Charlie Cartledge’s TBM Avenger Restoration

Robert McCarter (left), a Navy Silver Eagle who flew a TBM Avenger a few times during World War II with Charlie Cartledge. ( Image credit Dan Starcher)
Robert McCarter (left), a Navy Silver Eagle who flew a TBM Avenger a few times during World War II with Charlie Cartledge. ( Image credit Dan Starcher)
Robert McCarter (left), a Navy Silver Eagle who flew a TBM Avenger a few times during World War II with Charlie Cartledge. ( Image credit Dan Starcher)

It took 14 years of work, but the plane finally became flyable a few weeks ago. On Aug. 14, Charlie Cartledge took to the air with his plane for the first time, in Wadsworth. Cartledge and his team rebuilt the airplane in a hangar at the Wadsworth Municipal Airport,OH. In August, for the first time, Cartledge flew the torpedo bomber, landing at the Wayne County Airport.

TBM Avenger at Tom Reilly's in 1987.
TBM Avenger at Tom Reilly’s in 1987.

TBM Avenger was in “a million pieces” at Tom Reilly’s Vintage Aircraft in Florida.When Cartledge purchased the “plane” in 1998, it had been worked on for 10 years at Reilly’s. At that point, the fuselage appeared to be rebuilt.

Cartledge’s bomber was built in New Jersey. The Navy accepted it in July 1945, shortly before the war ended. It was retrofitted to spray pesticides on farm fields and then passed through various hands before Cartledge bought it for $100,000.With help from friends, he had to retrieve parts for the Avenger from all over North America. The engine, for example, was purchased at an auction in Oregon and shipped to Oklahoma City for an overhaul before finally traveling to Ohio.

“Most of the sheet metal has been replaced, all the controls, all the instruments, all the panels, all the hydraulics, every single line, cable, bolt, fitting has been replaced,” Cartledge said. “It’s about as close to a new TBM aircraft as you will find.

Photo of the first run-up of the TBM on Oct 25, 2012. ( Image Credit Charlie Cartledge)
Photo of the first run-up of the TBM on Oct 25, 2012. ( Image Credit Charlie Cartledge)

Cartledge’s team researched in the area who might have flown a TBM. That was how they found out about Dell Vernon, 92, who was a gunner in a TBM for nearly all four years he served in the Navy with the Torpedo Squadron 20 (VT-20).Cartledge  went to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., looking for any pictures of planes that had the VT-20 markings. The restored plane closely matches those markings, down to the fonts used in the lettering. The plane is also numbered 95 because Vernon once flew in a TBM of the same number. The number is also painted within a triangle, which was the symbol of the USS Enterprise, the Navy’s first nuclear-powered carrier.

Here is an interview with Charlie Cartledge.

3 Comments

  1. For the life of me, I cannot understand spending the incredible amounts of time and money on a restoration like this and then using an inaccurate paint scheme. Why is this always done on these restorations? The few that are actually done correctly are notably conspicuous because it’s definitely not the norm.

  2. Soooooooooooooo totally awesome……It’s absolutely beautiful. Always amazed at your talents. Congratulations on the publicity and for accomplishing something so huge. Wishing the best to you always.

  3. Charlie: Ran Across “WARBIRDS” magazine of February 2015 and read once more your article on your TBM. AMAZED again! I am the owner of the SNJ N6360G seated next to you and your crew at the Awards Ceremony. We won the Keep ’em Flying award, the Phoenix award (along with you) and the other Golden Wrench. Our cover story was in the April 2015 Warbirds and in the article I express my admiration of you and your bird. Priceless! ABSOLUTELY love your bird every time I see the pix and I just wanted to thank you again for such a wonderful project. Our plane’s website is http://www.snjclassic.com. You may enjoy viewing it. Boy, can I relate to your story…it took me 30 years to complete my SNJ! (also built entirely from individual parts). Thank you…brother.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*