|Last updated 17 July 2023|
|CIVIL REGISTERED CATALINAS IN AUSTRALIA - PART 1|
Compiled by Geoff Goodall
Qantas Empire Airways' PB2B-2 Catalina VH-EBD "Island Patrol" ex RAAF A24-371 in New Guinea during the 1950s.
Photo: The Collection p1177-0333
| Consolidated Aircraft Corporation
at Buffalo New York designed and the
Model 28 Catalina series, which commenced production at Consolidated's
pant at San Deigo California for civil and military orders. During 1941
mergers resulted in the company's name changing to Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corp, and in 1943 changed again to Convair Aircaft Corp.
To cope with large wartime military orders for Catalinas of various models,
the San Diego factory was supplemented by a new Consolidated manufacturing plant on
Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans, Louisiana.|
Wartime Catalina production was sub-contracted to two Canadian manufacturers:
- Boeing Aircraft of Canada Ltd, Vancouver, British Columbia:
- Canadian Vickers Ltd, Montreal, Quebec - reformed in 1944 as Canadair Ltd
The Royal Australian Air Firce received 168 Catalinas of various models
during WWII. The majority were retired at
the end of the war but a small number continued in the SAR role and
for special missions. During 1946 the Commonwealth Disposals Commission
commenced auction sales of large numbers of retired RAAF Catalinas,
located at RAAF Lake Boga, Victoria and RAAF Rathmines NSW, which had
been respectively No.1 Flying Boat Repair Depot and No.2 FBRD
during the war.|
The tender forms for these disposals aircraft included a declaration that the Department of Civil Aviation considered the Catalina series suitable for Australian civil certification. Those in the best condition were purchased by airlines and civilian concerns with optimistic plans for civil air services. Many in poor condition were sold at reduced prices to various civilian concerns to be stripped for engines and spare parts, then broken-up for scrap metal. The remainder were handed over to the Department of Aircraft Production organisation to be sold locally at token prices as "aircraft remnants"- most towed away by farmers to provide a variety of parts for use on their properties.
1FBRD at Lake Boga and 2FBRD at Rathmines on Lake Macquarie serviced Catalinas of other military arms operating in Australia during the war - US Navy, Netherlands Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and RAF. In 1942 US Navy Catalina units retreating from the Japanese invasions of the Philippines and Netherlands East Indies had established bases at Nedlands on the Swan River in Perth and also Exmouth WA, code name Potshot. No foreign Catalinas remained in in Australia after the war to become civil registered.
This summary is presented in the following order:
|1. A pre-war visitor - Guba|
2 First RAAF deliveries - allocated civil registrations
3. Wartime Qantas Indian Ocean Service
4. Post-war RAAF Catalina disposals issued civil registrations
5. Other Post-war RAAF Catalina disposals
|PART 2: |
1. Imported civil Catalinas and visiting aircraft
2. Transitting French Catalinas to the Pacific
|1. A PRE-WAR VISITOR - NC777 GUBA|
Dyak natives unloading supplies from NC777 in Netherlands New Guinea in 1938. Photo: Wally Civitico collection
The first of the Consolidated Catalina family to be seen in Australia was NC777, a Consolidated model 28-3, from the civilian development models that led to the PBY- military series. Purchased from Consolidated by wealthy American zoologist Dr. Richard Archbold for research expeditions, it crossed the Pacific Ocean from California to New Guinea over 8 days in June 1938 for his third exploration mission of New Guinea. On completion in May 1939 Guba was flown from New Guinea to Sydney because Archbold had offered it to the Australian and British Government for a survey flight across the Indian Ocean by Australian Captain P. G. Taylor.
Consolidated 28-3 c/n C-3 Guba
NC777 in Netherlands New Guinea during 1938. Model 28-3 was
roughly equivalent to the military PBY-2
Photo: Wally Civitico collection
|NC777 at Rose Bay flying boat base, Sydney Harbour in November 1938. The large Qantas Empire Airways |
hangar for their Shorts C Class flying boats is under construction behind. Ben Dannecker collection
moored in the Williamstown boat harbour, Melbourne in
Geoff Goodall collection|
|A magazine picture at Rose Bay on the day of departure for Africa. L-R Gerald Brown (engineer), |
Lewis Yancey (Nav), P. G. Taylor, Russel Rogers (pilot), Richard Archbold (cigarette), S.Barrinka (engineer)
|Richard Archbold (right) and his pilot Russel Rogers board NC777 at Rose Bay, Sydney 3 June 1939, to begin |
the survey flight from Australia to South Africa. Geoff Goodall collection
|2. FIRST CATALINA DELIVERIES TO RAAF|
An Australian War Cabinet decision of 5.6.40 approved the purchase of
seven PBY-5 floatplanes plus 20% spare parts. The order was placed
through Brown & Dureau Ltd, Melbourne, the Australian agents for
Consolidated Aircraft Corp and other US manufacturers, including Pratt
& Whitney engines. Because the United States was not yet at war,
delivery to Australia had to be handled with diplomacy. |
The US Department of State dictated that the Australian Catalinas could be ferried to the last refuelling point in US Territory in Hawaii by American civil crews, then taken over by Australian civilian (non miltary) crews for the rest of the delivery to Australia. The Department of Civil Aviation approached Qantas Empire Airways to supply experienced long-distance aircrew from the Sydney-Singapore route with navigators licences. Qantas management, with thoughts of future expansion across the Pacific, gladly cooperated, nominating Captains, First Officers, navigation officers and flight engineers. Operations Manager Captain L.J. Brain was in charge of the operation.
The initial order by the Australian Government.was soon changed to 18. The first RAAF Catalinas were Consolidated model 28-5MA (equivalent to the US Navy PBY-5) and were delivered by Qantas crews. To assist official handling of these military Catalinas during the United States neutrality policy, DCA allocated civil registrations VH-AFA to VH-AFS. These were effectively radio callsigns and were never painted on the aircraft, nor were they recorded in the DCA Civil Aircraft Register ledger at the time. VH-AFA to VH-AFS were subsequently allocated to civil aircraft in 1945-46 when the normal allocation sequence reached the VH-AF series.
Meanwhile, Australian long-distance pilot and navigator P.G. Taylor, fresh from his successful Indian Ocean survey flight to Africa in Catalina Guba, personally lobbied Federal politicians and even the Prime Minister, that his navigation experience was essential for Qantas to achieve the task. Taylor was a complex character, well-described by experienced Australian pilot Harry Purvis, who Taylor selected to be his co-pilot for the 1951 survey flight from Sydney to South America and return in Catalina VH-ASA - see below.
"P. G. "Bill" Taylor was a visionary who had proved himself time and again a brilliant achiever. His Indian Ocean flight in "Guba" in 1939 for example, had been of tremendous stategic value during the war years and he had written about his exploits, and aviation in general, with great insight, style and ability. These attributes, together with his manner and attitudes, which sprang from a very much taken-for-granted upper-middle-class background, made him a natural associate of the statesmen of the day. It also madce him some enemies, both in the RAAF and civil aviation, when it was seen that doors in high places seemd to open more readily for him than for others. Bill rode over all this in his rather egotistical way."
Taylor's letters to senior politicians urging his inclusion in the Qantas contract are included in a Department of Civil Aviation file, held by National Archives of Australia. When his proposal was accepted, Taylor presented a list of his requirements, stressing his status within the command structure of each Qantas flight crew he joined and dictating such items as his Honolulu hotel accommodation must be superior to that of the Qantas Captains. One can only imagine the reaction of the airline's management to being instructed to include a non-company man, with no knowledge of the airline's operational cockpit procedures, who had a wide reputation as a volatile loner with high opinions of his own abilities. Nevertheless, such was Taylor's presence, that a Qantas Management report written by Operations Manager Captain Lester Brain, describing the first RAAF Catalina delivery flight which he commanded, included "Captain Taylor was in charge of navigation throughout the flight and his work in this department was tireless, methodical and efficient."
In December 1940 QEA senior engineer Dudley Wright and former Qantas
pilot, now RAAF Squadron Leader G. U. "Scotty" Allan were sent to
the Consolidated Aircraft plant at San Diego, California to familiarise
with the aircraft and prepare for the Australian deliveries. In January
1941 Qantas Operations Manager Captain Lester Brain and other company
personnel arrived at San Diego, having travelled across the Pacific
Ocean on the Pan American Clipper flying boat service from NZ to Los
Angeles. Brain's report stated that he had received every facility and
help from the American airline, allowing his party to study every
aspect of the oceanic operation and inspect the flying boat bases that
his Catalinas would soon use on their deliveries. Brain's report
"The Consolidated San Diego factory is in full production with 20,000 employees. A second factory is being erected and will also have 20,000 employees. At present the factory is working two shifts a day, each of 10 hours. Aircraft output has outstripped space. In some sections, work of semi-complete aircraft is progressing in buildings which are still in the course of erection. At this moment there are literally acres of large modern warplanes under construction out of doors. The fine dry climate makes this possible. Catalinas are being completed at a rate of about 8 each week. I have never seen higher quality workmanship."
The first Qantas delivery departed San Diego, California on 25.1.41 for Honolulu, under the command of Consolidated's pilot
E. J. Greer. Captain Brain was second pilot and also on board were Scotty Allan (listed as a QEA Captain to disguise his RAAF rank), P.G.Taylor, Dudley Wright, Qantas radio operator A.S.Patterson and two RAAF men returning home after service in Britain with No.10 Squadron, Sgts Bill Richmond and George Bemrose. At Pearl Harbor Lester Brain took command for the rest of the Pacific crossing, with P.G.Taylor supervising navigation. They refuelled at Canton Island and Noumea, reaching Rose Bay, Sydney on 2 February in 60 hours 16 minutes flying time. The first Catalina was a newly-completed RAF aircraft AH534 which the British agreed to divert to the Australian order because of production delays. Brain's report to Qantas head office Sydney:
"Departing San Diego at 1540 hours local time, we alighted at Honolulu 22 hours 5 minutes later. On arrival we had sufficient fuel for a further four or five hours' flying, the consumption being slightly higher than usual owing to the abnormal load at departure. In addition to ten personnel, there was baggage, emergency rations, equipment and miscellaneous gear supplied with the aircraft from the factory. Even the armour plating was not removed."
This first Catalina delivery flight was named Qantas Trip A, followed by 18 deliveries up to Qantas Trip S in October 1941, which was also under the command of Captain Lester Brain. No aircraft was damaged in this excellent display of aimanship by Qantas, carried out under wartime censorship.
|Two views of the first RAAF Catalina delivery by Qantas Empire Airways at Pearl Harbor in January 1941. |
The aircraft was RAF Catalina AH534 which had been diverted to the RAAF order to cover production delays.
QEA Operations Manager Captain Lester Brain is at far left.
Photos: Civil Aviation Historical Society, Lester J. Brain Collection
|Typical of the Qantas deliveries, A24-5 at Rose Bay in June 1941 at the time of its arrival from USA.|
Photo: Dave Eyre collection
There is considerable conjecture between aviation historians over the identities of the early
Qantas deliveries. |
Qantas Captain Lester Brain's report on the delivery operation sets the scene:
"On arrival at San Diego in early January 1941, I was informed by Mr. F.B.Clapp, Australian Trade Commissioner in the United States, that the first Australian aircraft aircraft would not be ready until the first week of February. At the same time I was informed that the first four British Catalinas were waiting on the ramp to be flown away, but the British delivery crew organisation could not cope at that time. Since the Australian and British machines were identical in practically every detail, even to camouflage and markings, it was suggested through Mr. Clapp to the British authorities that we take over one of the four so we could return to Australia on schedule, and our first could be taken by the British when ready. Long negotiations followed and eventually the British authorities enquired whether I thought Australian crews available at San Diego could take two RAF aircraft immediately to Australia, one to remain the property of the Australian Government and the other to be flown on to Singapore. Since Captain G.U."Scotty" Allan lately with QEA and now RAAF and Mr. F.B.Chapman, former navigator on the trans-Tasman service were in San Diego in addition to several RAAF radio men and engineers, I replied in the affirmative.
The two aircraft were readied for departure on 24 January 1941. Owing to weather conditions and other matters, departure was delayed until the following afternoon. At 0830 on 25 January, the British authorities changed their minds and decided the second aircraft would not go to Singapore. Rapid rearrangement of crews was made. We adhered to the original plan, whereby Captain Taylor, Wright, Patterson and myself, with G.U.Allen and two RAAF sergeants as supernumeraries, accompanied the three Consolidated Aircraft crew. Captain O. Denny was to join us at Honolulu. We took off at San Diego at 1540 local time on 25th January. The take off time was 47 seconds and we took water over the cockpit for some seconds early in the run. Alighting at Honolulu 22 hours and 5 minutes later, we had sufficient fuel for a further 4 or 5 hours flying."
All indications are that the identities of the deliveries were as follows:
- Trip A VH-AFA: AH534 departed San Diego 25.1.41, arrived Sydney 2.2.41. To RAAF A24-1
- Trip B VH-AFB: A24-1 departed San Diego 12.2.41, arrived Sydney 27.2.41. Changed to A24-2 on arrival
- Trip C VH-AFC: AH540 arrived Sydney 12.3.41, delivered from Australia to RAF Singapore 20-23.3.41
- Trip D VH-AFD: A24-3 departed San Diego 5.4.41, arrived Sydney 12.4.41.
- Trip E to Trip S: VH-AFE to VH-AFS: A24-4 to A24-18 in sequence, final delivery October 1941.
|3. WARTIME - QANTAS INDIAN OCEAN SERVICE|
Perth-Ceylon in radio silence-Karachi
|The wartime Qantas base on the Swan River at Nedlands, Perth in 1945. The RAF camouflage has all but |
worn off the nose of G-AGFL"Vega Star" in foreground. Behind are G-AGIE No.4 and G-AGFM No.2.
Photo: The Collection p1177-0303
This inspirational wartime operation created an Indian Ocean air link
between Australia and Great Britain. The pre-war Empire Air Route via
Singapore and Netherlands East Indies had been cut by Japanese
occupation and the only air contact between Australia and Britain was provided by US military
transports across the Pacific to USA, then across the
Backed by the British and Australian Governments, a non-stop Perth-Ceylon route was proposed. Qantas Empire Airways agreed to operate the service, their pilots flying Catalinas loaned by BOAC. Qantas established a small base on the Swan River in the Perth suburb of Nedlands, close to a US Navy Catalina base at Crawley Bay. The first two Catalinas G-AGFL and G-AGFM had been operating BOAC wartime services on Mediterranean and African routes for some time before being diverted to Australia. The pair, flown by RAF crews, made seven proving flights between Ceylon and Perth, on the northbound flights carrying Qantas personnel and equipment to establish the Lake Koggala base. G-AGID and G-AGIE were RAF Catalinas diverted to the Indian Ocean service just as it was commenced, hastily given civil certification in the name of BOAC in July 1943 and ferried to Perth. The fifth Catalina G-AGKS was transferred from the RAF ten months later to provide extra capacity. when the Qantas Perth-Ceylon route was extended to Karachi.
All five retained their RAF camouflage, markings and serials. On arrival Perth, each had a Qantas fleet number 1 to 5 painted in white on the tail, "Qantas Empire Airways Ltd"painted over the camouflage on the nose along with the aircraft's "star"name. With no radio navigation aids on the ocean crossing, navigation by celestial star-shots was a critical factor, so the aircraft were named after the stars used.
Qantas Tail number / BOAC Registration / Catalina model / RAF type / RAF serial / Construction number / Name / details
*Dual manufacturer serial numbers: first number is the serial number within the contract batch, the second number being the Consolidated serial number in the overall Catalina production. British and Australian official paperwork of the period only quoted the lower number.
The first Qantas service departed the Swan River Perth on 29 June 1943 and landed on Lake Koggala, Ceylon. Flights were operated in Japanese controlled airspace so radio-silence was maintained for the non-stop flights, time varying between 27 and 32 hours, depending on winds. The only mid-ocean diversion point enroute was the Cocos Islands, but it was avoided because of Japanese air activity. The Catalinas did land at Cocos on several occasions, one being 14.2.44 when Qantas Captain Russell Tapp commanding a Perth-Ceylon service agreed to divert to collect a Naval officer at Cocos - while refuelling on the lagoon from 4 gallon cans, a Japanese bomber flew over at 4,000 feet but continued out of sight. With no sign of his return, Tapp had ordered refuelling to recommence when the aircraft dropped a bomb from 15,000 feet overhead, missing the Catalina by 60 metres. The dinghy crew dived overboard and those on shore flattened themselves on the ground. The Japanese aircraft made no further attack but stayed over Cocos, probably signalling his base. Tapp had the diplomatic mail and safe-hand dispatches brought ashore in case the Catalina was sunk, but after refuelling departed safely for Ceylon.
The British CofA stipulated a Maximum All Up Weight of 33,000 lbs, but Qantas gained Australian DCA approval for MAUW increase to 35,000 lbs, allowing each aircraft to carry almost an extra ton of fuel. After much correspondence, the British civil aviation authorities finally agreed to the higher MAUW in January 1944, despite Qantas operating to that weight for six months.
With their heavy fuel loads, the Catalinas had a very limited payload, made up of highest-priority military mail and diplomatic messages, much of it micro-filmed to reduce weight. A maximum of 3 passengers approved at highest Government level could be carried. After a cramped, cold and uncomfortable trip, each passenger received a certificate The Secret Order of the Double Sunrise, signed by the Qantas Captain.
From Ceylon the priority mail and passengers continued by local airlines to Karachi where RAF Transport Command aircraft flew wartime routings to Britain. Qantas were later asked to extend from Ceylon to Karachi where the transfer to RAF would be more effective. This remarkable air service from Perth to India return each week commencing November 1943 covered a greater distance than Qantas peacetime Sydney-Singapore sector and would have been celebrated, but as a wartime military necessity it was operated in secrecy to protect the aircrew.
off the mooring ropes at Lake Koggala, Ceylon
|Nedlands base on the Swan River, Perth WA|
|Nedlands, Perth WA|
In June 1944 the British authorities released to
Qantas two RAF Consolidated LB.30 Liberators then being operated by
BOAC, to supplement the Catalinas on the Indian ocean route. G-AGKT and
G-AGKU had overhauls by Qantas at Archerfield Aerodrome, Brisbane
before being delivered to Perth on 18 October and 24 September 1944
repectively in Perth. They were based at the newly-built
Guildford Aerodrome (now Perth Airport), using the Australian National
Airways hangar just built for their DC-3 services from the Eastern
States. The Liberators which refuelled at Exmouth WA to reduce the
ocean crossing, brought an increased payload of 3,800 lbs which allowed
8 passengers in airline seats, plus baggage and the essential
diplomatic and priority mail. Two more BOAC Liberators joined Qantas
for the Indian Ocean service, G-AGTI and G-AGTJ, allowing the Catalinas
to be retired. The final Catalina service landed on the Swan River at
Perth on 18 July 1945, marking a total of 271 Qantas Catalina services
across the Indian Ocean.|
When Avro Lancastrians became available during 1945, the Liberators were retired and flown to Sydney. The original two were scrapped, but G-AGTI and G-ATGJ remained with Qantas as freighters VH-EAI and VH-EAJ, mostly used to carry engines to Qantas airliners across the growing postwar route network.
Qantas Liberator G-AGKT at Guildford Aerodrome, Perth in late 1944. The ANA hangar had just been built
and was still at Perth Airport used by Ansett Air Freight until the 1990s. Photo: Qantas
Qantas founder and Managing Director Hudson Fysh later wrote: "Once again I tried to get official recognition for the Catalina captains and crews and once again my representations were turned down. However Captains Crowther, Tapp and Ambrose were jointly awarded the Johnston Memorial Trophy "for outstanding achievements in air navigation"
Disposal of the Double Sunrise Catalinas
When the Catalinas were retired in July 1945, four were pulled up on to land on beaching-gear at Nedlands Marine Base, Perth, while G-AGKS had been ferried Nedlands to Rose Bay, Sydney on 25 March 1945 for overhaul. Because they had been originally supplied to RAF under Lend Lease, their disposal was placed in the hands of RAF No.300 Wing Transport Command in Sydney which operated Dakota and Liberator transports. They could have been simply broken-up for scrap, but the RAF authorities instead ruled that they should be towed out to sea and scuttled, which was carried out for G-AGKS in deep water off Sydney Heads. However the Fremantle traffic bridge blocked the Perth Catalinas from being towed along the Swan River to the sea. Seemingly oblivious to the cost, RAF 300 Wing command instructed that the four Perth Catalinas should be taken out of storage and made airworthy to make one last flight to land out at sea beyond Rottnest Island.
RAAF assistance was sought to provide current Catalina crews, and on 6 January 1946 RAAF Catalina pilots Flt Lt Ted Hodgson and Flt Lt Ted Withell and Catalina fitters Sgt Arthur Jones and Sgt John Williams departed RAAF Rathmines by Catalina to Rose Bay, then miltary transport aircraft to Perth. At Nedlands each aircraft was inspected and repairs made, especially extensive hull corrosion which had been unchecked since their retirement. Each was returned to the water for a test flight, before flying out to land on the sea at various locations between 13-18 miles west of Rottnest Island.
A RAAF crash boat was sent to Rottnest Island for each Catalina and marked the location for landing depending on sea state. The men on board were transferred to the crash boat in its dinghy, which was then rowed back to the aircraft by a Navy demolition expert, carrying two explosive charges brought from Perth on board the crash launch. He placed them in the bow and blister compartments, timed for the blister charge to detonate first to break the aircraft in two, followed by the other charge to destroy the forward section, to ensure debris would not be left floating as a shipping hazard.
| First to depart Nedlands was Antares Star which was given a 2 hour test flight on 16.1.46 and next morning flown out to a sea landing area marked by the the RAAF crash boat. The
4 RAAF crew were accompanied by a Royal Australian Navy demolition
expert, and unexpectedly, a RAF Flying Officer, who had been sent by
300 Wing to witness the sinking and ensure that nothing was removed
from the aircraft that might break the Lend Lease disposal agreement. Significant
maintenance was needed on the remaining Perth Catalinas, but the four
RAAF crew were ordered to stay until it was completed. The final
aircraft made serviceable was G-AGFM which was test flownFlt Lt
developed malaria and was replaced by Flt Ltd Bill Swan.|
The sinking did not always go to plan. The bow charge on Rigel Star did not detonate, leaving the wrecked forward section floating. After 200 rounds from 303 rifles on the crash boat, it began burning and later sank. The detonations on Altair Star caused a wing float to detach and float away. The two RAAF fitters were despatched in the dinghy, armed with a tomahawk from the crash boat's equipment locker, to hack at the float until it filled with water and sank. The RAAF contingent returned to Rathmines, by RAF Liberator transport from Perth to Sydney in a 9 hours direct flight, then to Rathmines on Catalina A24-10 which was sent to collect them.
The Catalinas were scuttled in the following order:
G-AGIE test flown 16.1.46, scuttled 17.1.46
G-AGID test flown 29.1.46, scuttled 30.1.46
G-AGFL test flown 13.2.46, scuttled 14.2.46
G-AGFM test flown 24.2.46, scuttled 27.2.46
G-AGKS scuttled off Sydney 3.46
|4. POST-WAR RAAF DISPOSALS TO CIVIL OPERATORS|
By the end of World War II, the Royal Australian Air Force had received a total of 168
Catalinas of various models. Soon after the end of war, RAAF retired all
but a small number of
Catalinas which were maintained operational for SAR duties
and special missions. The remaining Catalinas were stored at either No.1 Flying Boat Repair Depot at Lake
Boga Victoria, or No.2 FBRD at Rathmines NSW awaiting disposal. Some were parked on land, the flying
boat models mounted on beaching gear, while others were left on the
water, riding at anchor. An indication of their exposure to the
elements was over 20 Catalinas at Rathmines seriously damaged by
hailstones in a storm on Anzac Day 1946, causing dented metal work,
shattered perspex and torn fabric control surfaces. The
maintenance staff not yet demobbed were put to work on repairs. |
In October 1946 the Commonwealth Disposals Commission held the first of
a series of sales of retired RAAF Catalinas. This first sale invited
tenders for a total of 60 Catalinas located at Lake Boga and Rathmines.
Aircraft in the best condition, some flying only months before being
offered for sale, were sold for £1,000 each, with lower prices for
those in poor condition or with high hours since engine overhauls. The
CDC tender forms included a declaration that the Department of Civil
Aviation would accept the Catalina for civil use. A variety of
buyers bid for the Catalinas, at first those with plans to fly them as
civil aircraft. Many others were acquired by airlines or parts dealers
to remove the P&W R-1830 Twin Wasp engines, instruments, fuel tanks
and other parts to be held as DC-3 spares stock.|
Newspaper advertisements for the final CDC sales for a total of 34 RAAF Catalinas were published 6 September 1947. These remaining aircraft were described as "in fair to poor condition, offered as-is, where they lay." Also offered were 40 beaching-gear chassies for use with Catalinas.
|RAAF Rathmines NSW in 1945 with retired RAAF Catalinas anchored on Lake Macquarie, awaiting disposal.|
Photo: Australian War Museum
Qantas Empire Airways
In early 1949 when the RAAF decided its Catalina SAR detachment at Port Moresby would be withdrawn, New Guinea authorities urged Qantas to base Catalinas in New Guinea: VH-EBC was ferried from Sydney to Port Moresby in May that year, followed by VH-EBD and VH-EBU. Their interiors were much more spartan, based on inward facing side-saddle bench seating with tie-down points in the centre of the cabin floor for freight. Passengers are reporterd to have often helped hold the cargo down in turbulence. This pair were based at Port Moresby until 1958 flying coastal routes, the West Coast Service to Daru and beyond, and the East Coast Service to Milne Bay and beyond. An addition route was Port Moresby north to Rabaul and numerous stops at plantations and settlements along the New Britain and Bougainville island chains. Air-dropping of supplies to remote outposts was a common practice from the Catalinas.
The long ferry flights to and from Sydney for annual CofA renewal overhauls at Rose Bay was eliminated in 1954 when Qantas built a slipway at Lae Airport on the shore of Huon Gulf. The improved company maintenance facilities at Lae allowed QEA to overhaul KLM DC-3s based at Biak, Dutch New Guinea. The final New Guinea Catalina revenue flight was 24 July 1958 under the command of Captain Ken Montague. The two Catalinas were retired, replaced by Qantas floatplane Beavers and Otters. During 9 years of New Guinea service they had carried a total of 54,259 passengers and logged 12,427 flying hours.
Maintenance costs for the QEA Catalinas were always high, because of the endless battle against hull corrosion caused by salt water immersion. Qantas Engineering purchased a number of spare Catalinas which were stored for future use: see Part 5 below.
|These civilianised RAAF disposals Catalinas are listed in the order of their civil registration: |
|VH-BRA on beaching gear surrounded by other Catalinas at the Barrier Reef Airways base on the Brisbane River.|
Photo: Dave Eyre collection
Hayman Island Qld October 1950. Photo by Charles D. Pratt courtesy Kevin O'Reilly collection
61185 Island Chieftan
|VH-EBC "Island Chieftan"
in New Guinea.
Civil Aviation Historical Society|
|Photograph from a native canoe as passengers disembark from VH-EBC in New Guinea in 1949.|
Captain Hugh Birch standing. Photo: Qantas via Greg Banfield collection
|VH-EBC at the Port Moresby seaplane base circa 1957, in a later Qantas colour scheme, without a name.|
Photo: Qantas via Allan Bovelt collection
Magazine picture of VH-BDP at Port Davey, Tasmania in 1947 while carrying fish. The aircraft was painted |
in a dark colour, with large registration letters in white on the rear fuselage.
|Poor quality but rare view of VH-BDP in late 1948, while flying clandestine missions in support of|
Indonesian independence fighters fighting Dutch military forces in the Netherlands East Indies.
|This picture in Indonesian aviation magazine "Angkasa" shows the VH-BDP replica under construction in 1996|
|PB2B-2 c/n 61167 Island Warrior (VH-BDQ), VH-EBU|
|Qantas Catalina VH-EBU coming up to the mooring buoy at Rabaul harbour, New Britain circa 1950.
Photo: National Library of Australia
|VH-EBU at Rose Bay in February 1953 in retirement, registration painted over. Photo: Don MacKay via Ed Coates |
|PB2B-2 c/n 61197 The Buccaneer VH-BRB|
VH-BRB departing Rose Bay, Sydney 24 Octoner 1949 with a Trans Oceanic
Airways Sunderland at the right.
Whites Aviation (NZ) photograph
|PB2B-2 c/n 61159 VH-EAW|
at Rose Bay flying boat base, Sydney
State Library of NSW|
|Sabotage. The mangled wreck of VH-EAW being lifted from the water at Rose Bay in August 1949. |
Photo: The Collection p1177-0120
on beaching gear at Lake Boga in 1951, waiting to be scrapped.
Photo: Nigel Daw collection|
|Lord Howe Island June 1949, after VH-EAX was blown ashore on to rocks by a storm. Photo: Qantas |
|PB2B-2 c/n 61137 (VH-EBB)|
|PB2B-2 c/n 61165 Island Patrol VH-EBD|
|VH-EBD on its beaching gear at Port Moresby, showing the 4 windows each side for the rear passenger cabin. |
Photo: Ed Coates Collection
battered print shows VH-EBD at a typical New Guinea stop in the
1950s. Geoff Goodall collection|
VH-EBD in final Qantas white and red colour scheme, at the Port Moresby base on Fairfax Harbour c1956.This base with a wide slipway was built for RAAF seaplanes during WWII. Photo: Allan Bovelt collection
|PB2B-2 c/n 61154 Frigate Bird II VH-ASA|
|VH-ASA at Rose Bay flying boat base, Sydney Harbour.
Ben Dannecker collection |
|Minister for Air T.W.White farewells Captain P.G. Taylor (far left) at Rose Bay 14 March 1951 on his departure |
in VH-ASA for the survey flight to South America. Taylor's crew, wearing immaculate uniforms for the flight,
L-R Captain Harry Purvis, radio op Angus Allison, flight engineer H.L. Huillier, executive officer Jack Percival.
gets airborne in VH-ASA at RAAF
Civil Aviation Historical Society|
|VH-ASA in storage at RAAF Rathmines in the late 1950s|
1959 the Catalina was showing signs of exposure at
Photo by Trevor Fuller|
awaiting assembly at the Powerhouse Museum in June
Photo by Bob Livingstone
House Museum, Sydney.
Photo by Phil Vabre|
|5. RAAF CATALINA DISPOSALS SUMMARY |
Those that did not become civil aircraft
|Purchasers of RAAF Catalinas, additional to
the civil registered aircraft above:|
|Captain P. G. Taylor / Marinair, Sydney: |
Formed in 1946 by a syndicate headed by Captain P. G. Taylor, to fly scheduled airline services between Sydney (Rose Bay) and Lord Howe Island, with experienced flying boat pilot ex RAAF Group Captain Hugh M. Birch DFC as Chief Pilot. Two Catalinas were purchased by syndicate member Mr. A.C.M. Jackaman. The Catalinas were flown to the Cooks River adjacent to Mascot Aerodrome where a rough slipway had been constructed. In very difficult exposed conditions, work began on civil conversions for passenger use.
However Marinair was unable to commence operations because DCA Head Office policy in the immediate post-war years was to delay and obfiscate applications for airline licence from newly-formed companies, usually founded by wartime pilots. The DCA Director General's intention was that applicants would not have the financial backing to survive lengthy delay and the applications would lapse. Gordon Taylor wound up Marinair during 1947 when it became clear an airline licence would not be issued, instead negotiating the sale of 4 of the unconverted Catalinas to the Netherlands Navy (MLD) in Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia).
This table shows aircraft acquired by Marinair, the date sold by Commonwealth Disposals Commission and the purchaser's name.
All were PB2B-2 models.
|W. R. Carpenter Pty Ltd, Sydney / Island Airways, Madang, New Guinea|
W.R.Carpenter & Co Ltd had established a wide range of businesses
in New Guinea and the Solomon islands from 1920, plantations, trade
stores, cold stores, shipping and hotels. W.R. Carpenter began air
services in the
New Guinea goldfields in 1932 which was renamed Mandated Airlines in
1936. W.R. Carpenter Airlines was formed in 1938 to operate the
first airline service from
Australia to New Guinea with DH.86Bs and later Lockheed 14s
operating Sydney-Port Moresby-Salamaua-Rabaul route. |
The company lost aircraft and assets during the Pacific Theatre of WWII , but was determined to rebuild in New Guinea after the war. Mandated Airlines was quickly restarted with a large fleet of DH84 Dragons then DC-3s.
Island Airways was a short-lived flying boat operation on the north coast of New Guinea set up as a WRC subsiiary. Because of operational difficulties encoutered by the first Catalina VH-ALN Island Chieftan, the second Catalina VH-BDQ Island Warrior was not delivered to New Guinea, but remained in Sydney after civil cionversion.
|Qantas Empire Airways, Sydney |
In addition to the Qantas civil Catalinas in the civil listing above, Qantas purchased another seven PB2B-2 models from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission between October-December 1946 at Rathmines. At least some were ferried to Rose Bay flying boat base in Sydney where they were parked in the open for future civil conversion, or used for parts.
A Qantas Engineering report dated 1.8.49 lists the 14 Catalinas purchased by the airline. The following were not converted to civil aircraft and are are shown as "reduced to spares":
A24-300, -306, -309, -354, -355, -357, -367, -379
A24-355 was among those stripped of engines and parts and left behind at Rathmines. At an auction of these stripped airframes, A24-355 was purchased by John Cain and with three others, towed across Lake Macquarie to his Stoney Creek Holiday Village (see below)
|Butler Air Transport, Sydney|
Established by C. Arthur Butler in 1934 at Cootamundra NSW with two DH.84 Dragons operating the Empire Air Mail route between Charleville Qld and Cootamundra NSW where the air mail was transferred to/from NSW Railways. The base moved to Sydney in 1938, and restricted civil services were maintained throughout WWII. After the war, BAT acquired more Dragons and three C-47s from USAAF disposals in Philippines, to expand the route network to many new towns in NSW. It is reported that the C-47s came without spare engines, so the Commonwealth Disposals Commission sales of Catalinas, fitted with the same P&W R-1830 Twin Wasp engines, would have been seen as a way to obtain spare engines, instruments and systems.
When a group of 27 late-delivery Catalinas with low hours were advertised by CDC at RAAF Rathmines in August 1946 at a set price of £1,000 each, BAT purchased three and engaged a former company ground engineer J. E.Wood to remove the engines and useful parts and arrange their transportation to Sydney.
A24-202, -362, -376.
At an subsequent auction of stripped Catalina airframes at Rathmines, A24-202,-362 and -376 were purchased by John Cain and with A24-3, towed across Lake Macquarie to his Stoney Creek Holiday Village (see below)
|J. E. Wood, Lake Boga|
Sydney-based aircraft engineer who had been a senior Qantas ground engineer on the Indian Ocean Catalinas in Perth in 1944. In May 1945 he received harsh criticism from DCA over the standard of workmanship in replacing corroded hull sections of Catalina G-AGID at the Qantas Nedlands marine base. Wood was supervising the work while Qantas base engineer N.W.Roberts was away. His respone blamed lack of competent tradesmen after most QEA maintenance staff were transferred from Nedlands to Perth Airport for the Qantas Liberators.
By 1947 he had left his employment with Butler Air Transport at Sydney Airport to work freelance on Catalinas needing civil conversions. After working on Asian Airines' first Catalina at Rose Bay, Woods was paid by Butler Air Transport to remove and pack engines and parts from Catalinas the airline had purchased at Rathmines. With this experience, Woods gained employment at Lake Boga to carry out similar work for other Catalina purchasers, supervising a team of workers.
While at Lake Boga, Woods submitted his own tenders to Commonwealth Disposals Commission, and purchased four Catalinas which he stripped for engines and parts, for resale as DC-3 spares.
A24-21, -47, -66, -86
|Sydney Morning Herald / Herald Flying Services, Sydney |
This established Sydney morning newspaper formed a subsidiary Herald Flying Services in 1947 to develop aerial delivery of morning newspapers to NSW country towns. Commencing with ex RAAF Hudsons, HFS Manager Captain Harry Purvis created a network of routes where bundles of newspapers were handed over to agents at country airfields, or dropped from low flying aircraft. Two RAF disposals Dakotas were purchased in Scotland and ferried back to Sydney to join the operation, which was based at Camden Aerodrome, just south of Sydney. The aircraft departed with their loads of newspapers from 2am onwards.
The Catalinas purchased by SMH were acquired only for their engines, systems and instruments, to become spares stock for HFS. Ground engineer J. E. Wood was engaged to do this work for the Lake Boga aircraft:
A24-59, -87 at Rathmines 24.3.47, £1,000 each
A24-95 at Lake Boga 5.11.47, £180
|Australian National Airways Pty Ltd - ANA, Melbourne|
major domestic airline, operated DC-2s and DC-3s prewar, purchased
large numbers of USAAF disposals Douglas C-47s to build
up postwar services. Introduced DC-4s, DC-6s, DC-6Bs. These three
Catalinas were almost certainly purchased to provide engines, instruments and parts to be held as DC-3 spares:|
A24-37, -40, -103: all Lake Boga 15.10.46, £1,000 each
|Kingsford Smith Aviation Service Pty Ltd, Sydney:|
An aircraft aintenance and sales company established in 1945 by John T. Brown, who had been a senior Department of Aircraft Production military aircraft inspector during the war. He commenced by purchasing over 100 RAAF CAC Wackett Trainers from Commonwealth Disposals Commission, and specialised in civil conversion and modifications of ex-military aircraft. KSAS quickly became a successful operation and were the Australian agents for Auster Aircraft, selling over 300 new Austers in Australia. KSAS had a large spare parts division, and purchased the following Catalinas for engines and parts recovery, all located at Lake Boga for prices between £50 to £300 each. An inducation that KSAS was collecting spare airframe parts was that several of these were sold without engines. The stripped airframes were disposed of locally:
A24-4, -14, -19, -27, -28, -29, -30, -44, -56, -62, -68, -71, -80, -81, -83, -84, -88, -93.
- A24-19 went to a local farm, and the hull was last seen at Wallan Vic in 2001
- A24-30 went to farm, sections later used to rebuild a composite Catalina at Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum, displayed complete
as RAAF "A24-30"
- A24-88 fuselage became a houseboat on River Murray, to Australian National Aviation Museum, Moorabbin Airport Vic in June 2003, where it is under restoration as RAAF "A24-88/RK-A"
Former houseboat A24-88 under restoration at Australian National Aviation Museum, Moorabbin, March 2016.|
Photo by Ian McDonell
|Barrier Reef Airways, Colmslie, Brisbane:|
Founded in October 1946 by partners Captain Stewart Middlemiss, an experienced RAAF Catalina pilot, and Chris Poulson at Heron Island to operate from Brisbane to Heron Island and other Great Barrier Reeef island holiday resorts.
Low hours PB2B-2 Catalinas A24-369 & -364 were purchased from Rathmines and registered VH-BRA & VH-BRB, the airline commencing service with just VH-BRA. VH-BRB completed its civil conversion two years later and entered service in July 1949. A third PB2B-2 A24-304 was purchased at Rathmines at the same time but Middlemiss says he resold it to the Netherlands Navy.
Five other earlier model RAAF Catalinas were acquired for engines and parts. These were located at Lake Boga and sold by CDC on 10 November 1947 to Mr.S.C.Middlemiss, Barrier Reef Airways, DCA Flying Boat Base, Hamilton, Brisbane. All were in poor condition, sale prices a low £150 to £250 each, but were made sufficiently airworthy at Lake Boga to be ferried to the airline's base at Colsmlie, Brisbane River. These five Catalinas were parked around the wartime US Navy open-fronted hangars at Colmslie for some few years, parts being removed as required.
A24-35, -58, -78, -82, -89
|Australair Ltd, Mascot Aerodrome, Sydney|
details have been found about this operation. Two Catalinas were
purchased at Lake Boga on 5 November 1947, both in poor condition, low
sale prices of £160 and £170 each.|
|Asian Airways Pty Ltd, Sydney:|
|Refer VH-BDY in the civil listing above for background on formation of Asian Airways, In
addition to the civil-registered Catalinas owned by Asian Airways above, the company founder C.H. Campbell also
purchased 9 other Catalinas. |
The company intended to carry freight to South East Asian destinations and to base aircraft in Singapore and Malaya. The Asian Airlines principles had no aviation experience and their affiliations with the Australian Communist Party, combined with inadequate financing, resulted in the operation folding after only a few flights with Catalina VH-BDQ.
Malayan authorities had refused their application to operate in Malaya, almost certainly because of concerns that they would be supporting communist backed uprisings in Malaya and neighbouring Indonesia.
9 Catalinas were purchased at Lake Boga on 12 November 1947 for £355 each, except for A24-97 which was £155.
The £355 priced aircraft were in reasonable condition and Asian Airlines' initial plans were to convert the best to civil aircraft. However in the event they were stripped of engines and parts and the airframes left at Lake Boga to be disposed of locally or as scrap.
Two later model PB2B-2 Catalinas were purchased at Rathmines 30 January 1948:
Lake Boga: A24-46, -55, -60, -61, -65, -77, -85, -97, -102
Rathmines A24-303, -305
- A24-46's fuselage ended up on a farm in the Lake Boga district and was salvaged in sections by Warbirds Aviation Museum at Mildura Vic in 1970. Refer Lake Boga Disposals in this series on this site.
- When Asian Airlines was unable to start its planned operations to SE Asia later that year, A24-303 & -305 were acquired by Engineers Laboratories Pty Ltd in Sydney, who at that time were manufacturing passenger seats and other aircraft components. One is tempted to think they may have been in lieu of payment for seating and cabin equipment supplied to Asian Airlines' only airworthy Catalina VH-BDY. Engineers Laboratories on-sold the pair to Qantas at Rose Bay, Sydney and they became VH-EBA and VH-EBB.
| J. Botterill & Fraser, South Melbourne:|
Shipbuilders and boat repair company J. Botterill & Co joined with fromer RAAF pilot John W. Fraser in a business venture to operate Catalinas to carry freshly caught seafood from fishing trawlers at Port Davey in Tasmania to seafood markets in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. A24-26 was purchased from W.R. Carpenter Pty Ltd, Sydney in early 1947, possibly already partly converted to civil standard, and entered service as VH-BDP in May 1947 on the Tasmania fish operation. Operations ceased early 1948, VH-BDP sold in May 1948.
Two additional Catalinas were purchased 8 December 1947 from CDC at Lake Boga for £400 each:
A24-2: no civil conversion, left at Lake Boga. Included in the sale of VH-BDP in May 1948. Resold c1.50 to contractor A.E.Taylor at Lake Boga to be broken up for parts.
A24-10: VH-BEF reserved, no civil conversion, left at Lake Boga with civil registration painted on airframe. Included in the sale of VH-BDP in May 1948. Resold c1.50 to contractor A.E.Taylor at Lake Boga to be broken up for parts.
|A.W. Guthrie, Melbourne Vic|
Catalina A24-79 was purchased by Mr.A.W. Guthrie, East St Kilda on 26 November 1947 at Lake Boga. The Commonwealrth Disposals Commission sale price of £110 indicates the aircraft was in poor condition.
|A. E. S. Taylor, Lake Boga Vic|
Mr. Taylor wrote to DCA on 4.9.49 requesting the owners of Catalinas VH-BEF and A24-2, abandoned at Lake Boga. He wishes to purchase them to break up for parts. "I am at present wrecking a number of Catalina aircraft here on behalf of a Sydney firm."
DCA replied advising VH-BEF was owned by Major Daniels in Singapore and A24-2 owned by Botterill & Fraser, Melbourne which is in liquidation. The letter helpfully suggested that he contact Mr.Botterill at a residential address in the Melbourne suburb of Hampton, who should be able to assist. Taylor wrote again 20.3.50 thanking DCA for their help and advising he now owns both Catalinas.
|R.P. Carr, Ingham Motors, Ingham Qld|
Mr. Carr successfully tendered for three PB2B-2 Catalinas, each complete with engines and in good condition:
- A24-356 purchased 28.10.46 at Rathmines for £1,000.
Not collected by purchaser for over a year until 6.11.47. Fate unknown.
- A24-303 & A24-305 purchased 23.1.47 at Rathmines for £1,000 each. Mr. Carr made no further contact with CDC regarding payment for, or collecting his two Catalinas. A blunt letter from CDC to Carr dated 24.11.47 stated that because he had failed to make payment, the aircraft will be re-sold and he will be required to pay for any loss incurred. The pair were were re-sold by CDC to Asian Airlines on 31.1.48 for a very low price of £185 each.
Richard P. Carr of Ingham Motors, Ingham Qld had plans to start a airfreight service from Queensland to New Guinea. He purchased Ryan STM VH-AGU on 15.11.46 from Ryan dealers Briwn & Dureau Ltd at Geelong Victoria. It was damaged only two weeks later during a forced landing on a road near Ingham on 1.12.46. The damaged Ryan was sent back to Brown & Dureau Ltd, Geelong for repair and resale. Carr immediately purchased Avro Anson VH-BAZ from Brown & Dureau on 19.1.47.
Richard Carr came to DCA's attention the following year when he flew the Anson after its CofA had expired. His response stated that he used the Anson for transport in remote country for the Fortuna Mining Syndicate, of which he was a member. He sold his car business in 1948 and by the following year, the Anson was abandoned at Marybough Qld after waiting to start a CofA overhaul. Further letters from DCA were returned as "location unknown".
|Mr. Fitzgibbon, Stanmore NSW|
A non-standard disposal in 1950 was a USAAF OA-10A Catalina 44-34054 which had been left at RAAF Rathmines. It was offered for sale on an Australian Treasury disposal tender list, rather than the usual Commonwealth Disposals Commission.
This aircraft had been based at Morotai, Borneo in July 1945 with USAAF 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron and appears to have been later transferred to RAAF although no Australian serial number was issued.
44-34054 was sold to Mr.Fitzgibbon on 7.3.45 for £850 and apparently scrapped.
|Airmotive Supply Co, New York, NY|
On 29 September 1952, the final 23 Catalinas on RAAF strength were offered for sale by the Department of Supply. All were located at RAAF Rathmines where most had been in open storage for some time and were not in airworthy condition. 19 were sold "as is" to Airmotive Supply Co and struck-off RAAF charge in May 1953. It can be safely assumed they were acquired only for engines and parts, which were removed at or near Rathmines and shipped to USA. The stripped airframes were no doubt sold for scrap:
PBY-5A: A24-109, -114
PB2B-1: A24-200, -201
PB2B-2: A24-302, -307, -352, -359, -360, -363, -368, -373, -374, -375, -377, -380, -382, -383, -386
|Stoney Creek Holiday Village, Toronto, Lake Macquarie|
collection of former RAAF Catalinas beached at or near RAAF Rathmines
while engines and parts were removed by their purchasers, were now left
behind as stripped airframes. They were later sold by auction "as is".
Four Catalinas A24-202, -306, -309 and -355 were acquired by a
John ("Jack") Cain. He towed them behind a speedboat across Lake Macquarie to Toronto where he had built a holiday resort. The interiors of the Cats were fitted out as "floating bedrooms" as novel guest accommodation, moored at docks at the holiday village on the edge of the creek.
John Cairns' son, also named John, recalled the events in a recent story in the Newcastle Herald newspaper.
"I think it was Newcastle auctioneer Don McHattie who was working his way along the rows of planes and calling the auction from the back of a T-Model truck,’’ His father bought four Catalinas and turned them into floating accommodation on Stoney Creek, near Toronto.
"At the time he bought them, people said he’d never get them across the lake and under the old Fennell Bay bridge without taking the wings off, but he did it - with the help of a bloke from the Royal Motor Yacht Club who owned a speedboat. We used to play in the planes as kids. It was amazing what they left in them. They took out the engines and the armaments, but left flare pistols, smoke bombs, maps of the Coral Sea and tins of rations that I used to take to school and share with other kids.’’
John Cain Snr was a fiercely independent character who resented authorities. Bitter after the government confiscated the stock of his Newcastle tyre business during the war, he moved his family to a block of land on Stoney Creek. There he started work on what was to become a 23-cabin holiday park and a zoo. The cabins were all lit by electricity, supplied from army surplus equipment. Each had showers, toilets and iceboxes. They even had piped music and a PA system set up in every one, controlled from the front office. In the austere early post-war days, the holiday park also had ex-army Nissen huts and old buses where people could stay, and there was an outdoor movie projector, a hand-cranked 35mm machine that screened reels of Felix the Cat and other cartoon favourites.
The interior fittings of the Catalinas were stripped and souvenired by holiday-makers, and their use as overnight accomodation was soon abandoned because of anti-social behavour over night.
A flood tore through the holiday park around 1950, ruining everything and washing the three remaining Catalinas into the creek. Authorities complained that the wrecks were a hazard, and John and friends cut them up, selling the aluminium for scrap. One of the wing floats was turned into a canoe for John Jnr, and his dad wired up a converted starter motor to a six-volt battery, fitting a propeller so his son could motor around the creek. After the flood, the Cains moved over to Charlestown, shifting the zoo and animals but soon shut down. John Snr started a new tyre business at Islington which he ran on his own, becoming a recluse.
My thanks to Ray Fairall of Newcastle for the following photographs taken at the Stoney Creek Holiday Village:
|The scene circa 1949. Former 20 Squadron Catalina A24-309 "RB-Z" in foreground and A24-306 "RB-S" behind|
|A24-306 "RB-S"at Stoney Creek circa 1949|
|RAAF 42 Squadron code "RK-" on this aircraft has been roughly painted over.|
|Former 43 Squadron A24-355 OX-H with weatherbeaten paint and missing nose turret and rudder|
|A24-355 after the storm which washed away the Stoney Creek Holiday Village|
|Katoomba Lake Catalina|
|One of the Stoney Creek Holiday Village Catalinas A24-202
was acquired in 1948 by Horace "Horrie" Gates of Katoomba NSW, who had
established a successful amusement park near the Blue Mountains town. |
Gates was the owner pf the Homesdale Guest House and Wentworth Cabaret. During 1946 he decided that a new attraction was needed to bring tourists back to the Blue Mountains after the war. He dammed Katoomba falls creek and had an ornamental lake and amusement park constructed offering "every facility for fun and food".
A24-202 was carefully dismantled and moved by road from Newcastle to Katoomba, the fuselage being towed on beaching gear, in an operation overseen by former RAAF aircraft engineer Walter Smeal who had been a Department of Aircraft Production airworthiness inspector during the war. At Katoomba it was reassembled and spray-painted all silver with mocked-up engine cowlings and propellers. Anchored to a concrete block in the middle of the lake, holiday-makers could pay a fee to be taken by boat to go on board the Catalina. Other attractions included speed boat rides, tea rooms, miniature train, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, swimming pool and the "Giggle House" showing Charlie Chaplin films.
A later report said "Up to thirty visitors at a time paid two shillings to be taken out to the flying boat by punt where in the dark, stuffy interior, they viewed a Black & White film of a flight over the Sydney area, heard the story of the Catalina and tried out the controls. While the film was showing, an assistant would stand on the wing rocking the plane to simulate flight while the speed boat would circle the lake providing waves and engine noise. Fun seekers emerged from this surround-sound experience dizzy and gasping for air, many too ill to enjoy further amusements."
At its peak the Katoomba Lake holiday park operated as the region's swimming pool and provided a New Years Eve fireworks display and street parade. After a few years its popularity declined and it fell into disrepair and the lake water became polluted. Council purchased the land in 1952 with the plan to turn the area into a public park and treated-water swimming pool. In 1954 the Catalina, showing signs of age and wear, was pulled up onto the bank and left to the ravages of weather and souvenir hunters. In 1958 it was sold to Sheffield Welding & Engineering, Auburn NSW, dismantled and cut up for scrap.
|PB2B-1 Catalina A24-202 painted all silver, floating at the Katoomba Lake holiday park circa 1950.|
Photo by John Savage via David Vincent collection
|Presented by Australian Government to Netherlands Navy|
1952 the Australian
Government announced that it would present six Catalinas to the Dutch
use by their Navy (MLD) in Dutch New Guinea. All were PBY-5A
amphibians, in open storage at RAAF Rathmines. Their weathered
required complete overhauls, which the RAAF no longer had the capacity
to carry out, so a contract was awarded to Bristol Aviation Services at
Bankstown Airport, Sydney. |
The overhauls took place over the next 18 months. A Sydney newspaper report on 27.6.54 stated that so far only one Catalina had been completed and flown to Biak and that the overhaul cost which was estimated to be £192,000 would be closer to £300,000.
Each aircraft was collected by Dutch crews and ferried to Biak, Netherland New Guinea. There they were only operated for several years before replaced by MLD Martin Mariners:
A24-92 to MLD 16-223, spares recovery only
A24-99 to MLD 16-224, scrapped at Biak 1.57
A24-104 to MLD 16-220, scrapped at Biak 11.56
A24-110 to MLD 16-221, delivered via Brisbane 20.7.54, scrapped at Biak 8.56
A24-111 to MLD 16-222, scrapped at Biak 4.58
A24-112 to MLD 16-225, scrapped at Biak 1.57
|A24-112 at Bankstown in 1953 waiting for overhaul by Bristol Aviation Services for the Netherlands Navy|
Photo: The Collection p1177-0131
|Netherlands Navy (MLD) Catalina 16-222 on a test flight at Bankstown in 1954 was previously RAAF A24-111|
The Collection p1177-0105
* * * * * * * * *
|FOR MORE ON CATALINA FATES, SEE "LAKE BOGA DISPOSALS" IN THIS SERIES |
|References, Parts 1 and 2:|
- Australian Civil Aircraft Register, Department of Civil Aviation and its successors
- National Archives of Australia - Department of Civil Aviation aircraft files
- RAAF Status Cards, RAAF Historical: Catalina A24- series
- British Civil Aircraft Since 1919, Volume 2, A. J. Jackson, Putnam London 1973
- Aviation Historical Society of Australia Journal, monthly 1960-1975
- Flypast A Record of Aviation in Australia, T.W.Boughton and N.M.Parnell, Civil Aviation Authority 1988
- NSW Air Log, monthly, 1964
- Australian Air Log, monthly, 1965-1968
- Air Britain periodicals, 1950 onwards: movement reports, civil register and news
- Qantas Indian Ocean Service 1943-1946, Barry Pattison and Geoff Goodall, AHSA 1979
- Qantas At War, Hudson Fysh, Angus and Robertson, 1968
- Catalina Chronicle - A History of RAAF Operations, David Vincent, self-published c1982
- Consolidated PBY Catalina - The Peacetime Record, David Legg, Airlife England, 2001
- General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors, John Wegg, Putnam 1990
- US Navy Aircraft Since 1911, Gordon Swanborough & Peter M. Bowers, Putnam, 1990
- Wings of Gold - How the Aeroplane Developed New Guinea, James Sinclair
- Balus - The Aeroplane in Papua New Guinea, Volume 1, James Sinclair, Robert Brown & Assoc, 1986
- The British Air Commission and Lend Lease, K. J. Meekcoms, Air Britain 2000
- Lake Boga at War, Brett Freeman, Catalina Publications 1995
- Outback Airman, Harry Purvis with Joan Priest, Rigby 1979
- Syd's Pirates, the formation of Cathay Pacific Airways, Charles Eather, Durnmount, Sydney 1983
- The Historic Civil Register of Australia series VH-A, Tony Arbon & David Sparrow, AustAirData Publications
- The Katoomba Cat, David Vincent, Aviation Heritage quartly, AHSA June 2016
- British Aircraft Military Serials 1911-1979, Bruce Robertson, Patrick Stephens 1979
- US Military Aircraft Designations and Serials since 1909, J. M. Andrade, Midland County Publications 1979
- The Two Gubas, Jack Meaden, Air Britain Digest, Spring 1991
- Alan Bovelt, Pacific Islands Aviation Society, owners and aircraft listings 1968-1973
- Australian Seaplanes - a listing by David C. Eyre, Sydney 2015
- The Truth, Identities of QEA Catalinas, David Vincent: paper based on airframe log books and QEA Engineering records
- Those Rottnest Catalinas, Arthur Jones, AHSA Aviation Heritage
- Arthur W. Jones, ex RAAF Catalina fitter: interview transcript 24.3.91 at Harvey WA
- Catalina Flying Memorial website: http://www.catalinaflying.org.au
- Keith Mattingley, Perth: information re Catalina Memorial Foundation's acquisition of N9502C
- Matt Cobb for sending his Great Uncle's BOAC pilot log book entry for G-AGBJ
- David Legg: continuing correspondence: detailed analysis, updates and amendments for this page. Thank you David.