the Cat Pack — “Miss Pick Up”

October 4th, 2015

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.

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G-PBYA – detail

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G-PBYA – detail

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.

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G-PBYA – running

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G-PBYA – in flight

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!

New website!

September 25th, 2015

Check out the new looks! Freylia Studios has been completely redesigned to account for recent changes and updates, with new photos and designs sections filled with recent material. I also bit the bullet and decided to create Freylia Studios’s official Facebook page as well.

Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think!

the Cat Pack — N85U

August 20th, 2015

This series of posts will retrace a few of the surviving airworthy (or close) PBYs around the world, and their history.

N85U is no more.

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The last active Catalina waterbomber has been destroyed. The Cyclone-powered PBY-6A, which spent the last few decades based in Washington state, fighting forest fires, had been hired to appear in the upcoming Nicolas Cage war movie “Indianapolis”, when it was beached two days after its arrival there due to a leak. A misfortune for sure after spending months refurbishing and repainting the plane for its movie appearance. But the worst was still to come…

The plane was completely salvageable, although all the electronics were probably totalled, however the recovery turned to a complete disaster when the misuse of a crane destroyed the fuselage, leaving N85U a three-part wreck.

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the crime scene

It is especially infuriating and frustrating to see such criminal incompetence as PBYs do have a hoisting point on top of the wing for precisely the kind of lift that was required. Wrong tools and unfamiliar crews can make a dangerous combination… A very sad, completely avoidable accident, and the end of one of the most iconic planes in the USA.

Flying Legends 2015

July 17th, 2015

I have just returned from Duxford’s Flying Legends airshow and it was such a splendid experience that I find it difficult to put to words. For a week-end, I spent time in the 1940s, listening to Glen Miller tunes sung by the delightful Manhattan Dolls, photographing Spitfires, Warhawks and Mustangs, visiting Sally B., the last flying B17 in Europe and then hear her roar above my head, and even taking a ride in a 1943 DH.89 Dragon Rapide.

To make it short, I had a flipping grand old time.

Here’s a small sample of pictures taken at the airshow. More to come as they are ready, enjoy!

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Flying Legends 2015



February 16th, 2015

Here’s for something novel: After a year of delaying, procrastinating and whatnot, I’m finally publishing my India travel blog with a twist: one day at a time, one year later to the day. I’m funny like that. Head over to Saptapadi to follow our February 2014 Indian adventures.

Enjoy, and of course feel free to comment if you feel like it 🙂


January 4th, 2015

Happy New Year everyone!

So yeah, guess what, I’m working on clearing the daunting 2014 backlog both in writing and photos, so that I can focus on proper 2015 planning and events. I haven’t even taken last August’s US rolls to the shop yet (Ouch). Regarding the site itself, I’m thinking that it might be a good idea to have a wholly dedicated travels section now, actually, what with 4 travel blogs either published or in the works, and more to come… so I’ll probably do that.

So, stay tuned for news and check the site every now and then, not all changes might be announced 🙂

Cheers and fly safe!


new stuff

June 30th, 2014

Work is completed on the Romanian wedding set as well as on a series of street art pictures. I’m very happy with the results and I expect to be able to upload them in the next few days.  The Indian set is also very close to completion!

Exciting stuff!

the Cat Pack — 35 years

June 28th, 2014
Philippe Cousteau, Sr.

Philippe Cousteau, Sr. piloting the PBY-6A N101CS

This Cat Pack entry is a special one, as today marks the 35th anniversary of the tragic death of famed explorer and adventurer Philippe Cousteau, Sr.

N101CS on water

PBY-6A N101CS “Flying Calypso”

Cousteau was piloting his newly refurbished PBY-6A N101CS on June 28th 1979 for a trial run on the Tagus river in Portugal, after an extensive period of maintenance. As the crew was performing a high-speed taxi to test for leaks, suddently the great plane nosed over and cartwheeled. One of the wings was ripped off, its engine separated from the structure with the propeller slicing through the cockpit. The copilot lost an arm, Cousteau was killed instantly. He was the only fatality in the accident.

N101CS crash scene - wing

N101CS crash scene – wing

The cause of the accident has never been clearly determined. The prevailing theory at the time was that the plane hit a hidden sandbar or coral reef that the crew couldn’t detect and avoid in time. Some point at a nose wheel door failure, a notorious weakness of the PBY amphibians that caused many similar accidents. Finally, others point at pilot error, theorizing that the crew imprudently let the plane go into a vicious porpoise and didn’t realize it until it was too late.

N101CS crash scene - cockpit

N101CS crash scene – cockpit

Philippe was the son and heir-apparent of explorer and pioneer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. An accomplished diver, sailor and pilot, he followed his father’s footsteps and explored the seas with him on the famous vessel Calypso, and later acquired the PBY flying-boat to reach the places they could not reach by sea. With it, the Cousteau team had completed an extensive survey of the Nile river a few months before. He was 38 at the time of the crash.

To finish this note on a bit of a bright side, his children Alexandra Cousteau and Philippe Cousteau, Jr. picked up the family tradition, and co-founded the organization EarthEcho International, dedicated to raise awareness on environmental issues.

“I’ll never be able to fill my father’s or grandfather’s shoes, but hopefully I can stand on their shoulders and reach farther.”
–Philippe Cousteau Jr.

Not to worry. With such an heritage, you’re doing great.

Philippe Cousteau (December 30, 1940 – June 28, 1979)

Philippe Cousteau (December 30, 1940 – June 28, 1979)


Romanian wedding!

May 31st, 2014

Well the D90 proved more resilient than the guy predicted as it’s currently going through a Romanian wedding and performing admirably (admittedly with some nudging here and there, but nothing big…)
I took the opportunity to do this with a Vivitar 283, coupled to a Wein hot-shoe adapter. So far, with all the caveats of a trial run, the results are very satisfactory.

It helps that I’m not “on duty” here which gives me the liberty to run these little tests live without fear. W00t.

End of an era

May 18th, 2014

Looks like the end of the road for my formerly-trusty old D90… The repair shop refuses to repair it, and it probably doesn’t make sense to take it elsewhere. Pretty miffed about their attitude, but what can you do?

So I’m on the market for a replacement, and I shortlisted the Nikon D610 and the new Fujitsu X-T1. (Incidentally, I just got a Sony Xperia Z2 phone, and its camera is amazing for everyday use.)

Bumps on the road make it more interesting I guess… 🙂