History of the N287
CV 28-5ACF: PBY-5A SUPER CATALINA, N287, S/N 48287
Written by Graham Robson

This 'Super Cat' was built as Consolidated Vultee 28-5ACF (PBY-5A) Catalina, manufacturer serial number 1649, in October 1943 at San Diego, California and was issued to the United States Navy in December of that year with the Bureau Number 48287. Service history details of this particular aircraft are scarce, but it is known that it served until demob in 1956, when it joined the ranks of retired Navy types in their desert storage facility at Litchfield Park, Arizona. Sold at auction soon afterwards it took the registration N10017, possibly to facilitate its sale to Canadian operator Questor Surveys Limited, of Toronto, Ontario in 1959. Once in Canada it acquired local marks CF-JMS and began a long career in aerial surveying and mapping, not uncommon for PBYs of the time, which was probably instrumental to its survival. In the early 1960s Timmins Aviation undertook the modification of the airframe to 'Super Cat' status, involving the removal of all military equipment including bow and rear turrets as well as replacing the original 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines with Wright Cyclone R-2600 power-plants, rated at 1,700 hp. To compensate for this significant increase in power, the PBY's tail area was increased with the fitting of a new, larger rudder with a squared off tip offering more directional control. In addition, a ventral air-stair was fitted to assist in ground handling. Following the modification, the aircraft was given a Standard Airworthiness Certificate making it eligible for passenger carrying, up to a maximum of 22 persons; making this one of the few current airworthy PBY's to hold such a certification.

In 'Super Catalina' configuration, its survey life continued, the significant performance increase making it even more suitable in this role, which at times included towing aerial sensors. 1964 saw the 'Cat' operating survey missions in Australia with Selco Explorations as VH-UMS before resuming operation with Questor in Canadian skies under its previous registration, with further work on behalf of various survey companies including Kentings, and Barringer Surveys Limited. Questor exported the aircraft to the US in 1973 as N16647, but records show it was soon back north of the border with Austin Airways of Timmins Ontario as C-GGDW by August 1975. Its final career move saw it flying for well-known PBY operator Geoterrex Ltd of Ottawa, after which it was offered for sale in the early 1980s.

New owner Jack Leavis of Miami, Florida purchased the Super Catalina and had it flown to Opa Locka airport in Florida in 1984, having reverted to N16647. Leavis, a Boeing 727 Captain with Japan Air Lines, also owned a former US Navy Douglas C-117D, which along with the PBY were offered for sale. At the time both aircraft were languishing on the eastern side of Opa Locka, with the grass growing long around them. Southern Florida resident and airline Captain Charlie Clements had known of the PBY at Opa Locka for a number of years and, having been brought up in the Keys around flying boats (his father also flew for the airlines and owned a Republic Seabee) entered into negotiations to buy. Eventually, in February 1989, a deal was concluded, with Charlie shaking on a deal "Too good to miss", which saw him obtaining not only the PBY but the C-117 'Super Dak' as well!

Super Catalina fun by Graham Robson http://www.airsceneuk.org.uk/hangar/2005/pby/pby.htm

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