Torpedo Bomber Plonky – to appear at Warbirds ARDMORE
Warbirds On Parade is set to become even more of an exhilarating air show with a large 1945 Grumman TBM-3E Avenger, affectionately known in Warbirds circles as Plonky, having now been confirmed to make a special guest appearance at the NZ Warbirds Association air show at Ardmore in March. She is flying in from her base at the Biggin Hill Historic Aircraft Centre at RNZAF Base Ohakea, especially for the days event, special thanks to owner, Brendon Deere for allowing her to appear.
The Avenger was designed as a carrier based torpedo bomber for the United States Navy, and was to become one of the outstanding torpedo bombers of WW2. Flying off aircraft carriers the Avenger is characterised by her STO-Wing ‘compound angle’ wing folding mechanism to maximise what available storage there was on aircraft carriers. Frank Parker, NZ Warbirds President says it is a particularly unusual aircraft to watch as she shuts down, her wings can be rotated and folded back alongside her fuselage. In addition to the pilot, she carried two additional crew and flies at a top speed of 442 kms/hr.
Our New Zealand based Avenger was built in July 1945 by General Motors and served in a training capacity at San Diego before post war moving around a number of US Navy bases including Pearl Harbour. Following those initial years she has been used in insect spraying and forest protection services before eventually arriving in New Zealand to be based at Wanaka in Tim Wallis’ Alpine Fighter Collection, on arrival she was painted in the colours of an Avenger that had been flown by US President George Bush Senior, during WW2. After being on-sold to Australia, it returned to New Zealand on a 3,200 km ferry flight via Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands in February 2012, in time for the Ohakea and Wanaka air shows. This Avenger has a continuous flying history since 1945. She was named Plonky and her nose art painted to copy that of the beer barrel pouring beer, previously painted on an Avenger flown by Fred Ladd in the Pacific theatre, he felt her shape was better suited to a barrel than the traditional Disney characters normally chosen.
Our own RNZAF operated 48
Grumman Avengers, mostly from Bougainville during the
Pacific War. They operated as bombers with 30 and 31
Squadron against Japanese targets alongside other RNZAF
units. After the war a few Avengers were based at Ohakea
with 42 Squadron as target tugs and operated through to
1959. They were also used in top dressing