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  Consolidated Catalina – PH-PBY
  „72 Jahre alt – und kein bisschen Müde!“
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Text:

Andreas Herzog

Pictures:

Andreas Herzog  Guido Buehlmann

Google Maps Position

To be able to fly once in a historic aircraft is probably a very special experience! If it is still a 72-year-old amphibious aircraft with legendary past, this is certainly a dream of every aviation enthusiast!
So our trip this year of the Aviation Club Basel, lead us to Holland for three days. Besides visiting the Volkel Airshow 2013 (100 years of Dutch Air Force) and a mandatory Spotter visit at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport; we were looking forward to the highlight of our trip: a flight with the Consolidated Catalina PH-PBY.

The history of the Consolidated PBY Catalina

   

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina PH-PBY (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina PH-PBY (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina PH-PBY (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina PH-PBY (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

With the first flight of the Catalina on 28th March 1935 and a production rate of around 3,300 airframes *(1936 - 1945) it is probably the most successful sea / amphibious aircraft in the world built in series. Around 1,854 Catalina's were pure flying boats without landing gear. Approximately 1,420 aircraft were built as amphibian models and passed their use provisions around the world.

During World War II Catalina's mainly took over their duties as maritime patrol, search and rescue aircrafts and, among other things, to protect the Atlantic convoys of Allied forces against enemy submarines. With its numerous different types of water bombs and torpedoes it was a feared feared opponent of the enemy's naval forces!
With over thirty different versions and subversions the Catalina served her duties in more than thirty-five nations worldwide!
In addition to the main suppliers
Consolidated company in San Diego; Catalina’s where also build in Canada by Boeing and Canadian Vickers as "Canso" and "Nomad". Further aircrafts where build under license by GST (transportny Gydrosamoljot) in Russia.  

After World War II many Catalina's still left in the stocks of the various naval and air forces of the world. Some planes were also converted to "Firefighters" and served for forest fire fighting. Today, only around two dozen of these elegant water planes are still airworthy and can be seen on land, at sea and in the air!
Star of the Catalina's is probably the legendary Dutch PH-PBY!

   

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina PH-PBY (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina F-ZEAR (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina  C-FHNF (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina  C-FHNH (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)
   

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina CF-NJB (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina N-6453C (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina N-8450C (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

   

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina Brazilian Air Force (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina former US Navy (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina former US Navy (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina Peruanian Air Force (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

   

Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina Colombian Air Force(Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina Dannish Air Force (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina Ecuadorian Air Force (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina former US Navy (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

   

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina Australian AIr Force  (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina C-FPQL  (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina G-BLSC (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina G-BLSC (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

   

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina C-FSAT at Losap Atoll (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina C-FSAT at Truk Island (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Four engined Catalina at Titusville, Florida (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann

Four engined Catalina at Titusville, Florida (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann

   

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina N285NJ (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina N-68756 (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina YVO-CFO-2 (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina ZB-CBA (Picture courtesy Guido Bühlmann)

This "72-year-old lady" truly made history

 

The PBY-5A with the registration PH-PBY has a very eventful history. The aircraft with the construction number 300 was built in 1941 in the new Consolidated factory at San Diego and delivered on 15th November 1941 to the U.S. Navy. The official identification number was (BuAer) 02459. She was the fourth aircraft of the PBY-5A, the U.S. Navy received. The PBY-5A was a development of the proven PBY-5 which now had a retractable landing gear.

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

The U.S. Navy allocated this aircraft to the VP-73 squadron and was deployed in August 1941 to Rekjavik, Iceland. Escorting convoys and hunting for enemy submarines were the main tasks of the Catalinas in Iceland. The convoy SC94 in June 1942 was one of the first major test of the PBY-5 to abilities protect a convoy. On 20th August 1942 the PBY-5 (02459) sank the „Milchkuh" (supply submarine) (U-464) under command of Kapitänleutnant Otto Harms, about 280 km east-southeast of Iceland where the boat was on resupply mission.
The pilot Lt. Robert B. Hopgood saw U-464
in rough weather and attacked immediately. At the first attackrun he released five Mk.17 water bombs on U-464 which literally lifted the boat out of the water. (The sixth water bomb could not be dropped). U-464 was now not able to dive anymore and Kapitänleutnant Otto Harms chose to scuttle his submarine. Before, he made sure his crew was picked up by the Icelandic trawler Skaftfellingur and later transferred to the HMS Castleton Newark. The sinking of U-464 was the first by a US. Navy PBY Catalina.
On 5. October 1942 the crew of Lt. G. F. Swanson saw the submarine U-582, just 15 miles away from the convoy HX 209. The pilot immediately went on to attack the submarine and placed six Mk.29 in a perfect attack pattern near to the submarine. U-582 under command of the 29-year-old Kapitänleutnant Werner Schulte was sunk with the entire 46-man crew. This was the second sinking of the PBY-5 02459 who wore the number 9 in the squadron VP-73 on her bow.

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

On 30. October 1942, VP-73 was redeployed from Rekjavik and replaced by the VP-84. The PBY-5A 02459 with the bow-number 9 was taken over and re-designated as No. 7.
Another U-boat to be sunk by the PBY-5A 02459 was the U-528, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Georg von Rabenau, on 25. April 1943. The sub was surprised at very low clouds and hit by water bombs that exploded in front of the bow and been heavy damaged. The outer flaps of all four forward torpedo tubes were so badly damaged that they could no longer be opened. U-528 was incapacitating. In this state, the boat was further attacked by a Halifax Bomber D by the RAF and forced by the corvette HMS Fleetwood to scuttle himself. 11 man of the 56 man crew lost their lives.

On 24. June 1943 Lt. Joseph W. Beach with the PBY-5A, saw another submarine the U-194 02459 under the command of the 33 year-old Kapitänleutnant Hermann Hesse, southwest of Iceland. He Immediately  attacked the submarine successfuly. The reports of this attack are inconsistent. Some sources talk from a homing Mk.24torpedo,  other reports mention the sinking by water bombs of the type Mk.29. Lieutenant Hermann Hesse and his crew of 54 man lost their lives.

The PH-PBY is not only the world's oldest airworthy Catalina, but probably the most successful of its kind in the history of the Catalina sea and amphibious aircraft
!

 

Missions after the war

After World War II in 1945 the PH-PBY was serving several different owners in Canada and the US., such as the company Rio Ten Airways (N18446) and the Canadian Transair of Winnipeg as CF-HHR. Precise information on the history / owner of PH-PBY in the years 1953 till 1972 are incomplete and difficult to research.

Some times in the past it was also used as a photo-aircraft for the well-known American Movie "Flipper" filmed in 1961 and relased in 1963. Eventually it was converted into a "Firefighter" and saw services for many years in Canada with the company Avalon Aviation as the CF-HHR. At times, the current PH-PBY could be seen in the same duty in Chile.

After the bankruptcy of Avalon Aviation in 1988, the Catalina was stored over many years in Parry Sound, Ontario on an open space; defenseless against the weather.
1994 the Dutch company CATAIR bought the "old lady" and restored it over many months until it was fully airworthy again. All the equipment for firefighting was removed and the "Cat" got her new colors scheme, including original roundels of Dutch Naval Air Service in 1942. In April 1995, she was flown as C-FHHR to
Holland. In February 1997, the Catalina was finally registered in the Dutch Aviation Register as PH-PBY.
Since its introduction to Holland, PH-PBY was based in Eindhoven, Valkenburg and finally based in Lelystad. Only thanks to the "Stichting Neptune Association" in 2004 under the leadership of founding member, Prudent Staal, and his entire team the PH-PBY was restored and placed in state that it was certified now, to carry up to 15 passengers on flights and landings and take-offs on the water (Splash & Go).
Not an easy task in recent years, there was heavy resistance by environmental groups and the Dutch Office of FAA to hand out the necessary license for the Catalina. Fortunately, all parties were able to agree and for a memorable flight with the legendary Catalina nothing stands in the way. Today, the PH-PBY (16-218) fly’s in the original painting of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Squadron of the 321 in the Dutch East Indies.

Comments on my flight experience

The very idea to be able to fly with this legendary machine can beat the pulse truly higher! As suspected you felt like on a patrol flight in the North Atlantic on the hunt for enemy submarines and protect convoys of the powerful allied forces. In the big "blister" you had a fantastic view and you was truly transported back in time to the dangerous Missions of these crews. Goosebumps!

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

Flight preparations

Even before my trip, I tried to make an appointment with the crew to be part of the flight preparation as well. Without problems, I received the expected email from Prudent Staal to be there, two hours before the flight at the hangar at Lelystad Airport for briefing. At the appointed time the entire crew arrived in a small minivan at the airport.
Short greeting and getting to know each other, and then came the most important moment: The "turn on" of the coffee maker! I devoutly listened to the conversations and technical terms by the crew and soon felt like one of themselves. One last sip of my coffee and then it started already.

While I was able to let off steam for an hour photographically in the Catalina and the hangar, the plane was prepared by the crew for the day ahead. Again and again they told me all the procedures and upcoming work, which ultimately gave me a detailed insight of a "pre-flight check". Finally, the large hangar doors were opened and the Catalina was drawn with the tow tractor on the apron for refueling.
The time went by very quickly and I almost forgot my colleagues, who were already in the pre-flight meeting.
So it was time for me too to be there!

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

Welcome on board

After the end of the meeting it was time for boarding the plane! All 15 passengers still had time to take a few pictures before boarding the Catalina.
Then it was time: "Last call"; Everybody on board? Our charming hostess, Esther Jacobs, pointed to each of us to his place. Business Class seats in a 72-year-old Catalina? This was certainly a surprise; I expected simple seats, covered with fabric. Why, I realized a little bit later!

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

Take-off in Lelystad

The vibration and roar of the two 1200PS Pratt & Whitney R1830 radial engines shook the plane and left us after a short ground roll majestically draped climb the sky with light clouds.

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

"Splash & Go"

While we were able to unbuckle us shortly after the take-off, there was already slight bustle among the participants. Everyone wanted to be in one of the mighty glass blisters at the rear of the aircraft, at the same time!
Of course this was not possible because of the weight shift on the plane. So Esther came with her charming smile and conducted us spotters like a traffic cop in the evening Bangkok traffic to the front, in the middle and at the rear of the aircraft. So we stayed fairly stable in attitude.
Now the two “Splash & Go” were imminent. The first time with landed with the floats unexpended, the second time with extended floats.
The landing and the re-start on the sea with the waves is probably nothing for people with back problems! Thanks for the soft business class seats! But even here, on the water, the two radial engines showed their true strength and power and brought us back up in the air without problems.
After about 40 minutes of flight, incl. two landings and take-offs on the sea we entered our short flight home to to Lelystad.
After landing we still had enough time to take some pictures and to describe our impressions in personal talks with the crew.
This was followed by a short de-briefing and handing over of dedicated personally certificate, which was probably something special for each participant and will get a proper place at home.

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

   

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

     

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

(Picture courtesy Andreas Herzog)

Condensed memories

Probably an unusual experience that has taught a small journey into the last century in which many soldiers and crews lost their lives for the freedom of Europe and the end of the Second World War. Them, but also the entire team of Prudent Staal our thanks goes to them for this unforgettable flight experience and the preservation of this unique, legendary aircraft.

 

Links:
www.catalina-pby.nl 

Book a flight with the Catalina PH-PBY
www.boeking@catalina-pby.nl

 
                   

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last update 1. August 2013

Written 20. July 2013

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