Warplane's arrival leads to US twin' connection

By John Maslin

A Wanganui Chronicle story about the arrival of an historic warplane at Ohakea on Friday has gone global and attracted the interest of a warbirds organisation in the United States.

Marton businessman Brendon Deere bought a World War II Grumman Avenger for his growing collection at the RNZAF base, and his new acquisition flew in last week.

News of the event was run on www.wanganuichronicle.co.nz over the weekend and was picked up by the Commemorative Air Force, which has a collection of historic planes at its Colorado base.

Colonel Denis Godfrey, information officer from the Rocky Mountain Wing of the CAF, had seen video footage of the Grumman touching down on Friday, after its two-day island-hopping delivery flight from Toowoomba to its new home.

The Grumman was piloted by Chris Stevensen with Mr Deere in the co-pilot's seat.

Mr Godfrey said his group, based at Walker Field airport at Grand Junction, Colorado, flies the aircraft's "twin" (#309).

"We've known about the 'Down Under' TBM Avenger but just never made the connection when it was based in Australia," he said.

But knowing where it is now he said they would be contacting Mr Deere.

"After more than 20 years of operating our TBM we have knowledge and some leftover bits he may be in need of."

Mr Godfrey said the Rocky Mountain Wing's Grumman was once a Commonwealth aircraft, in service with the Canadians aboard HMCS Magnificent.

"We recently made contact with the pilot who actually flew her off that aircraft carrier and we're trying to arrange a reunion later this year."

Their plane displays the markings of VT-84 aboard the USS Bunker Hill while Mr Deere's latest acquisition currently carries the markings of an aircraft from the USS Essex.

"I'm glad to hear he will change the aircraft to New Zealand colours," Mr Godfrey said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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