|By Carmelo Turdo|
The Greenville Airstravaganza, a favorite Midwest Aviation fall fly-in, was held October 6 at Greenville Municipal Airport in central Illinois. The event is more than a fly-in - it is a family-friendly, community gathering with fun activities, good food and, of course, aviation! Organized by the Greenville Pilots Association and the Greenville Airport Authority, the annual Airstravaganza provides the opportunity for local residents to experience aviation first-hand by visiting with pilots, touring classic cars and display aircraft, and flying in a Cessna 172, Robinson R44 helicopter or World War II-era aircraft. Regular arrivals of general aviation aircraft, RC aerobatic aircraft shows, skydiving demonstrations by Gateway Skydiving Center and overflights by Kevin Kegin’s American Warbird AT-6D Texan kept everyone’s eyes to the skies. As is evident in the photos, the skies were sunny in the morning but a storm front moved in during the mid-afternoon after much of the aerial activity was winding down.
In Part 6 of this series, we take a look at Brad Deckert's Grumman TBM Avenger, including several flights made throughout the day.
This year’s event included the return of Brad Deckert with his World War II-era Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bomber. Brad Deckert, owner of an electrical contracting business in Eureka, IL, keeps his Avenger at Illinois Valley Airport in Peru, IL. His aircraft was delivered by the General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division to the U.S. Navy in March of 1945, and served with Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 234 aboard an escort aircraft carrier during the Okinawa campaign. The aircraft served in various units until the mid 1950s, when it was acquired by civilian operators for fire fighting and spraying duties. Deckert acquired the aircraft in 2008, and has since done extensive restoration to make the aircraft not only airworthy, but well on its way to being the most complete example of its type. He feels that it merits top three honors so far.
It is a sobering thought that a one-time first-line combat aircraft, a torpedo bomber with three crew members that was once maintained and flown by operational military units, was on display for anyone who visited Greenville Municipal Airport Saturday. Keeping these aircraft flying, let alone looking pristine, is a challenge. He told The Aero Experience that it takes about 25 hours of maintenance for each hour of flight. He also said that he has a core group of maintenance personnel that help keep the warbird flying regularly and a large cache of spare parts. He also has the capability of making parts that are no longer available. Deckert flew the Avenger several times, including several passes with an accompanying T-34 Mentor trainer as the storm clouds rolled in later in the afternoon.
On the first Avenger flight of the day, passengers included a USAF veteran, Marshall McKee, whose father, Ensign O.E. Mckee, flew in Avengers during World War II; Sherry Schaefer of the Greenville Pilots Association; and members of Gateway Skydiving Center jumping for the opening act of the day.
Between flights, the Avenger was available for public display and for photos with the show cars and motorcycles. The next flight included passengers Jim Thibeault and Elmo Johnson, both of whom came out for the car show but were able to ride in the Avenger through the ticket drawing and auction. They had an exciting flight that concluded shortly before the weather ended the day's flying activities.
The Aero Experience thanks the Greenville Pilots Association, Brad Deckert and all who made this great Midwest Aviation event possible!