Once again there is plenty to report on in this update so here goes.
Close to home, at least for UK members, is some not so good news which briefly got some heated press on at least one internet aviation forum. PBY-6A L-866, formerly of the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF), has been resident at the RAF Museum collection at RAF Cosford for many years and in recent times has been kept indoors in lovely condition. However, a hardstanding was recently prepared for it and it has been moved out to external display. This cannot be a positive move and is to be regretted even though this particular model has no direct relevance to RAF Catalinas, being a tall-tailed PBY-6A with mods peculiar to the RDAF. However, things may not be as bad as feared as this statement from Andy Simpson, RAF Museum Curator states: “As the Museum gears up to celebrate the RAF’s Centenary in 2018 we have a number of aircraft moves and changes to our interpretation planned. As part of the Centenary plans, RAF Museum Cosford will receive four of our Battle of Britain collection aircraft so that the story can be properly represented to our audiences there. In order to make space for these aircraft the Catalina will temporarily be on external display. Please note that this is a temporary measure and we do plan on ensuring that the aircraft is displayed in a covered space.”
Another Catalina that has been ground-bound for many years is PBY-6A HK-2115P at Villavicencio in central Colombia. Over the years, its condition has worsened and according to my contact Pete Moody the fabric surfaces are not in the best of shape and require extensive repairs to make good, some cockpit parts have gone missing and the state of the engines is not known at present. Not so long ago a sale to a German party had been suggested but apparently this has fallen through. None of this sounds very encouraging!
In Spain, work continues to prepare the PBY-6A N24VP (ex-EC-FMC) for its trans-Atlantic ferry flight for new owner John T Sterling. Its props were hung on the engines on August 31st, the first time it has had ‘fans on the front’ for a very long time. There is still quite a long way to go before it is flown out of its long-term home at Ocaña but at least things are heading in the right direction for John and his Pacific Rim Catalina team.
Quite a lot continues to be newsworthy down in Australia. First comes the commemoration for the loss of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Catalina in February 1943. A bulletin released by the RAAF last March reported: “memorial services have been held in Cairns to commemorate the loss of World War II Catalina A24-25 and 11 crew members.” We will report more on this in our next edition.
Following its arrival from Puerto Rico in early-2014, the Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association (RCMPA) has not been slow in getting to work to restore its much-neglected airframe Our Girl to static display condition. Originally a US Navy PBY-5A, BuNo 48412, the aircraft had a long post-war commercial history, ending up in Venezuela before being acquired by an owner who had it flown to Puerto Rico. Here it stayed until being acquired by Malcolm Burns and handed over to the RCMPA in April, 2013. The dismantled airframe is currently stored in various locations in the Lake Macquarie area with the hull receiving most attention at the present time at its home at Kilaben Bay. It has been sand-blasted and primed and now has a ‘Black Cat’ livery. Some lower hull panels have been replaced and the plan is to fit a bow turret and bombardier panel in due course. Various hatches have received attention and the cockpit interior and instrument panel is undergoing a major refurbishment. After thorough cleaning, the landing gear will be extended so that the hull can rest on its undercarriage. The tail assembly is currently separate from the hull and is also receiving some TLC before being put back onto the airframe. The RAAF is carrying out a project to section one of the engines as a ‘cutaway’ exhibit whilst the other P&W has been restored to static display standard and there are plans to turn it into a ‘runner’ in due course. Meanwhile, the RCMPA want to find two old R-1830s to put onto the wings once they are restored.
Meanwhile, our own shareholder pilot, Australian Jeff Boyling and his daughter, were down-under a while back and met up with Malcolm Burns for a Catalina update. Whilst there, Jeff checked out the PBY-6A VH-CAT which is under long-term restoration to fly with The Catalina Flying Memorial Ltd at Bankstown, NSW. There is still a long way to go but work is progressing an a regular basis.
Malcolm Burns advised Jeff that the unidentified PBY nose section that has been displayed at various locations in recent years is now stored at Kilaben Bay along with the aforementioned Our Girl. After being located at Wagga Wagga, Nowra, Albion Park and, latterly, Rathmines, it had to be moved because of lack of space so Mike towed it to Kilaben Bay behind his car, getting many strange looks along the way!
Finally, in Canada, Bob Patullo, my contact at the Canadian Warplane Heritage in Hamilton, Ontario, tells me that former RCAF Canso A C-FPQL my fly again this year after being inactive for the last three years. Engine runs have been carried out recently so things are heading in the right direction.