Crazy for PBY Catalina Flying Boats

Catalina Flying Boat courtesy of Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Albion Park, NSW, Australia (8)

Sunday February 22 was my twenty-ninth wedding anniversary. Where I live, that’s not such a big deal. We have people living here who have been married for longer than I have been on this planet, and that’s getting to be longer than I am altogether comfortable with. Nevertheless, twenty-nine years is a personal best for me, not that I am altogether sure that is how marriages are measured either 🙂 . . . Anywho . . . moving right along . . .

Although I rush to assure readers that we spent a happy day engrossed in each other’s company, there was a moment when I logged on to the computer, and my goodness-golly-gosh, what a surprise was waiting there. My email box was inundated with ‘likes’ and new ‘followers’ thanks to US based fellow blogger, GP Cox – who writes about the Pacific War and other military history at – having re-blogged two articles I had written on the Catalina flying boat. What a thrill that gave me. His blog has a very wide reach, and I was amazed to receive feedback from more than sixty people. That’s a first for me. I have done my best to thank each individually, but if I missed you, let me just say I was delighted to receive such a positive response.

My fascination with Catalinas first began in 1974. I had moved to the eastern suburbs of Sydney, near to the Rose Bay flying base which ran a commuter service to Lord Howe Island. How I longed to take an island holiday by travelling there in one of those flying birds! Unfortunately the service was withdrawn in September 1974 before I had saved enough pennies. It was a sad day for me, let me tell you. There is still a restaurant on the water at Rose Bay called The Catalina, but its website only gives a scant nod to the original history.

So I never achieved that ambition, but from time to time in my travels I stumble across Catalinas. So it was that hubbie and I chanced upon the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum in Victoria (Aust), which is the post Pacific Paratrooper re-blogged. He also included a link to a follow up story on the Black Cats and Double Sunrise Service, featuring the Catalina of our local Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Albion Park, south of Wollongong, New South Wales (Aust).

There is obviously such a love of this craft that I decided to re-feature that particular Catalina. It is about to appear at the Australian International Airshow to be held at Avalon Airport, Victoria. The Catalina will leave Albion Park tomorrow morning with two pilots, an engineer and around half dozen other support people. The flight will take four hours and fifteen minutes, and the Catalina will perform flypast and handling demonstrations on three days of the show. Below is the media release, taken from the Airshow website

At the end of this post, I am including the photographs provided to me last year by HARS. However, I rang my buddy as I was drafting this post, and they were right in the middle of preparing the Catalina for tomorrow’s flight. He promptly took A LOT of photos for me. I am going to include them all here in a slide show, ‘cos I guess there are some enthusiasts out there who will love to see the details of how it is currently fitted i.e. military style. You will note that it was raining here today, but not too bad. The photos include the pilot ( in blue) Gordon Glynn, and flight engineer, Jim Marshall.

For good measure, I will also throw in a few photographs of the author with a Catalina taken last September at the Imperial War Museum Duxford in Cambridgeshire, England. You will notice it is not black 🙂


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MEDIA RELEASE Black Cat on the Prowl

A classic World War Two workhorse, the famous PBY Catalina flying boat, will be among the many historic warbirds soaring skyward at Airshow 2015. Catalinas were used extensively by the RAAF during the War and were dubbed Black Cats because they often flew night time missions behind enemy lines. (In fact PBYs were often painted black as a night camouflage). From bases in northern Australia they would probe deep into Japanese-held territory on assignments that often involved 30 hours or more continuous flying. Catalina crews mined many harbours including Hong Kong and Manila, inserted commandos into enemy areas and rescued many downed Allied aircrew. These long range seaplanes were slow, even by the standards of the day, with a cruising speed of 200 kilometres an hour however they boasted a highly impressive range of 5,700 kilometres. They were armed with 2 x 50 caliber machine guns in blisters port and starboard and 303 machine guns in turrets fore and aft. They could also carry 1,800 kilograms of mines or bombs hung from beneath the wings. It was the same bomb load as the B-17 Flying Fortress. Catalinas were fitted with the same Pratt and Whitney engines used on the Dakota DC3, power units famed for their reliability. The Black Cat appearing at Avalon is owned by the Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) and is painted to represent RAAF A94-362 as flown by HARS member Rees Hughes. It is fitted with wheels rather than floats. The society maintains the aircraft as a flying memorial to all Australian airmen who flew these hardy, durable and versatile machines during the War. The Australian International Airshow and Aerospace and Defence Exposition will be staged at Avalon Airport 24 February to 1 March.

Catalina Flying Boat courtesy of Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Albion Park, NSW, Australia (1) Catalina Flying Boat courtesy of Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Albion Park, NSW, Australia (2) Catalina Flying Boat courtesy of Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Albion Park, NSW, Australia (3) Catalina Flying Boat courtesy of Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Albion Park, NSW, Australia (4) Catalina Flying Boat courtesy of Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Albion Park, NSW, Australia (5) Catalina Flying Boat courtesy of Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Albion Park, NSW, Australia (6) Catalina Flying Boat courtesy of Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Albion Park, NSW, Australia (7)







26 thoughts on “Crazy for PBY Catalina Flying Boats

  1. Hello Gwen, my grandfather was an army captain. WW1 he was on the Western front. WW2 he escaped only hours before the Fall of Singapore. In 1943, Lord Louis Mountbatten requested for him to go to New Delhi. He left Australia on a Catalina from Perth to Colombo. Would there be passenger lists of those flights from Perth?


  2. A very late Happy Anniversary to you, Gwen. You mentioned one of my favorite blogs, that of GP Cox. My father-in-law had been a fighter pilot in the Pacific theatre of the war. I enjoy reading about the veterans of WWII. You’ve got some terrific pictures here. (You look terrific, too!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Qantas B747-400 VH-OJA Retires | The Reluctant Retiree

  4. CONGRATULATIONS GWEN!!!!! Happy anniversary for you & Bill!!!! And we wish you great success with your book!!!!!!!!! Kisses from Argentina, Isabel&Jorge


    • Glad you enjoyed it. I hope to bring more stories from the people at HARS. In the very near future Qantas’ 747-400 is coming to retire there. VH-OJA, aka the City of Canberra, holds the world record for the longest ever commercial flight, non-stop from London to Sydney in 20 hours, 9 minutes and 5 seconds in August 1989. The flight from Sydney to Shellharbour will be less than 10 minutes. Two time records for the same aircraft. Interesting, hey?


    • I agree, so slow too. They must have felt the proverbial ‘sitting duck’ as they lumbered along. And there is quite a difference seeing the military style internal as opposed to the plush Empire Air flying boat of the Qantas fleet. Practically stripped down to the skin.


  5. Thank you Gwen for such high praise, but you are the one who did all the work on the Catalinas. And here you are again with another interesting post on that wonderful aircraft. I’m thrilled you received an eager response. I know a great bunch of friends meet up at my site and I’m grateful for each one’s friendship. I’m lucky to have you there as well. Good to see I helped in some small way to get Derrick and you together – and now even more – outstanding!


    • There are some very interesting people out there in blogging world. I wish I could follow them all, but then I would never find ANY time to write. I am glad you liked the further story on the Catalina. Funny how the timing worked, I had no idea until yesterday that “ours” was going to the Airshow. Hopefully a story on the Boeing 747-400 coming up. Not military of course, but it is an historic moment for it to retire to HARS.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That certainly was the way we “met”. I had an amazing response from his re-blog on the Catalinas. Being a pilot instructor in the Great War would have been at the forefront of aviation. Do you have many of his stories, or any diaries? How wonderful for you if you do have such memories.


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