Duo Bails Out Of TBM Avenger
A Chicago pilot and his passenger survived bailing out of their TBM Avenger on May 7 over northeastern Arizona. Ron Carlson and Kenny Franzese hit the silk near Fort Apache in Navajo County after an apparent engine failure in the freshly restored warbird. The two were ferrying the big single-engine torpedo bomber from Phoenix to Chicago when things went wrong. "I was on the instruments and a big bang in front, and everything just started shaking,” Carlson told NBC’s Chicago affiliate. Carlson told AVweb in a podcast interview here was no place for a forced landing on the rugged terrain below and smoke was filling the cockpit and he was also afraid he wouldn't be able to see if he tried for a landing. He told Franzese to abandon the aircraft.
Franzese went first and clung briefly to the wing before letting go. Carlson followed and both were pretty banged up but mobile when they landed. Carlson had a broken rib and sprained ankle and Franzese needed surgery to fix a major facial injury. They spent a night separated before they found each other on a gravel road the next morning. Franzese followed a gravel road and found help, returning in a pickup truck with two forestry workers. "An hour later I was taking a rest and boom, a pickup truck comes by with Kenny in it," Carlson said. "So I know at that point, the adrenaline just went out and the next thing I knew I had a cold Gatorade in my hands--so that was the best thing.” The wreckage of the aircraft has not yet been found.
Carlson bought the aircraft in flying condition in Australia in 2017 and it underwent restoration in Stockton, California. He was flying it home from restoration when the mishap occurred. The Avenger was built for the U.S. Navy but spent most of its life in Canada, first in the Royal Canadian Navy and then as a waterbomber in British Columbia before going through various owners in the U.S. and finally being exported to Australia in 2006. The plane was re-registered in the U.S. in 2017 and underwent a thorough restoration, including making the wing-mounted machine guns functional. They get demonstrated in this short video shot two days before the crash.