Rare Catalina Flying Boat Flies Into Prestwick
ONE of the world’s few remaining airworthy Catalina flying boats paid a flying visit to Glasgow Prestwick Airport last week.
The historic World War 2 aircraft, named “Miss Pick Up”, overnighted at Prestwick before flying on to Iceland for the Reykjavik Airshow to help celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of Icelandair which used to operate Catalinas.
It’s operated by Plane Sailing Air Displays Limited on behalf of Catalina Aircraft Limited which is made up of a number of shareholders. The enterprise is supported by its own ‘fan club’ – The Catalina Society. It regularly appears at air displays around the world.
The Catalina was an American flying boat of the 1930s and 1940s and was one of the most widely utilised multi-role aircraft of World War II – used in anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escorts, search and rescue missions and cargo transport.
The model that flew into Prestwick was registered G-PBYA. Built by Canadian Vickers at Cartierville, Quebec, it began service with the Royal Canadian Air Force in autumn 1943.
During the war the aircraft hunted enemy submarines, patrolling day and night along the coast of Western Canada. Postwar it was used briefly as a freighter, before joining a Search & Rescue flight where it served until finally being struck off the military charge in 1961.
It then went onto the civilian register and was converted to begin a long career as a fire bomber, fighting fires all over Canada with seasonal work in Marseille, France. In the 1990s the aircraft was purchased for an African safari flight project. The safari flying never got off the ground, and it ended up abandoned in a car park in Nanaimo.
It was here that Plane Sailing located the airframe and, after a long search worldwide, decided that the Catalina was the most suitable candidate for restoration and refurbishment.
The crew spent over a year fixing up the Cat before embarking on the month-long transit flight back to Duxford, going all the way down the Western coast of the USA, across and back up the Eastern seaboard into Canada. The lengthy route allowed them to be sure the aircraft was working well before crossing the Atlantic.
The ferry flight across the Atlantic lasted over 18 hours with temperatures of minus 26, but finally in March 2004, it arrived at her new home base of Duxford. In 2005 it said goodbye to the yellow, green and red firebombing scheme that had earned her the nickname ‘rasta cat’!
After much research, the historical livery of a USAAF OA-10A of the 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron aircraft was decided upon – this particular aircraft had operated from Halesworth, Suffolk, and is commemorated at Duxford on the glass memorial outside the American Air Museum.