Friday, February 17, 2012

Rare warplane on way to New Zealand

Brendon Deere stands in front of his latest purchase, a World War 2 Grumman Avenger. The plane will be coming to Ohakea later this month and should feature in the RNZAF's 75th anniversary air show on March 31.

Marton businessman Brendon Deere has bought another plane to bolster his warbirds collection at Ohakea.

The latest is a World War II Grumman Avenger, which will be flown over from Australia and should touch down at Ohakea on Thursday.

Mr Deere's company, ITL Aviation, bought the plane last month, and he will be a passenger in the Grumman when it is flown from Toowoomba in Queensland to Ohakea by Guy Stevensen.

Weather permitting, the flight is scheduled to take off on February 22, with stop-offs at Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island before touching down in Kerikeri later that day. It will then make the final leg to Ohakea the next morning and join the Supermarine Spitfire and a Harvard in Mr Deere's collection, housed in his hangar on the RNZAF base.

"There are a lot of variables that could get in the way but our plan is to leave Toowoomba on February 22," he said.

The Grumman, the largest single-engined aircraft built during World War II, flew in NZ about 10 years ago, when it was part of Sir Tim Wallis' Alpine Fighter Collection based at Wanaka.

"It's currently undergoing a maintenance check and now it will only be the weather or some delay in the paperwork that upsets our plans," Mr Deere told the Chronicle.

The purchase was finalised before Christmas, about nine months after he made the first approach to buy the plane. He would not disclose the purchase price.

"I've always been interested in the type since first seeing the hulk of one in the playground at Havelock North and I always thought it was a missing part of our aviation history."

Mr Deere said there were plans to extend the "Biggin Hill" hangar at Ohakea, giving 50 per cent more room.

"This will allow room for potentially one other aircraft in the future," he said.

If everything is kept to schedule then the Grumman will be flying at the RNZAF 75th anniversary air show at the base on March 31.

The Grumman TBM Avenger ZK-TBE Bu No 91110 Mr Deere bought was built in the US and flew for the first time on July 5, 1945.

After the war it was used for training aircrew and operated intermittently off an aircraft carrier on anti-submarine warfare training.

It was finally retired in 1952 and put into storage before being converted to a crop sprayer and fire bombing until 1972.

The plane featured in a collection based in England until 1992, when Sir Tim Wallis bought it for his collection at Wanaka.

The aircraft remained there until was sold to a Brisbane enthusiast.

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