This series of posts will retrace a few of the surviving airworthy (or close) PBYs around the world, and their history.
If there’s one bird I know well, that would be G-PBYA, a.k.a. “Miss Pick Up”, the white bird of Duxford where she’s being lovingly maintained by the dedicated crew of The Catalina Society. This aircraft was the first (and come to think of it, to date, the only) Catalina I saw “for real”, when they visited Barcelona for the Festa al Cel airshow in 2010. I saw it again two years later at the flying-boats/floatplanes meeting in Biscarrosse where it displayed how graceful it can be on water. For my third visit, it turned out she had something special in store.
As some of you may know, I’ve been collaborating this year on a special project called the Féria de l’Air, an airshow in Nîmes, southern France. This airshow took place last week on the 26th-27th of September, and G-PBYA was there, and I had the immense privilege not just of getting another tour, given by crew chief David Legg, whom I had the pleasure to meet at last, but also to fly aboard as a passenger during one of their rehearsal flights.
G-PBYA (CV-283) was built in 1943 in Cartierville, Québec, by Canadian Vickers for the Royal Canadian Air Force. This makes it a Canso A, which is a variant of the US Navy PBY-5A. After a long life in military and civilian service, it is now a regular sight on the European airshow circuit, where it flies in the colors of a wartime USAAF OA-10A Catalina 44-33915 of the 8th Air Force 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron at Halesworth, Suffolk.
Here’s a small, somewhat shaky video of my flight on this beautiful bird, with tremendous thanks to all the people involved:
Full album of the airshow available soon!