Here is the latest news from around the world regarding surviving Catalinas.
Not for the first time, the news is dominated by Catalinas in Australia. The most exciting news is confirmation that another survivor exists, one that I have not previously reported! PBY-5A A24-79was originally built on a US Navy contract as BuNo 48344 but it was supplied to the Royal Australian Air Force ‘as new’ in January 1944. It had its undercarriage removed for the ferry flight, the main gear recesses being filled with additional fuel tanks. Some time after arrival in Australia, the ‘plumbing’ for the undercarriage was removed and it never flew again as an amphibian, being known by the RAAF as a PBY-5A(M). It served with 43 and 11 Squadrons and was placed in storage at Lake Boga after the war, later being sold to one AW Guthrie. From that point, it kept a very low profile but was acquired by Warwick Horsfall and some friends in the early-1980s by which time it had been converted to a motor cruiser for use on the Murray River. It has spent the last few years out of water on a farm at Mathoura, NSW. In our next edition we will publish more on the history of this aircraft.
Meanwhile progress is being made on the restoration of the PBY-6A VH-EAX at the Qantas Founders Museum at Longreach in Queensland. After a period of sitting engineless, two replacement ‘static only’ powerplants were placed back on their mounts a few months ago although props have not yet been installed and the bow area is weighted down with concrete blocks still. A re-paint is on the cards although a restoration to airworthy condition is not on the cards. As at April this year, preparation for a new livery was underway with most of its former bright yellow fire fighting colour scheme having been removed. I reported in our last issue that the long-dormant PBY-5A N7238Z had been acquired in Puerto Rico by the Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Trust (RCMPT). The Trust has now become the RCMPAI, the last two initials indicating Association Inc. The latest news at the time of publication is that the outer wing sections are now in Australia, having arrived at Kilaben Bay on Lake Macquarie, NSW on February 22nd. These parts joined the engines, rudder and other spares that arrived in November last year. Next to arrive was the hull section which was loaded onto a barge and shipped to Jacksonville, FL from San Juan. It then moved on by road to Savannah, GA for shipping to Australia and it arrived in Sydney on March 3rd. The last consignment consisting of the wing centre section was finally off-loaded from its ship at Sydney on April 14th and roaded to lake Macquarie the following day. Now the fund-raising to cover the re-assembly and static display will really have to get underway but at leastN7238Z has been saved from a very uncertain future.
On 25th April, all being well, the airworthy PBY-6A VH-PBZ will have flown over Lake Macquarie as part of the 2014 ANZAC Day Ceremony, giving the RCMPAI plenty of publicity. The Federal Aviation Administration in the USA continues to review redundant allocations and in the last few months several more long-defunct Catalinas have had their registrations cancelled. Towards the end of last year they included the Boeing’-built Canso A N5404J which was cancelled on September 13th as ‘expired 31Mar13′ but actually ditched in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Tahiti en route California to New Zealand; and PBY-5As N68743, N68758 and N68769 all of which were cancelled on November 12th as ‘expired’ although had ceased to exist many years before that.