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)
photograph by Bill McDonald, 1975

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… 🙂

three continents, and an announcement

May 5th, 2014

Well it’s official, I’ll be setting foot on three continents this year. After India earlier in March, and a short hop to Romania at the end of May (not counting an even shorter hop to France to visit the family), I’ll be traveling to the US East Coast and Canada on my third American Road Trip™…
I was planning to renew my hardware a bit but it’s now unlikely to happen, and I sent my trusty D90 to the shop for a complete revision.

I’m about almost halfway through the India faux-blog and photo-processing and I expect to have it ready within the next few weeks, schedule allowing.

Last but not least, Freylia Studio has cleared the launchpad as a full-blown photography and multilingual design shop, after nearly two years of a slow maturation. I feel it’s now time to make it official and as such, I’m working on a slight redesign to formally reflect this new identity, that should be ready in a few days.

What a journey since the early days of August 2003… Here’s to a brilliant future!

To be continued.

the Cat Pack — N9767, “Princesse des étoiles”

March 23rd, 2014

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

CAT9767 article thumbnail

N9767 is arguably the most iconic of all PBYs that have survived until today. Once a U-Boat Hunter, then Photo Reconnaissance Aircraft, Transport Plane, Firefighter, Flying studio for the French TV channel TF1 on “Operation Okavango”… This Catalina performed virtually all the missions she was designed, then adapted for, and is still in flying condition today in France as N9767.

Created in collaboration with Angels One Five, today’s featured article presents an illustrated history of this venerable PBY, c/n 21996, from her launch in the 1940’s to her return to flight in 2011. It’s available in French (PDF/8Mb) and in English (PDF/8.2Mb).


March 23rd, 2014

Some news on the Designs front: I’ve uploaded a few brochures and articles created for Angels One Five, a collective dedicated to the preservation of vintage airplanes and warbirds. Discover the Ryan PT-22 “Recruit” and one of the most iconic flying-boat ever, “Princess of Stars” N9767.

some news

March 3rd, 2014

Back from two magical weeks in India, and if all goes according to plan, with new Cat stories to tell very soon. 2014 is shaping up to a glorious start!

the Cat Pack — EC-FMC, the Spanish Catalina

December 17th, 2013

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

Near the Spanish city of Toledo lies an airfield housing one of the few quasi-airworthy Cats left in Europe, EC-FMC. This PBY is peculiar in that it’s a -6A model that was retrofitted with a -5A tail in order to comply with Canadian certification rules a few decades back. Its serial number is Bu64064 and it was built at the Consolidated factory of Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans, USA.

View Larger Map

It also served in the French Protection Civile as F-ZBAZ “Pélican Noir” for a spell. In retirement after a long career in firefighting in Europe and Canada, it still has its water tanks installed.

Now under the care of David Pajus, its restoration unfortunately was plagued with legal issues and hasn’t seen as much progress as desired… You can read more about it at

La Legendaria Familia Stinson

July 30th, 2013
La Legendaria Familia Stinson - City Hall Barcelona, 09.06.2013

La Legendaria Familia Stinson – City Hall Barcelona, 09.06.2013

That’s the FB gallery while I’m cooking the actual section update. Stay tuned!

“taste” your limits…

July 14th, 2013

“If you have a dream of your own, you can make it happen. But you have to have a taste for the unknown.”
Bertrand Piccard, co-pilot of Solar Impulse – Around the world in a solar airplane