A former World War II torpedo bomber that children used to clamber over it in a Hawke's Bay playground is ready to be transformed at Tauranga's Classic Flyers Museum.

The fuselage of the Grumman Avenger was unloaded last week, with a further trip needed to pick up the rest of the components from a shed in West Auckland.

"It is a real basket case of parts," Classic Flyers chief executive Andrew Gormlie said.

The two- or three-year restoration by the museum's expert team of restorers was a joint venture with its Auckland owners, with the aircraft to go on permanent display once the job was finished.


The fuselage had hung under a belt of trees for many years. When the owners read about Classic Flyers' restoration of another former RNZAF Grumman Avenger, they contacted the museum.

Mr Gormlie said it meant that the public would have the opportunity at the next airshow to see a flying Grumman Avenger, the existing restored non-flying Avenger at Classic Flyers and the third Avenger under restoration.

It was a timely venture with the Auckland owners because once their Grumman Avenger was ready for display, the museum's current restored Avenger would be ready to go to the Gisborne Aviation Preservation Society. This aircraft was restored in another joint venture with Classic Flyers.

Mr Gormlie said the two Avengers were the last of the ex-RNZAF aircraft to be parked in children's playgrounds. The restored aircraft previously stood in the Taranaki town of Opunake for 10 years while the current restoration project was in Havelock North.

He estimated that they had 80 per cent of a complete aircraft and would be scouring New Zealand and the rest of the world looking for the rest of the parts.

Mr Gormlie said the previous restoration took two years and Classic Flyers' restorers had the big advantage this time round of using the previous project as a template.

The heavy restoration work project would be carried out by a dedicated band of 15 to 20 volunteers. And like the previous Avenger restoration, the aircraft would be able to taxi down the runway but not take off. Making them airworthy cost a couple of million dollars extra.

Once the restoration was complete and the engine running, the hydraulics that operated the Avenger's folding wings would allow the aircraft's special feature to be shown off. Folded wings allowed more of them to be stowed on aircraft carriers.


Grumman TBF Avenger
- Heaviest single-engined aircraft of World War II.
- Displayed for the first time on the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, December 7, 1941. - Used in pioneering trials for aerial top dressing in New Zealand, 1945.