FLYING IN ZK-PBY

By Phillip Treweek

After wandering round the aircraft and taking some photos, I dis-embarked and stowed my camera bag in the Tent from which the crew were operating (thanks Marlene). It wasn't long however, before it was time to re-embark. I was one of the last aboard, and as a consequence found myself seated on the aisle in the most forward passenger seats. From where I found I could look forward into the cockpit, and I could also hear the crew engaged in running through their checks!

I'm not sure how long this took - I was so fascinated I wasn't taking much notice of the time. Eventually the port engine burst into life, and after a little reluctance, the starboard engine soon followed. The gentleman sitting next to me commented that they were often a little reluctant to start when warm. In our ensuring discussion, I found he had been a Quartermaster at Lauthala Bay with 6 Squadron in 1942, and had ridden aboard the Cats a time or two. As we taxied out to the runway I commented to him that 'it must be odd taking off in a Catalina from land'. He agreed!

At the western end of the runway we turned, and the engines were run up. The aircraft then began to move forward, and I was surprised by the level of acceleration. The aircraft appears so slow that I hadn't expected it to be so strong. Lift off seemed to be extremely quick, and despite the vibration seemed quite smooth. We climbed to about a thousand feet and turned to run down the coast toward Mount Maunganui.

At this point we were allowed to leave our seats, and in small groups move toward the waist area. Four at a time was the suggested number. As I reached the waist, the aircraft was beginning to circle around the distinctive landmark of the Mount. By this time I was really buzzing - actually airborne in a Catalina! I found that being in the blisters was like sitting in a large 'bay-window' and the view was even better than I expected. The photographs don't really do justice to the effect.

The photographs show the view forward (left ), and to the rear (right ), although at this point I was standing in the compartment rather than sitting in the blisters. We were travelling slowly enough to make out all the details below. The host of a TV fishing show (Gone Fishing) on which the Catalina appeared had commented that the speed was such that 'if you decided to get a picture, you could go and get your camera and be back in time to photograph the same scene'.

After five or ten minutes we rearranged ourselves to let other passengers into the waist compartment, so I then moved forward. Standing on the step in the compartment behind the cockpit, I took the opportunity to watch the action in the cockpit. This is a cool way to fly! The aircraft flew inland over the harbour, past the Matua peninsula and over Greerton,before turning back into the circuit, approaching over the Central City.

 

So it was time to return to my seat. As we descended the gear was lowered - at this point I could see down through the small window at the top of the nose-gear bay. A particularly strange view to have as we came over the threshold. The landing was quite smooth, and it didn't take long to taxi-in. From chock to chock the trip was about half an hour - so that meant twenty or twenty-five minutes in the air. I can only say it was a wonderful experience, and I'm looking forward to doing it again! If you get the chance - take it.

ANNIVERSARIES ABOUND FOR ZK-PBY

By Lawrence Acket

In 2004 the Catalina Club of New Zealand (as the preservation Society was then known), celebrated a number of anniversaries in the week leading up to the Taupo Wings and Wine airshow held in March 2004.

Sunday the 14th March marked the Consolidated Vultee PBY-5a Catalina (actually a Canadian Vickers Canso) ZK-PBY's actual sixieth birthday, and the day was marked with a number of flights undertaken from ardmore over Auckland City. Special guests onboard were several children and teenagers from the Child Cancer Foundation and Canteen, as part of the Catalina Club's annual outing for these organisations...

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