By BRENNA GRITEMAN
Charlie Cartledge may have been destined to become a pilot.
The Findlay High School graduate (class of 1977) grew up on Middle Bass Island in Lake Erie. His father was from England and was a member of the Royal Navy, having completed his flight training in Canada. Their father taught Charlie’s brother to fly the family’s old two-seater, and Charlie flew his first solo flight the same year he graduated.
With help from his brother, the college-age Charlie Cartledge rebuilt an old plane. The brothers took that plane to an air show, where Charlie first laid eyes on a TBM Avenger.
He spent years looking for one he could call his own, finally finding an affordable one in Florida in 1999. Charlie, who retired as an airline pilot in 2012, spent 14 years restoring the old torpedo bomber, with his brother and some friends lending a hand along the way.
Charlie lives in Orrville, Ohio, now, and keeps his planes at a hangar in Port Clinton. He’ll bring the fully restored World War II-era plane to town for the Findlay Air Expo, being held 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 6 at the City of Findlay Airport.
The free event’s theme is “Honoring Our Aerial Military of Yesterday and Today” and will feature a display of current and former military aircraft. Community exhibits and food vendors will also be on hand.
Three continuous, free shuttles will provide transportation from The Cube at 3430 N. Main St., with on-site airport handicap parking available at 1615 Gray St. No other on-site parking will be available that day, although pickup and dropoff is allowed.
Matt McVicker, airport manager, is expecting about 13 aircrafts, ranging from World War II-era to current military planes, to be “static and available for up-close viewing” during the expo. One of those, whose appearance is being sponsored by Marathon Petroleum Corp. and One Energy, is a P-51D Mustang, an American long-range, single-seat fighter-bomber.
Three of the planes will offer rides.
McVicker said the expo brings awareness and access to the city airport to those who may not normally have much business there.
“It’s an opportunity for the community to come out and experience the airport environment,” he said.
Charlie will be flying the torpedo bomber during the expo and, if the weather cooperates, will fly in Saturday morning as the event gets underway.
“Most people like to see the mechanics of the wingfold,” he said, adding he’ll also bring a display with historical information.
According to information provided by the pilot, “This type (of plane) was primarily used onboard aircraft carriers in the Atlantic and Pacific, carrying a 2,000-pound torpedo or different bomb arrangements in its bomb bay and eight under-wing rockets.” It was operated by a crew of three and was built by Eastern Aircraft division of General Motors in the summer of 1945.
Charlie said the TBM Avenger has a wingspan of 54 feet and a cruise speed of 200 mph. Later models had radar installed, allowing for night operations.
He said the plane is always a hit at air shows, adding people are especially impressed at “the size of it and to think that, basically, 19-year-olds flew these planes.” Considering many aerial battles took place at night, he added, “It’s pretty unbelievable what these kids did.”