World War II plane part of Fly-In
After performing a few flybys, Brad Deckert lands his Avenger at the Buffalo Airport, where the war bird is undergoing annual maintenance work. The Avenger helped defeat the Japanese Navy in the Pacific during World War II. (Photos by Ed DuBois)
Fueling up, Brad Deckert prepares to take the Avenger for a ride over Buffalo.
The engine roared during flybys at the airport.
On a very cold Friday morning, a World War II Navy aircraft, a TBM-3E Avenger, warmed up a long time on the tarmac at the Buffalo Airport. After the wings were extended, pilot Brad Deckert taxied to the south end of the runway.
Designed to carry a torpedo or 2,000 pounds of bombs in its bomb bay, the Avenger has an engine powerful enough to take off from aircraft carriers with a heavy load. Since Deckert’s plane had no load, he needed only about an eighth of the runway at the Buffalo Airport to get airborne.
After performing a few thunderous flybys for those who had gathered to see the historic aircraft, it was taken into the West Metro Aviation hangar for some annual maintenance work.
Mike Wiskus of West Metro Aviation, who performs across the country as an aerobatic pilot, had met Deckert at air shows.
Deckert, an electrical contractor from Eureka, Ill., is a co-owner of the Avenger, along with Linda Schumm, a representative for Cessna. Linda flew the Avenger to Buffalo. She is one of two female pilots on the FAA register who hold a TBM Avenger rating.
Wiskus was excited to show the Avenger. During the four weeks the aircraft is here in Buffalo, he hopes many people of the community will be able to see it. He talked about inviting bus loads of local students to come out to the airport for a look at the war bird.
Wiskus is anxious to develop ties between the Buffalo Airport and the community. Last June, he presented an aerobatic show that attracted perhaps the biggest crowd ever at the annual Buffalo Days Fly-In Breakfast. He plans to present another show next June.
Showing the Avenger this winter is another way to connect with the community, he said.
Deckert said his airplane saw action during WWII at Okinawa, where it was used for some bombing missions. He mentioned that many people do not realize the Avenger could carry bombs. It is best known as a torpedo bomber.
“It could carry one torpedo, or two 1,000-pound bombs or four 500-pound bombs,” he stated.
Deckert said his Avenger was purchased from the Fargo Air Museum. They already had another Avenger and needed funds for an expansion project, he explained.
Between WWII and being obtained by the air museum, the airplane was used as a crop duster and a fire tanker in Texas, Wyoming and Canada.
During the war, it had a crew of three, a pilot, a turret gunner, who also served as a radioman and bombardier, and a radar operator. The aircraft is almost 40 feet long and has a wingspan of 54 feet. The engine is a supercharged Wright-Cyclone 14 Sircraft with 14 cylinders.
The aircraft was received by the Navy on March 17, 1945. During the Okinawa campaign, it was launched from the USS Vella Gulf.
Deckert said his Avenger holds about 320 gallons of fuel and costs around $1,200 an hour to fly.
Asked if he was cold during his short flight last Friday, he said he was enjoying himself too much to notice.
The seventh grade history class students at Buffalo Community Middle School are beginning a unit on World War II, and last Tuesday, Feb. 3 they all rode buses in shifts to the Buffalo Airport to see a WWII aircraft, an Avenger torpedo bomber. The war bird is undergoing annual maintenance at West Metro Aviation. About 450 students in all visited the airport. Above, Mike Wiskus, an aerobatic pilot who heads up the aviation service, tells the students about the Avenger and its role in the war. The students were able to get up close to the aircraft and see a piece of WWII history first-hand. (Photo by Ed DuBois)