FLIGHT-19 PICS – A Tale of Two Planes and Two Numbers!




Traditionally Obscure

This same practice of using plane tail registration numbers for identification purposes adds an additional element of uncertainty to the interpretation of the group photographs found in the NAS Ft. Lauderdale collection. The conclusion mistakenly made by the general public when looking at the pics is believing that the pilots and crew featured with the plane are all members of Flight-19. Again I refer you to (Photo #1, 28, and Photo #2, 19)

In actuality, again according to John Bloom, it is common knowledge that it was a tradition of graduating aviation training school classes at the time, for the crew and pilot trainee photos to be taken in front of the aircraft used. In addition the class number was typically displayed by an ad hoc display using found materials such as machine gun ammunition belts. Hence the #28 & #19.

If the Flight-19 class had taken a group photograph in this manner and as they were part of class 79M it would stand to reason they would have had the number 79 draped in front of the group being photographed.

Though it is difficult to determine without technical assistance if any of the Flight-19 members are truly present in any of the photographs located at the NAS Ft. Lauderdale museum. Using the information above and including knowledge of the individual crew timelines involved, it is safe to say that if not impossible it is highly unlikely any of the Flight-19 sailor or marine crews to be stationed at NAS Ft. Lauderdale at the time these specific photographs were taken.

(Photo- 2) It is a pure co-incidence that in the photo below, FT-36 is shown behind the number 19. The number refers to Aviation Class 19.
 Photo courtesy of Naval Air Station Museum Ft. Lauderdale.



Further Controversy

During that same visit, we also verified what seems to be another error in plane identification; this time by Jon Myhre in his book, The Discovery of Flight-19. In his listing of the missing aircraft Myhre states that FT-28 flown by C.C.Taylor was a TBM-3D. Unless it was some kind of misprint or editing error, or the author had found some kind of evidence to the contrary ( perhaps in the Avenger wreckage Project-19 had salvaged August, 13th 1991), we have no reason to believe that there were any TBM-3D’s assigned to Flight-19 based on the same Navy accident documentation, and additional visual references. 

UPDATE 5/25/2022 (As of January 2021: the Navy unofficially acknowledged that the plane Taylor was flying that day was afterall a TBM-3D . In the history gram H-057.4 written by Admiral Samuel J.Cox, Director of the Navy History and Heritage Command January 2021, FT-28 (BuNo 23307) was a TBM-3D.  Evidently, the Navy at the time did not consider any of the advancements in Avenger nomenclature to include the TBM-3A-D to be worth commenting on.  It wasn’t until the TBM-3E that the next mark in the Avenger designation was worth documenting.

The circumstances behind the origins of this descrepancy aside, the claim that the Avenger flown by Taylor was a TBM-3D now justifies Myhres original claim and the necessity of close scrutiny of aircraft wreckage in the future. 

The design differences between the TBM-3 and TBM-3D are even more distinguishable than those between the TBM-1C and 3. The TBM-3D model, not only had the additional air scoop, and the wing root machine gun mounts, but also had the distinctly shaped ASP-3 (Photo #3) radar system built into the starboard (right) wing and a mount for a search light installed either under the port wing or in the bomb bay. The location varies per reference source.


(Photo-3)A TBM-3D Avenger of VT-90 showing the ASP-3 radar radome on the starboard wing. Note the unusual placement of the Yagi antenna on the starboard wing seen just under the turret.
Official US Navy Photo, provided courtesy of Tommy Thomason




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