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Some of the financial challenges of operating our Catalina

By 3rd May 2022Latest News

On the day when we return to display flying at the start of a new airshow year, it is perhaps worth reflecting on the past two years of limited activity and some of the financial consequences.

Catalina Society members and visitors to our Facebook pages will be well aware that operating a large vintage aircraft like the Catalina is an expensive business. In fact it costs money even when it is on the ground and this has particularly been the case over the last two years with a lot of flying being curtailed due to the pandemic.

Here is an insight into some of the costs we have to bear.

Over the 37 years that we have been operating we have developed a very good working relationship with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the fees that we have to pay to it have increased massively over the last 10-15 years, and nowadays amount to approximately £10,000 per year.

During 2020, when the Catalina was mostly grounded, and at one stage had all her display flying cancelled, we still had to pay the full price of CAA oversight. Our close partner and Catalina operator, Plane Sailing Air Displays Ltd has demonstrated a very high degree of compliance with all CAA requirements and so, during this time, reducing CAA oversight for a period of 12 months and reducing CAA charges similarly by 50%, seemed like a sensible concept.

With no income, how can a company survive?! As Willie Walsh (CEO of British Airways) said: “This is the biggest crisis that BA and the aviation industry has ever faced”. Life, and business, simply could not go on as usual. The pain inflicted in the world of business should be shared.” Our operation was facing the same situation.

The CAA response was no reduction and no consideration of the truly exceptional pandemic situation.

After a long series of discussions, and having paid part of the amount due, the CAA simply employed its solicitors to serve formal demand for the balance we had withheld.

Consequently, we have had to pay the charges or face being wound up. Where did this remaining £3,275.74 come from? It came from a magnificent response by Catalina enthusiasts and supporters, and by diversion of some of our limited funds from other more operationally appropriate areas.

As mentioned above, we have a very good relationship with the CAA and obviously we cannot operate without them. It is not a relationship we want to jeopardise but we do hope for a better understanding of the way we work and the challenges we face when fees are regularly increased and charged in situations that seem inappropriate to us.

We very much value the fantastic support given to us by Catalina Society Members, Donors and everyone who contributes to our cause by buying merchandise and paying to come aboard our plane at airshows. We cannot operate without you!!

Our website gives information on our organisation and ways that we can be helped through donations and Catalina Society membership.


Meanwhile, we look forward with positivity to our 2022 show season – starting today!

David Legg photo taken during 2021 and a period of inactivity at Duxford.

David Legg

David Legg is a life-long aviation enthusiast and has had a specialist interest in Catalinas since seeing several water bombing examples in British Columbia in 1977. He has been a volunteer with Plane Sailing Air Displays Ltd since its first season in 1985 and has edited The Catalina News magazine since 1987. He currently flies in Miss Pick Up as one of the team’s Crew Chiefs.