/ Catalina

writing, 2017

On the morning of April 26th, 2017 I spent an inordinate amount of time looking up how to build my own airplane. This proved to be a difficult task, both learning of how to go about this, and the excecution of such a feat proper.

In my web excursions, beggining with the Po-2 Soviet reconnaisance vehicle turned nuissance night attack thing, I moved into the history of DIY aircraft. Self mades, with the Spirit of St. Louis my starting gun to my eventual Catalina trail.

Ken Stanford's brilliant reportage in images had me finding all sorts of clues to the history of this beautiful vessel.

The original craft, whose images I've rehosted here, were documented by LIFE magazine in the fifties.

resting on the wings

Another great write-up can be found here, and it uses many of Ken's images.

the converted interior

To quote Ken, it suffered a tragic fate.

"On the 22nd March 1960 Thomas Kendall landed at the Strait of Tirana and anchored the aircraft a short distance from the shore to spend the night there. They heard someone shouting but did not pay any attention. In the afternoon of the following day they were attacked with machine guns and automatic firearms from a headland nearby. The children were able to swim back to the aircraft. Mr Kendal and his secretary were wounded while trying to start the Catalina but moved it about 800 metres, unfortunately it ran aground on a coral reef. The firing lasted 30 to 40 minutes and no fewer than 300 shots hit the aircraft. The fuel tanks were perforated and 4000 litres of fuel poured from the holes but miraculously the aircraft did not catch fire. The sea was only about 1.5 metres deep and all aboard managed to leave the aircraft and reach the shore. On the beach they were captured by a group of Bedouins attached to the Saudi Arabian army, who had taken them to be Israeli commandos. They were eventually taken to Jeddah, interrogated and finally set free with the help of the American Ambassador. The Ambassador protested to the Saudi Arabian government but they refused to accept any liability for the attack and consequent loss of the aircraft."

I found the speculation as to the plane's origins rather amusing, and the pictures sublime.

the catalina as it is was a few years ago the catalina as it is was a few years ago the catalina as it is was a few years ago

It's here, if anyone is up for a trip

28°05'27.02"N 34°36'30.93"E - The PBY Catalina N5593V

Mid-2019 Update

It is now a marked place on google maps! At some point between writing this piece and my research, perhaps somewhere in that Saudi forum, somebody placed a named pin, Unfortunately, the condition of the vessel has deteriorated considerably: the tail is no longer attached, and some enterprising Saudi has made off with a wheel. The tail is also curiously very far from the main craft. Erosion is slowly eating this plane, but it's hard to imagine how it would get so far in three short years.

It's now also covered in far more arabic graffiti, which makes for a very odd culture mashup.

the catalina as it was in 2019 the catalina as it was in 2019