Anacapa’s Airplane Wreck: TBF Avenger
It's 1944: two Navy bombers collide midair while participating in a training exercise over Anacapa Island. One goes down on the back side of the island and is never found. The other hits the ocean on the front side of middle Anacapa and sinks to the bottom. Between the two planes, three crewmen are killed.
The Grumman TBF Avenger came to its final resting place on a sandy bottom carpeted with brittle stars about 120 feet down.
Engineered in 1939 to replace the obsolete TBD Devastator bomber, the first Grumman TBF Avenger prototype flew in 1941, piloted by (as was customary at the time) its chief engineer, Bob Hall. The plane held three crewmen: the pilot, the turret gunner, and the radioman. It also had three guns: a .30 caliber machine gun in the nose and tail, and a .50 caliber machine gun in the turret. It could carry up to 2000 pounds of torpedoes or bombs. A bulkhead containing the massive vacuum tube radio equipment separated the pilot's section from the rest of the aircraft.
Although it had a wingspan over 50 feet, the Avenger had a revolutionary wing-folding mechanism that reduced its wingspan to 16 feet in order to maximize space on an aircraft carrier. The Avenger fleet became the U.S. Navy's primary torpedo bomber in World War II. Beginning in 1942, Grumman shifted focus to the F4F Wildcat, so General Motors began producing Avenger aircraft, redesignating them as TBM.
Diving the TBF Avenger Wreck
As it has been down for 70 years, not a lot of the TBF Avenger wreck remains. The tail has separated from the fuselage and the nose and cockpit are reduced to rubble. The wings lie flat against the sand, and the whole wreck is completely covered in brittle stars. We even joked that the brittle stars were holding it together, but it might not be that far from the truth.