The New Zealand Catalina Preservation Society is focused on the preservation and operation of New Zealand's only PBY-5A "Catalina" twin-engine World War Two Canso amphibious flying boat, ZK-PBY. This is one of only a few remaining operational Catalina's left in the world.
Fifty-six Catalina's (NZ4001-NZ4056) were operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force between 1943 and 1953. Provided under lend/lease arrangements these were a mix of non-amphibious Consolidated and Boeing built aircraft. The Catalina's operated with No's 5 and 6 SQNs and No3 OTU, based at Hobsonville and various points in the Pacific. They were engaged in anti-submarine, shipping escort, air-sea rescue and transport roles. Unlike many other lend/lease aircraft, the Catalina's continued to be operated after World War II because they filled a vital role in South Pacific communications.
Efforts to bring an airworthy Catalina to New Zealand were begun by a syndicate in 1992, and ended with the unfortunate loss of the Boeing Canada built Canso N5404J during the ferry flight after an emergency landing near Christmas Island in the Pacific on January 14th, 1994.
A second project with the syndicate reorganised as the Catalina Club brought another aircraft (a Canadian Vickers built Canso, c/n CV-357) to New Plymouth on October 26th, 1994. This aircraft was originally delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force in March 1944, and operated on anti-submarine duties. Struck off on June 27th 1947, no records are available until it was converted to 28-5ACF status by SALA in Costa Rica in 1955.
The aircraft spent most of its life in Canada after being sold in July 1956, where it was operated by the Eastern Canada Stevedoring Co and a number of other companies (including Austin Airways of Ontario - Canada's oldest airline. As CF-JVC (and later C-FJVC), it was used to transport people and materials in northern Canada.
In 1988 the aircraft was purchased by French entrepreneur Pierre Jaunet. Jaunet operated the aircraft in Africa as Z-CAT, where the aircraft transported up to 16 passengers (+ 4 crew) between Egypt and Zimbabwe with 'The African Safari Company'. It was hired by the Peter Stuyvesant organisation in 1993 to fly an 'Odyssey' across the Atlantic and back.
With over 14,000hrs on the airframe, the aircraft was sold to the Catalina Club of New Zealand in 1994. Z-CAT made the 20,000km flight to New Zealand in approximately 87 hours over 14 days to become ZK-PBY (registered to The Catalina Co. NZ ltd 23 March, 1995. Painted in the blue and red 'Peter Stuyvesant' plumage when it arrived, the aircraft has been repainted in a wartime scheme to represent NZ4017 XX-T of No.6 SQN RNZAF.
Bush planes and the Canadian Wilderness
New Zealand's Catalina, ZK-PBY has had a very long and eventful career. One of its operators was Ontario based airline Austin Airways. As C-FJCV, our aircraft served for at least fourteen years supplying isolated communities in Mid and Eastern Canada. The following makes interesting reading, it is summarised from Larry Milberry, 1985; Austin Airways.
In the early fifties Austin Airways reached another milestone by acquiring its first large aircraft. Inco, a large Canadian mining company, was conducting a major nickel exploration program in the Ferguson Lake region, some 305 miles northwest of Churchill (Manitoba). Bush planes were being used to support local efforts there, but a greater airfreight capacity was required. Inco again approached Austin with a proposition, this time that it provide a Canso for the job.
Austin's first Canso was delivered March 26, 1952, and put straight into service. Freight was shipped up the Hudson Bay Railway from The Pas to Churchill, where it was assembled and loaded aboard the Canso, which would then drone up the Hudson Bay coast towards Ferguson at its steady 134 mph. It could home in on the beacon which Inco had installed at Ferguson, the only beacon in that part of the Arctic. The Canso was used to carry all sorts of loads: food, construction supplies, field equipment such as drill rods, fuel and so on. Fuel would be tankered from Churchill in one wing (700 gallons), much of it diesel fuel, or avgas for the bush planes. The Canso could make the trip both ways drawing fuel from the other side, though extra drums were sometimes carried in case some refuelling was required at Ferguson.
Voyage: African Cat to Kiwi Cat
It was a typical Zimbabwe pre dawn, cool, no breeze but with the smell of Africa in the air. Pierre Jaunet drove Captain Bob Dyck, First Officer David Andrews, Hostess Vicki Hollings, and myself in his landrover V8 through the deserted streets of Harare (Salisbury) towards the International Airport where engineer Harry Holdcroft and John Howroyd, assistant engineer/Pilot, waited patiently for us to arrive.
This morning was the culmination of almost ten months of work by the NZ Catalina Group; the start of the ferry flight of Z-Cat from Zimbabwe to Aotearoa. Contracts had been negotiated and signed, insurance arranged, aircraft prepared and crew trained and ready. A new HF radio had been fitted in the "Blister" compartment, together with power for the portable Garmin 55 and safety equipment - raft, jackets and beacon on the floor, a GPS aerial fitted inboard on the top of the port wing for the cockpit Garmin 100, a back up Garmin 95 fitted on the co-pilot's side, spare parts stowed away, fridges filled with food, and maps and charts on board. The HF radio and liferaft had been generously lent to us by Peter Pellew at Ardmore.
The History of ZK-PBY
(Serial No. CV-357, RCAF S. No.11054)
The New Zealand Catalina, registered ZK-PBY, was built under licence as a PBV-1A Canso A (A for amphibian) by Canadian Vickers in Cartierville, Quebec in March 1944. The aircraft, given the construction number CV-357, was a later unit of 369 aircraft built by this plant. CV-357, entered service with the Royal Canadian Air force and allocated the service number 11054. It is known to have served with No 5 Squadron from bases in Newfoundland, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
Little is known about Sn. 11054's war service. However Ronald McCLYMONT, at the time a Flight Officer with 5 Squadron based at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia has a couple of entries in his old Flight Log. An entry dated 29th June 1944 shows that he had flown #11054 practicing radio range for an hour and twenty five minutes. A later entry dated 25th September 1944 simply states another flight being a TEST. Ron further stated that #11054 aircraft was equipped with "Leigh Light" illumination equipment for attacking submarines at night.
#11054 was declared surplus and struck off charge on the 27th June 1947, having accumulated only 1142.5 flying hours.
Z-Cat and the Catalina Safari company
Our look into ZK-PBY's past continues as we look at her role in Zimbabwe, registered as Z-CAT. The following is a compilation from an African Safari Company brochure and letters posted on the internet website www.pby.com
The ancient continent of Africa-vast, wild and empty-draws people today as it did the hardy explorers of the last century.
But nowadays, with much of Africa discovered and rediscovered, it takes exceptional imagination and knowledge to put together an authentic African travel adventure. This tour represented the Ultimate African Safari!
Pierre and Antoinette Jaunet, with their 18 years of experience in exploring the remotest parts of the continent, did just that. They created a unique expedition, a full trans-Africa voyage aboard an amphibious flying boat with stops on the rivers and lakes of the East African Rift Valley.