United States Navy. 1945 Grumman (Eastern) TBM 3, Construction #: 3672.
Royal Canadian Navy. Flew as #303. BOC: July 22, 1950. SOC: Jan. 30, 1958.
In 2003, Forest Protection Limited requested copies of Aircraft History Cards on seven former U.S. Navy Avenger aircraft currently in the FPL fleet from the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Some of the cards were poorly microfilmed, and are presented below as received.
Wheeler Airlines, St. Jean, Quebec
#501 CF-IMR 1958-1965
Aerial spray program – NB
1958 – Purchased 27 Feb 1958 for $4500. Conversion to spraying, painting, etc. by Fairey Aviation, NS, for $3500. Flew in 1958, but probably used as a spare [Wheeler Airlines Progress Report dated 28 April 1958]. 1959 – No operations. 1960-1965 – No records, but very likely flew in NB for these years.
Wheeler-Northland Airways Ltd, St. Jean, Quebec
#501 CF-IMR 1966-1970
Aerial spray program – NB
1966 – Pilot Fewell. 1967 – Pilot Knudson. 1968 – No records. 1969 – Pilot Jim Holland. 1970 – Pilot Rowe.
Evergreen Air Service Ltd., Montreal, Quebec
#501 CF-IMR 1971-1976
Aerial spray program – NB, Quebec
1971 – Pilots Breckon and Tomacek. 1972 – Flew in NB and Quebec, Pilot Archer. 1973 – Pilot Archer. 1974 – Pilots Archer, Marcoux and Martindale. 1975 – Pilot Marcoux. 1976 – Evergreen sold #501 to Forest Protection Limited in 1976, one of 2 TBMs sold to FPL (the other was #505 FIMV).
Forest Protection Limited, Fredericton, NB
#E25 #23 C-FIMR 1976-2002
Aerial spray program – #E25 – NB
1976 – FPL purchased #501 in 1 January 1976 for $30,000 from Evergreen Air Services Ltd., Montreal, Quebec. It was renumbered as #E25, the same number as GLEG, which crashed in 1975. Pilot Kelly. 1977 – Pilot Gummer. 1978 – Flew as #25, pilot Tall. Repainted and renumbered (#23) to fleet standard after 4 July, 1978.
Aerial spray program – #23 – NB
1979, 1980 – Pilot Tall. 1981, 1982, 1983 – Pilot Marcoux. 1984, 1985 – Pilot Furey. 1986-1987 – Inactive, in storage at FPL. 1988, 1989, 1990 – Pilot Hyland.
Fire Suppression – NB
1991 – Pilot Gomany. 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 – Pilot Wood. 1996 – Pilots Doherty and Wood. 1997 – Spare. 1998 – Pilot Doherty. 1999 – Pilot Gomany. 2000 – Pilots Gomany and McKinnon. 2001, 2002 – Pilot Gomany.
Former US President, George Bush Sr., Welcomed to Moncton by WWII-Era Avengers [From an FPL Press Release]
MONCTON, NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA – The world’s last operational fleet of Grumman TBM 3-E Avengers was on hand to greet former US president and navy pilot, George Bush Sr., when he touched down at the Moncton International Airport on July 9, 2002.
“When we heard Mr. Bush was coming to town, we thought he might be interested in seeing our Avengers—considering he was an Avenger pilot back in World War II,” says Dave Davies, general manager for Forest Protection Limited—the company that owns the planes. “After a few phone calls to his people in the United States, we were extremely pleased when his chief of staff confirmed that Mr. Bush would like to spend a few minutes looking over out planes when he arrived in Moncton to attend a corporate event.”
Once Bush arrived though, Davies said the former president spent more than the original 10 minutes his staff had scheduled. “As soon as he saw the Avengers, he walked straight over,” said Davies. “He was clearly interested in the planes and impressed that they were in such good condition and still flying. Mr. Bush spent at least 20 minutes talking with the crew. I got the impression he didn’t want to leave.”
After learning how Bush’d exploits as an Avenger pilot in the South Pacific earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross, the crew asked Mr. Bush if he would be interested in buying one of the FPL Avengers since the entire fleet is for sale. Mr. Bush replied that he already had one—suspended from a ceiling in his museum in College Station, Texas.
The crew than asked him to sign one of the airplanes. Bush was a bit surprised when he was asked to autograph Tanker 23. “I don’t think he was expecting that,” said Davies. “He was very accommodating though. He signed the plane, and just as he was about to walk away, he came back and added “41st president of the U.S.’ because he thought people might confuse him with his son.”
2003-2010 – Still operating as firebomber in New Brunswick, based at the NB Department of Natural Resources Air Tanker Base at Miramichi Airport (formerly called Chatham).
2011 – Inactive
2012 – C-FIMR TBM #23 left FPL for the last time around 1 PM on July 26, on her way to the Shearwater Aviation Museum. Dave Wilson came out of retirement to fly her away. The media was there, so you will be able to find some news shots and clips. FIMR took off, circled and did a flyby before heading out. It will soon be re-painted back into its former “RCN 303″ paint scheme. See the Canadian Press article “Avenger lands in friendly territory”, which also has a brief video of the departure from FPL.