The Cocoa Beach Airshow took an unfortunate turn on Saturday as a World War II-era Grumman TBM Avenger bomber experienced an engine failure and had to ditch into the ocean. The plane was fresh off of an 18-year restoration and may never fly again.
The Cocoa Beach Air Show featured a variety of aircraft through military aviation history and even a few aerobatic acts. One of the planes, a Grumman TBM Avenger, was flying with other historic aircraft, including a C-47 Dakota, a military transport based on the Douglas DC-3, reports the Aviationist.
At some point, the aircraft experienced an engine failure, requiring the pilot to ditch the plane into the ocean alongside Cocoa Beach.
Spectators captured the crash in amazing pictures and videos that showed the aircraft as it cleared swimmers and touched down into the water short of other groups of swimmers. Valiant Air Command, the organization that owns the TBM Avenger, confirmed the engine failure and said:
The pilot performed the safest ditch maneuver possible, and landed the plane just offshore from Patrick Space Force Base. He was taken to the hospital after walking away from the incident, and he has been released with no injuries.
Thankfully, there were no injuries reported in the water. Valiant Air Command is happy that everyone is ok and commended the pilot on a textbook ditching.
According to the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum, the Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger is a single-engine strike and torpedo carrier-based bomber. Planes built by the General Motors Corporation were designated TBM while planes built by Grumman bore TBF. It played a major role in the Pacific during WWII in battles like Midway. The aircraft was also involved in the sinking of the Japanese battleships Hei and Yamato.
A group of five TBM Avengers assembled as Flight 19 disappeared in an infamous incident off of the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on December 5, 1945. The lives of 14 crewmen were lost and an aircraft sent to search for Flight 19, a PBM-5 Mariner, also disappeared, resulting in the loss of 13 more crewmen. The incident is one of many included in the so-called Bermuda Triangle.
The TBM Avenger involved in Saturday’s ditching has quite the background. It was built by the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors Corporation in 1945 and operated for the U.S. Navy as bureau number 91188. The plane later became a water bomber, tackling fires, from Valiant Air Command:
Following her retirement from the U.S. Navy # 91188 saw extensive service in the hazardous role of fire bomber for the U.S. Forestry Service based at Davis, California from 1956-1964. She would continue in this role through 1969 with Georgia Forestry Commission in Macon, GA. After her distinguished career as a fire bomber 91188 transitioned between various private owners throughout the country ultimately finding herself at the Valiant Air Command, Inc. in 2002.
Valiant Air Command spent 18 years restoring the plane back to flying condition. For a strange bit of irony, the plane was painted in the same markings as one of the TBMs that went down in Flight 19.
Unfortunately, the organization is unsure if the plane will fly again or will become a static display at its museum. The aircraft was recovered from the waters and Valiant Air Command setup a fundraiser to restore the plane.