This is a history of Forest Protection Limited’s association with some 85 TBM Avenger aircraft used in the Spruce Budworm aerial spray program, primarily in the province of New Brunswick, Canada. From the late 1950s to the early 1980s, Avengers were contracted by FPL from all over the United States and Canada. FPL purchased many of those same Avengers in the establishment of its own fleet, which at one time had the most Avengers flying at any one time in the World.
The Spruce Budworm infestation in northern New Brunswick and the rest of eastern Canada was the reason for the spray program and the use of Stearmans and then TBMs.
The first TBMs used commercially
There is documentation for the commercial use of a TBM as a fire bomber in the US as early as 1954. This aircraft — a TBM-1C, BuNo 46122, Reg. N9394H — was owned by Paul Mantz Air Services of Los Angeles, California and flown by Ed Ball. Ed also flew TBMs in New Brunswick (NB) during Spruce Budworm operations in the mid-1960s and in Maine in 1963 on their budworm spray project. [See images of this aircraft on page 2 of “Another Tanker Thread – TBM/TBF’s”, The Warbird Information Exchange).]
The first time that TBMs were used in Canada for forest spraying operations was in British Columbia (BC) in 1957 (see Lejeune 1975). Four US-registered TBMs were leased from US contractors by Skyway Air Services of Langley, BC, to spray for Western Black-headed Budworm. At this time (May/June), Skyways owned several Stearmans, but they had been contracted to FPL to spray for spruce budworm in NB.
With the availability of surplus TBMs from the Royal Canadian Navy and with favourable performance reports as sprayers and water bombers in the US, Canadian contractors bought 15 TBMs in 1958. The decision to introduce TBMs into the NB spray program was not done without knowledge of their ability as sprayers in Canada.
The TBMs carried a much bigger payload than the Stearmans, and were considered to be safer for use in BC’s rough terrain.
Eventually TBMs came to New Brunswick from many locations in the USA and Canada.