The Aircraft

Consolidated PBY Catalina (G-PBYA)

• Type: Consolidated PBY Catalina
• Operator: Plane Sailing Air Displays Limited on behalf of Catalina Aircraft Limited
• Year of Manufacture: 1943
• Powered by: x 2 Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp engines
• Colour scheme: USAAF OA-10A Catalina 44-33915 of the 8th Air Force 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron at Halesworth, Suffolk, UK.

G-PBYA was originally ordered for the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Canso A amphibian, basically equivalent to the US Navy PBY-5A. It was built by Canadian Vickers at Cartierville, Quebec and was allocated their constructors number CV-283 before adopting the RCAF serial 11005. It was taken on charge by the air force on 27 October 1943 and initially saw service with 9 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron at Bella Bella on the British Columbia coast between Vancouver and Prince Rupert. It was on their inventory from November to the following August. 9 Squadron had been based at Bella Bella for some time prior to the arrival of Cansos, having operated Supermarine Stranraers there. The Cansos were mainly operated from water despite their amphibious undercarriages and were used on day and night patrols, looking out for enemy submarines. By mid-1944, the threat of a Japanese invasion of Western Canada had receded and it was decided to disband 9 Squadron and close the station at Bella Bella. The Cansos, including 11005, were flown to Alliford Bay in the Queen Charlotte Islands, also in British Columbia, and transferred to 7 (BR) Squadron in August. The job was the same – anti-submarine patrols mostly – and 11005 remained with 7 Sqn until it too was disbanded on 25 July 1945. During this period of 11005’s service, it would have flown with an overall matt white hull and upper surfaces, the lower hull being gloss white.

With the war over, 11005 was no longer required in its originally intended role and it entered a period of storage at Moose Jaw before being converted to a freighter in 1948. Subsequently, 11005 flew with 413 Survey (Transport) squadron and, later, with 121 CU/CR Flight. It flew photographic reconnaissance missions surveying the Arctic regions, search-and-rescue and flood relief supply flights. In April 1949, it was re-designated 413 S(T) Squadron until, at the end of October 1950, it was disbanded. 11005 then passed on to 121 (Search & Rescue) Flight at Sea Island, Vancouver with whom it would have carried the hull code QT-005. It was finally struck off military charge on 25 May 1961. Purchased for civilian work it was used for firefighting pest control, general freight and fuel hauling and photographic/geophysical surveys.

The Catalina was eventually purchased by Plane Sailing Air Displays, there followed a long period of work on the aircraft to make it ready for the long ferry flight to the UK. The crew, Paul Warren Wilson, Rod Brooking and Garry Short flew to Duxford, to be met by a small band of dedicated crew and supporters, almost outnumbered by representatives from the aviation press, radio and TV!
Following its triumphant arrival at Duxford, it flew at a good number of airshows during the 2004 season, its first being a long flight down to Biscarosse in south-west France where it not only performed impeccably in the air but also made several flights from water, its first for many a year. At the end of the 2004 show season, C-FNJF entered a period of overhaul and preparation for British registry as G-PBYA and it was re-registered as such on November 19th, 2004. The start of the 2005 season saw G-PBYA still flying in its bright yellow, red and green colours. In May, it flew the short distance from Duxford to Cambridge where it was repainted in its current scheme representing a wartime USAAF OA-10A Catalina 44-33915 of the 8th Air Force 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron at Halesworth, Suffolk. It has now, like it’s Plane Sailing predecessor, become an established and hugely participant at air displays throughout Europe.
The Catalina is operated by Plane Sailing Air Displays Limited on behalf of Catalina Aircraft Limited which is made up of a number of shareholders. The enterprise is supported by its own ‘fan club’ – The Catalina Society.

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Images: John Dibbs