Way back in June 1993, I was at Eindhoven Airport, Netherlands, to see the PBY-5A Catalina Z-CAT fly in from Zimbabwe. That legendary amphibian plane was contracted by me for the first PST Catalina Odyssey, an adventurous flight around the Atlantic, which was supposed to start one week later from Schiphol, Amsterdam. We had kept the arrival of the Cat in Eindhoven well covered, so as to have time to first apply the white and blue PST decoration on the aircraft, before she would be introduced to the Press, TV, and the lucky contestants, that would make the first leg flight onboard.
To my surprise, a couple of men had found out about the arrival of the vintage WW II amphibian, and stood at the gate, waiting to see the Catalina roll out from the hangar, where she was paint sprayed overnight. One of the men stepped out to me and introduced himself, asking me the favor if he could see the plane inside the hangar. Michael was so eager to see that plane, I felt his passion right away and I let him come in. Ever since, we are friends: for almost 20 years now, we share that passion for vintage aircraft. We also share information, locations, tips and clues and those became very valuable for my Dakota Hunter trips, that I make since 1999 on behalf of my company Avionart. (see www.dakotahunter.org and www.avionart.com )
Michael produced the fabulous website about this 1993 Catalina Odyssey, the first version of this promotional TV covered event with Z-CAT. It was so successful, with the TV/ Mass media exposure and the Magazines participation in Holland, Belgium, and France, that my company decided to allow me to organize a second tour of the PST Catalina Odyssey in summer 1994.
We used a more powerful Catalina, stationed in Duxford, UK. This plane was flown and owned by an extremely good ex RAF pilot, Paul Warren Wilson, from Plane Sailing Ltd. It was the start of another epic flight over the Atlantic, to become the "Flight of a Lifetime" for all contestants, the press, the TV crews and the tour direction, my sister Corine and myself. We, as children from a Shell oil exploring engineer, had flown that plane many times during our kid years in Eastern Borneo, back in the 1950's, so for us it was as memorial trip to that unforgettable time on that Pacific Jungle island.
After I had seen Michael's tribute to the Catalina Odyssey 1993, I asked him if he could maybe do the same effort of selection from a thousand pictures and put it all together on his website for the 1994 episode. I am very happy that he accepted this laborious job and those we can keep the memory off all those pictures alive. Not only for those who were so lucky to have participated and were onboard, but also for all those who just love to see the magic of vintage aviation in general and an amphibian plane in particular. Ever since WW II, the view of such plane, landing on a stretch of water, has become very rare.
Take a look at the following pages, the versatility of this aircraft comes to life, in all its beautiful forms and on exotic locations, as one can only dream of.
Michael; thanks for the effort and the passion to keep it all alive, and for the visitors to your website, enjoy...
Pictures from Hans Wiesman/Eurotrading collection & Frans Lemmens Photography and Footage - www.franslemmens.com
More on a PBY pilots view from the 1994 Odyssey; written By Paul Warren Wilson http://www.catalina.org.uk/press-video/a-big-cat-visits-the-jungle-a3.html
Aircraft history: G-BLSC Consolidated PBY-5A 'Catalina' (Bu 46633 - c/n 1997)
This Catalina was one of 59 PBY-5As to be built by the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation at its New Orleans plant at Lake Ponchartrain. It was ordered under contract number NOa-464 for the US Navy and the serials Bu46580 to 46638 were allocated to the batch in addition to the manufacturer's construction numbers 1944 to 2002. Bu46633, the subject of this profile, was given the c/n 1997 and serial Bu46633. It was one of the last PBY- to be built as, shortly after it rolled off the production line at the very end of 1944, the -5A was replaced by the model -6A.
The US Navy took Bu46633 on charge on January 5h, 1945, and, between that date and its eventual military retirement, it is known to have served with various squadrons including VP-23, FAW-14, VPB100, VP-53, NARTU San Diego, NARTU Los Amitos and NARTU Memphis. Squadron locations included Pearl Harbor, Alameda, Chincoteague and Seattle. It was eventually struck off charge in May, 1956, and entered a period of storage at Litchfield Park in Arizona.
In 1956, it was purchased by Trade Ayer of Linden, New Jersey and registered N10023 but was later sold in Canada to Miron & Freres of Cartierville, Quebec for use as an executive transport. They had it registered as CF- and converted to so-called Super Catalina status. This involved the removal of military equipment including bow and rear turrets as well as the Pratt & Whitney engines. The bow was faired over and the power-plants were replaced with 1700hp Wright Cyclone R-2600s. The rudder was replaced with a squared-off design of greater area to give more directional control. An air stair was installed in the rear hull to allow easier access whilst on the ground. The modifications were finished off with prop-spinners, wheel hub-caps and a small dinghy under each wing. The conversion work was carried out by Noorduyn Norseman Aircraft of Cartierville who designated it a Super Canso SIC 1000.
In September, 1964, CF-MIR was sold to Laurentian Air Services and a year later went to Survair. By this time, CF-MIR had been converted for the aerial survey role and early on in its time with Survair it was fitted with large plates containing electro-magnetic survey gear at each wingtip. In subsequent years various other types of geophysical survey equipment was hung around the airframe and the wings.
In mid-1967, the US registration N608FF was briefly allocated although it is not known if the Catalina actually flew in these markings. It was restored to the Canadian register shortly thereafter. During this period it was operated by Firefly Inc, Aeroservice Corp and Barringer Research.
Back in Canada, it flew with Questor Surveys and Geoterrex Surveys/Terra Surveys. Geoterrex flew CFMIR out of South Africa for contract work and in 1984 placed the Catalina up for sale. It was purchased by a consortium of British air show pilots and flown to England in its new marks G-BLSC. Its new owners Plane Sailing Air Displays refurbished and flew it at hundreds of air displays throughout Europe, initially in RAF Coastal Command colors as JV928/Y of 210 Squadron and later as 9754/P of 162 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. It was also flown to South and Central America and back in 1994. Just prior to this it was re-registered in Bermuda, first as VR-BPS and later as VP-BPS. In 1995 it represented Coastal Command in the 50th Anniversary of VE Day Fly-past over Central London and the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace. Whilst taking part in a promotional flight in July 1998 the Catalina suffered an accident on Southampton Water and subsequently sank. The resultant damage led to the airframe being 'written off' although the substantially complete airframe was later acquired by the current owners who continue to work hard to restore the Catalina to airworthiness once more. The project is currently based at Lee-on-Solent airfield in Hampshire, having previously been located at nearby Hamble and Lasham
Aircraft History: Z-CAT PBY-5A ( CV-357)
The New Zealand Catalina, registered ZK-PBY, was built under license as a PBV-1A Canso A (A for amphibian) by Canadian Vickers in Carterville, Quebec in March 1944. The aircraft given the construction number CV-357, and built out of a batch of 369 aircraft's built by this plant. CV-357, entered service with the Royal Canadian Air force and allocated the service number 11054. It is known to have served with No 5 Squadron from bases in Newfoundland, Quebec and Nova Scotia. #11054 was declared surplus and struck off charge on the 27th June 1947, having accumulated only 1142.5 flying hours.
Little is known of its whereabouts and activity between 1947 and 1955 when it appeared in Costa Rica and was converted to a '28-5ACF' (civilian standard) by SALA in San Jose. This involved the removal of controls and gauges from the flight engineer's pylon position and relocation in the cockpit. The front gun turret removed and a semi-clipper bow added. Other modifications were added for safety. The aircraft returned to Canada registered as CF-JCV (later C-FJCV) and was operated by at least seven owners/operators including the Eastern Canada Stevedoring Company, Notre Dame Air Transport, Austin Airways, Aero Trades Western Ltd and Air Caledonia.
It then fell into disuse and was placed in storage at Reno, Nevada, until 1988, when it was refurbished for tourist flights down the Nile River by the Catalina Safari Company, Harare, Zimbabwe. During this period it carried the registration Z-CAT. The safaris continued until 1994, when political unrest in several African nations restricted civil aircraft operations. Z-CAT was hired from Catalina Safari Company, to fly the 1993 Peter Stuyvesant Travel Odyssey Atlantic Tour. She was flown to Eindhoven, Holland and received a brand new blue & red color scheme. The tour started from Amsterdam Airport and routed through France, Morocco, Brazil, Caribbean, Mexico, USA, Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland. Winners from three countries selected to participate in the four stages of the event which was filmed and later shown on TV in these countries.
In October 1994, Z-CAT left on its last ferry flight, traveling through nine countries, covering almost 10,000 nautical miles, in 90 flying hours, over 13 days, to arrive in its new home, New Zealand. Today, registered as ZK-PBY, this venerable aircraft is owned and operated by the Catalina club of New Zealand, a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping it airworthy for all to enjoy. The aircraft's markings currently represent a PBY-5 operated by No 6 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the Pacific between 1943 and 1951.