A Salute to Veterans and Avengers
Illinois Valley Regional Airport (KVYS) also known as Walter A. Duncan Field is located approximately 1 mile from Peru IL. Illinois Valley Regional has 2 runways, runway 8/36 which is 6,000 feet long and Runway 7/25 which is 4,000 feet long. OSF Life F light has a base of operations here with an American Eurocopter EC-145. Illinois Valley Regional Airport is also home to Mr. Brad Deckert’s expertly restored Grumman TBM-3E Avenger N81865, Bureau Number 85828. This is why you will find the Salute to Veterans Airshow and largest gathering of Avengers in the world here.
The Grumman TBF or TBM Avenger if manufactured by General Motors was first born in 1940 when Grumman’s design was selected to replace the obsolete Douglas TBD Devastator. The first prototype took to the skies on August 7th, 1941 under the designation XTBF-1. The Avenger was the heaviest single engine aircraft of World War Two. Avengers flew with the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters. The Avenger has a crew of three and is powered by a single Wright R-2600-20 Twin Cyclone Radial engine developing 1,900 Horsepower. The Avenger was armed with up to 4 machine guns, 3.5-inch Rockets, up to 2,000 pounds of bombs or 1 Mark 13 torpedo. A total of 9,836 Avengers were built and served with several other countries including the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force. The Avenger saw military service until the 1960’s with many aircraft converted into Fire Bombing duties. Today several Avengers are flown on the Warbird Circuit around the world.
This year’s event was held on Saturday May, 19th and featured both static and flying Warbirds from many different era’s and a parade of local veterans. The weather on Saturday morning was less than ideal with low clouds and fog but that quickly changed with sunny skies just in time for the flying to begin. A total of 11 Avengers made it for this years show with Mr. Deckert’s locally based 1945 vintage Avenger leading the way. This Avenger saw service with Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 234 (VMTB-234) on the board the U.S.S. Vella Gulf. This Avenger is a combat veteran and participated in the Battle for Okinawa. After World War Two this aircraft passed through many units before its retirement in 1956. The aircraft served as a Fire Bomber for many years before Mr. Deckert acquired it in 2008.
Below is a rundown of the other Avengers in attendance this year:
N5264V a 1945 TBM-3E Avenger Bureau number 53353 flown by the Missouri Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.
NL325GT a 1945 vintage TBM-3U Avenger Bureau number 69325 “Tennessee Ridge Runner II” flown by D.L. Berry.
NL53503 a 1945 built TBM-3S Avenger Bureau number 53503 flown by the Rocky Mountain Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.
NL293E A 1944 vintage TBM-3E Avenger Bureau number 53829 flown by John Sinclair.
N4171A a 1945 built TBM-3E Avenger Bureau number 91521 owned by Tim Savage.
N85650 a 1945 vintage TBM-3W2 Avenger Bureau number 85650 flown by Mark Simmons.
NL436GM a 1945 built TBM-3E Avenger Bureau number 91436 flown by Charlie Cartledge.
NL683G a 1943 built TBM-3U Avenger Bureau number 53768 flown by Tom Buck.
NL9548Z A 1945 TBM-3E Avenger Bureau number 85882 “Ida Red” flown by Michael Kopp.
N5260V a 1945 vintage TBM-3E Avenger Bureau number 91726 flown by Daniel Mosley.
Several other notable Warbirds were also in attendance, including jets. 2 Sabres were present including N50CJ a Canadair F-86E MK.6 and the 1948 built North American F-86A N48178, not to be missed was Mikoyan MIG-17 N6953X. NL99420 Douglas A-26B Silver Dragon flew several times as did Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair NX72378 and Grumman FM-2 Wildcat NL909WJ. The crowd was even treated to a “Heritage Flight” featuring the A-26B, FM-2, F4U-4 and the F-86E. The big surprise of the afternoon airshow was Chance Vought F4U-7 Corsair N965CV fresh out of its restoration which made several passes. Several other warbirds rounded the participant list out including T-34’S, T-6’s, and the Kaney Aerospace Mig-17, N6953X.
It was an incredible day to honor our Veterans and aircraft alike, this is one show to put on your calendar for next year. Until next time, “Blue Skies to All!”