashed and destroyed after striking trees while spraying, Tucketon, NJ, June 2, 1967.
SOUTHERN MOUNTAINS – UTAH, ARIZONA, NEVADA
U.S. Companies Associated with Air Tankers: Utah
Aerial Applicators Inc, Salt Lake City
Aerial Applicators Inc, Salt Lake City
Aerial Applicators of Salt Lake City appeared to have owned eight TBMs, of which six were numbered D15, D16, D17, D18, D19 and D20. Four of them eventually ended up with Hicks and Lawrence in Ontario.
[Bob Forbes] was in Salmon, ID in 1961 at the airport and there were 2 or 3 Aerial Applicator TBM’s flying out of there, sort of. They were by far the worse looking aircraft I ever saw. They did manage to keep at least one flying between break downs. One even aborted a take off AFTER barely getting airborne and getting it back on the runway and getting it stopped before he ran out of runway. – Posted to TBMs – Mil & Civ on 1 Dec 14.
N4172A / BuNo unknown / #D18 / 1963-1972
N7029C / 53914 / D16 / John E. Orahood, Rocky Ford, Colorado, 1963 / Aerial Applicators Utah 1966-72 / FBQS Hicks and Lawrence ON 1972, crashed northern ME 17  May 1972
N7848C / 91206 / #D15 / Aerial Applicators Utah 1963-1966
N7849C / 91617, may have crashed early in the sixties. See image below. This is an interesting TBM, not much info on it, except that it was Aerial Applicators and BuNo 91617. I can’t see any number on the nose.
N7858C / 91171 / #D17 / USFS California / 2 others / Aerial Applicators Utah 1966-72 / FBQT Hicks and Lawrence ON #21 1972-76 / sold to Alberta
N8397H / 69459 / #Dxx / 1963-1972
N8398H / 53607 / #D20 / Cisco California / Aerial Applicators Utah #D20 1964-69 / FZYC Hicks and Lawrence ON #20 1971-75, crashed 20 May 1975 Juniper New Brunswick restored at ACAM as FPL #24 C-GFPL
N9592C / 53256 / D19 / 19? / Aerial Applicators, Salt Lake City, Utah #D19 1963-70 / FZYB Hicks and Lawrence ON #19, 1971, crashed 1 June 1971
U.S. Companies Associated with Air Tankers: Arizona
Abe’s Aerial Service, Safford
Aircraft Specialties, Mesa
Central Air Service, Maricopa (and East Wenatchee, WA)
Donaire Inc., Phoenix
Evergreen Aviation, Marana
Flight Enterprises, Prescott
Globe Air, Mesa
Intermountain Aviation, Marana and Phoenix
Mosely Aviation, Deer Valley
Sonora Aviation, Tuscon (and Carson City, NV)
T&G Aviation, Chandler Field
WAIG Aircraft, Inc., Tuscon
Aircraft Specialties and Globe Air, Mesa, Arizona
One Avenger flew in New Brunswick in 1971, N9590Z #C25.
Desert Aviation Services of Phoenix, Arizona, eventually became Aircraft Specialties, which was located at Falcon Field Airport, Mesa, Arizona. Globe Air was the successor company to Aircraft Specialties. Ruud Leeuw refers to the founder Gene Packard below:
… the aircraft at Falcon Field belong to Gene Packard. Gene (full name Richard Eugene Packard) is somewhat of an icon in the airtanker/sprayer world. He started off in the 1950s/1960s, when he co-founded Aircraft Specialties Inc., together with Abe Sellards. They flew … out of Falcon Field, mainly on spraying contracts.
In 1981 Gene reorganized that company into the well-known Globe Air, also based at Falcon Field. Globe Air went into voluntary liquidation in 1985, and their fleet was sold at the famous Globe Air auction [on 23] October 1985.
But Gene didn’t stop there, because a year later he established his third company… This was Air Response Inc. …, which was formed as a family business by Gene and his son Ed. They took over some of the former Globe Air DC-4s and Harpoons, and continued to operate them out of Falcon Field.
Aircraft Specialties owned six Avengers:
N7850C / 69355 / 1966 / #?
N9564Z / 91388 / 1963 / #C34
N9569Z / 91436 / 1981 / hulk
N9590Z / 91733 / #C25
N9926Z / 91474 / 1963-70 / #E38
N9927Z / 85869 / 1963-77 / #C3, later #E39 and #C39
N9569Z (91436) has an interesting history, as told by the Liberty Aviation Museum, Port Clinton, Ohio.
91436 was sold by the USN at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California, to the Selk Company of North Hollywood for $2,600 on January 25, 1957, and assigned the civil registration N9569Z. Subsequent owners included Aerial Services of Chino, California, Zack Monroe of Lancaster, California, and Cisco Aircraft Inc., also of of Lancaster. Cisco fitted the aircraft with tanks for aerial spraying or fire fighting. In 1963, N9569Z was acquired by Desert Aviation Services of Phoenix, Arizona, who is believed to have operated it for a couple of seasons.
Sometime during the 1960s, the outer wing panels were removed and the aircraft was towed to downtown Phoenix, where it was operated by Desert Aviation Service for the Buehner Window Company as a wind machine for product testing. Desert Aviation Service became Aircraft Specialties, Inc. who continued to operate the wind machine for Buehner until the mid 1970s when the plane was towed to Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona, for storage and to use as a spare parts source. Aircraft Specialties became Globe Air, Inc. in 1980. This aircraft was sold at the auction of Globe Air assets that was held on October 23, 1985 at Falcon Field. Subsequently, N9569Z was trucked to Tom Reilly Vintage Aircraft in Kissimmee, Florida, where restoration to flying condition started.