Grumman Avenger 85861 at the Shearwater Aviation Museum’s is one of 4,657 Avenger TBM-3’s built for the U.S. Navy late in the Second World War. Avenger 85861 was manufactured at the Trenton, New Jersey Eastern Aircraft Division plant of General Motors Corporation. Built as a TBM-3E, Avenger 85861 could be distinguished from the basic TBM-3 by the AN/APS-4 radar pod fitted to the underside of the starboard wing.  The “dash 3E” was the last Avenger model to be produced in quantity during the Second World War.
           Avenger 85861 was among the initial batch of 74 Avengers purchased from the U.S. Navy and taken on strength by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in July 1950.  Nine months later it was turned over to the Fairey Aviation Company of Canada Ltd plant at Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia where it was converted to the AS-3 Mark 1 version for the RCN’s anti-submarine role.  The modification to the AS 3 included the installation of sonobuoy equipment and reconfiguring the center cockpit and gunner’s position to accommodate an Observer and an Observer’s Mate.  In early May 1952, 85861 was taken on strength by Fleet Requirements Unit 743 (FRU 743) of the No. 1 Training Air Group based at HMCS Shearwater.  The aircraft was among the first Avengers to be allocated to the unit and was marked with the identification letters “TF-D”; the “TF” identifying the squadron and the “D”, the individual aircraft within the squadron.
          Six months after 85861 came on board, FRU 743 was elevated to squadron status and redesignated VU 32.  One of the squadron’s many tasks was training Observer’s Mates (OMs), who were responsible for communications and some of the anti-submarine duties (dropping sonobuoys, smoke floats or marine markers as directed by the Observer, and operating the radar).  When targets of reconnaissance interest were encountered, the OM was responsible for aerial photography.  The Avenger was ideal for training Observer’s Mates, since the operational squadrons (VS 880 and VS 881) to which the OM’s were assigned after graduation used the same type of aircraft.
            Avenger 85861 was destined for a short career in the RCN.  On 6 August 1953, it was scheduled to take part in a practice flypast for the upcoming Halifax naval day celebrations.  While climbing to rendezvous with the other participating aircraft, it suffered a throttle linkage failure and was forced to ditch in Bedford Basin.  It was officially struck off charge on 16 September 1953 and lay submerged on the Basin floor until June 1972, when it was raised by the Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic as a training exercise.  It was subsequently restored by a team of technicians from VT 406 Squadron at CFB Shearwater, and in October 1975 was presented to the base for display as a gate guardian along Bonaventure Boulevard.
           As an outdoor gate guardian, Avenger 85861 unfortunately suffered severe deterioration from the corrosive maritime weather. To preserve the aircraft permission was granted in 1999 to move 85861 to unused space in one of the 12 Wing hangars where it could be protected from the elements. In March 2005, when hangar space was no longer available Avenger 85861 was moved into the museum where it is displayed as a work in progress while being restored.