HK-2115P: A Colombian Story

This is not the story of an ordinary plane.

I first came across HK-2115P a few months ago, from the list published on the Catalina Society’s website. She is one of the few surviving PBY Catalinas left in the world, and among the even fewer ones that are still flyable, although in her case I am afraid it is merely a claim seeing the damage she suffered after years of abandon under the elements at Villavicencio Airport (VVC) in Colombia.

Already a huge PBY fanatic, I pretty much loved her at first sight. The intriguing  thing about it was that its history was quite vague and mysterious, with conflicting serial numbers and hints of a colorful past.

Well, I found her history at last, as sent to me by Colombian spotter Javier Franco Topper, who was kind enough to allow me to translate and publish it here. The picture at the end of the article is his and he took others that you can find at Airliners.net. The first photograph below is from an article featuring HK-2115P reprinted on Michael S. Prophet’s Vintage Aviation Pictures (article link below). Many thanks to both for their help.

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“Here is the information I have about this Catalina.

The plane residing at the Villavicencio Airport was part of a fleet of 13 Catalinas that were delivered to the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana, the Colombian Air Force, in 1946. After many years of operation, they were retired from active service in 1974 and the last survivors, FAC612 and FAC619, were struck off the record.

Then, Giovanni Bordé, a Colombian pilot and adventurer, decided to buy the planes and after many efforts and 17 years, he eventually managed to get the two Catalinas. Using spare parts from FAC619, he completely rebuilt FAC612 and registered it as HK-2115.

HK-2115 in Bogotá, Colombia, date unknown. Michael S. Prophet collection

HK-2115 in Bogotá, Colombia, date unknown. Michael S. Prophet collection

Now in order to fly it, the Aeronáutica Civil, the Colombian civil aviation regulatory entity, asks that he shows his license as official pilot of the plane. Bordé, who does not have such a license, travels to Venezuela, where he sets up a company and arranges paperwork so that he gets officially licensed as Catalina pilot.

The next step was demonstrating that the plane was airworthy. With members of the Aeronáutica Civil onboard, Bordé had to perform several take-offs and landings, which he could do without any problem, but also take-offs and landings on the water, something he had never done before. Fortunately, his very first water-landing attempt, with the inspection officers aboard the plane, went without the slightest hitch, and he finally got his operational permit.

For a long time, the aircarft was operated by the cargo company Tala. Later, it was re-registered HK-2115P, which in the old Colombian aviation registration system indicated a privately operated aircraft. Giovanni Bordé died in a plane crash in 2003 and since then the Catalina was flown only sparingly. For a few years, engine-runs were performed for maintenance, but after a while, disuse and lack of money made it a much less frequent event.

HK-2115P in Villavicencio, 20/04/2007 - photo by Javier Franco Topper

HK-2115P in Villavicencio, 20/04/2007 – photo by Javier Franco Topper

All this time, the aircraft has remained on the same spot, under sun and rain.

Today, the aircraft’s legal owner is one of Giovanni Bordé’s sons. I had the opportunity to talk with him and he confirmed that the plane was currently for sale with several interested parties. Unfortunately I lost contact with Mr. Bordé and I do not know the current status of the plane. From what he told me, he has all the necessary parts to make it airworthy again, so it seems that at least this jewel will not be abandoned.

Javier Franco Topper, 20/01/2010


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Make sure to read the accompanying article by Nicky Scherrer for a typical day in the life of HK-2115P ca. 1996. What a beautiful bird. If you know Spanish you can also read its story in Giovanni’s own words (as well as other similarly extraordinary tales of the Llanos) in El Alcaraván by Colombian author German Castro Caycedo.

Keep flyin’

-raph.