Catalina News

Piloted by Chris Geozzine and John Dodd, THE CATALINA HAS FLOWN......


Tuesday 8th December. This morning at 10.32, PBY-5A (N423RS) departed Lee for North Weald having spent 8 years and 1 month on the ground.   She made a faultless ferry flight and arrived safely at her destination at 12.30.   This was the culmination of a valiant effort by many people over the past 14 months in conditions which, at times, were little short of appalling!   The Catalina team - owner, flight crew, engineers, volunteers - are extremely grateful for the generous and willing help offered by so many enthusiastic aviators at Lee-on-the-Solent, without which the flight could not have know who you are!   Many many thanks and a Happy Christmas and successful New Year to you all.   Thank you again! - Geoff Pell









Portsmouth News coverage here. Thanks to Pete Stanton for lining that up.


STOP PRESS! 7th December - a departure time of 10.00 tomorrow, Tuesday 8th Dec, has been set for the departure of the Cat.   Everything is now in place but with the caveat that the weather will have the final say.....

19th November - Departure Date Announced!A departure date of Sunday 6th December has been set for N423RS.   As with any date such as this, it will depend on weather (we don't want anything like last Saturday!) and last minute serviceability.   The team will start final preps w/c 30th November and all being well, it is planned to move the aircraft to the Britten-Norman/Gliding Club pan a couple of days prior to departure to avert any snags with the fence!!!   Please check this section out regularly as I will post updates if/when they become available - Geoff Pell

14th November - The pilot has now been arranged for the ferry flight.   The requirement to conduct last minute main gear retraction tests however, means that we are on the hunt for 2 x 5-10 ton jacks!   Unfortunately those used for earlier tests are no longer available.   If any one viewing this site knows where we can obtain such jacks (we will provide labour, transport etc.) I would be grateful if they could contact me direct at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   Thank you - Geoff Pell

10th November - The engines are tried and tested....the paperwork is complete (we know that because it now weighs as much as the aircraft!!!)....but where oh where are the pilots?   The original choice of pilot for P1 has flown to Thailand to continue the ferry flight of a Catalina (yes, another one) from Madrid to Australia.   We are now investigating securing the services of another Dutch PBY-rated pilot (currently Chief Pilot with PH-PBY - the Lelystad-based Cat) and should have an answer shortly.   Keep WILL happen...eventually.....

4th November - Both engines were run successfully (no known snags) this afternoon which is a considerable relief to all concerned.   The next milestone is to check availability of pilots and then to conduct final gear swings prior to departure.   The aim is to have the aircraft out by the end of next week - 13th November.   It is possible that the Cat will be moved (either own power or Gliding Club tug) to the pan between the Bellmans on the western dispersal a day or so prior to departure.   Preparations are going according to plan but I will post any further news HERE as and when it becomes available.

3rd November - The frustrating and seemingly endless paper chase relating to the registration of the Catalina has finally reached a successful conclusion.   Yesterday, 2nd November, No1 engine was run successfully and tomorrow, 4th November, a confidence check will be carried out on No2 engine.   There is talk of the aircraft being ready for a ferry flight as early as the middle of week commencing 9th November.   It depends on pilot availability and any last minute snags - in particular with main and nose gear swings which will also take place shortly.   I will endeavour to give people as much notice as possible and will post updates as and when they occur....HERE!

14th August - After a number of false dawns, the Cat has finally been granted a Ferry Permit!   It remains now for full power runs and retraction tests to be completed before a departure date can be confirmed.   Bitter experience has shown that it would be rash to predict a date, however an early to mid-September slot is looking likely.   Watch this space....very closely!

31st July - At last, some news on the Cat front!   Apparently the lengthy paperwork procedures may have been overcome and plans are afoot for the aircraft to be re-inspected by the CAA on Tuesday next.   I will post (a positive?) update once the results of the inspection are known.    Who would be mad enough to become involved with old aeroplanes........?


Content of the remainder of this page is from Geoff Pell of Gosport Aviation Society. 7th July 2009 Update:

I'm the bringer of bad news in that further paperwork complications have arisen regarding the Ferry Permit for RS.   In essence, the whole inspection process relating to the Permit will have to be repeated and this is going to take some time.   The principal problem is trying to identify a suitably-ticketed DAR and then to establish dates when he/she and the aircraft engineer will be available.  This is hugely disappointing but as soon as I have any progress I will post an update!

23 June 2009: - Work has recommenced on RS and will continue until she is fully airworthy (estimated at a week to ten days).   Ferry pilots have been booked and the Ferry Permit is ready for authorisation as soon as a full power check and retraction tests have been completed.   Departure date has still to be decided.   I will post further details as soon as I have them to hand!

19 June 2009: - Further to another short delay, the engineers will be returning to Lee to work on RS Monday 22nd.  The objective is to complete all preparation work at the earliest opportunity at which stage the aircraft will fly to North Weald.   The exact date is still under negotiation and will be dependent primarily upon successful engine runs but also on pilot availability.   The date will be posted here as soon as it is known.

11 June 2009: - The paperwork trail relating to RS is now complete and final preparations for the ferry flight to North Weald will probably commence week beginning 15th June.   Presently, the engineer/co-pilot, Clive Edwards, is one of the crew aboard the Vickers Vimy en route to Galway for the 90th anniversary commemorations of Alcock and Brown's trans-Atlantic flight in 1919.   Your scribe cannot quite match this for sheer seat-of-the-pants flying but had rather a good few days in Normandy with C-47, "Drag-'em-oot" (N473DC)!

29 May 2009: - The CAA inspected the aircraft today prior to the granting of a Ferry Permit.   Although there are still several paperwork hurdles to go through, it is likely that the aircraft will depart Lee for North Weald by 12th/13th June.   The flight will also be dependent upon further full power runs and successful retraction tests.   Although I am away in Normandy with C-47A "Drag-'em-oot" (N473DC) from 2nd to 7th/8th June I will try to give as much notice as possible.


21 May 2009:- Following an enforced lay-off due to pressing commitments elsewhere (Sally B!), the team have re-started work on RS with a view to ferrying her to North Weald as soon as the paperwork trail allows.   First task is to attach a new section of 'bolting angle' under the Starboard wing - this, in effect, joins the outer section to the centre section and is a vital part of the wing's strength.   It is intended to repeat the full power runs (first conducted in early March) before too long.   I will publish the date as soon as it is to hand.

1 May 2009:- Following a six week lay-off when emphasis shifted from the Catalina to Sally-B at Duxford, work has re-commenced on RS.   Vital parts are now to hand and efforts to get her ready for the ferry flight to North Weald resumed yesterday.   The first major task was to remove an enormous crow's nest from No 2 engine!!!!



Friday 1st May

Following a six week lay-off when emphasis shifted from the Catalina to Sally-B at Duxford, work has re-commenced on RS.   Vital parts are now to hand and efforts to get her ready for the ferry flight to North Weald resumed yesterday.   The first major task was to remove an enormous crow's nest from No 2 engine!!!!

Thursday 19th March

Although things appear to have gone suspiciously quiet of late, there is much going on behind the scenes, particularly on the paperwork front.   Additionally, there are a number of minor areas where parts are having to be fabricated in order to complete any necessary work prior to the ferry flight to North Weald.   As soon as plans for the flight are known, I will make the details available.



Thursday 5th March

The Cat moved under her own power to-day for the first time in over seven years. All went well and both engines were run up to maximum boost 48" at 2,700rpm. No problems were encountered. The team will return to Lee next week for final adjustments and checks before RS departs for North Weald. Watch this space!


3rd March 2009

The endgame is near - Work on preparing N423RS for her ferry flight to North Weald is all but complete and on Thursday 5th March (most likely in the morning) full power runs and local taxying will be conducted in order that the mechanicals can be 'signed off'. The accompanying shot shows two keen 'twitchers' looking for an Elephant's nest......

22nd February 2009

Following a Herculean effort, both elevators have now been re-attached signalling the end of major structural work in preparation for the ferry flight. A full power trial (with associated taxying) is scheduled for Thursday next in order to allow the engines to be 'signed off'. No firm date as yet for departure to North Weald.

18th February 2009

Cat Latest......"And in an emergency, this is how we retract the main undercarriage...." Full retraction tests were conducted on 17th Feb with no problems. Next major step is to taxy aircraft to Bellman 4 for re-attachment of elevators. This will happen over w/e 20th-22nd Feb.

14 February 2009

Both Catalina engines were run this morning for the first time in seven years. There were no problems whatsoever and the Pratt & Whitneys ran like the proverbial sewing machines. Next step is to replace the nose gear, conduct retraction tests, and then re-attach both elevators. The latter will entail a taxy to Bristow's old hangar on the western dispersal. It is now likely that all work will be completed within a fortnight, however no departure date has yet been set.


Port Engine Run Successfully - 5th February 2009

No 1 engine was to-day run successfully after seven years without turning a prop! This is a significant landmark in the preps to get RS airworthy and signifies the end of the major hurdle. Next step is to service main wheels after which, aeroplane will be taxied to Bristow's old hangar on the Western dispersal where nose wheel will be replaced and elevators re-attached. This will be achieved by putting relevant end of aircraft inside hangar as appropriate. Sadly, because of the 104ft wingspan we cannot get the entire aeroplane in.

3 February 2009 - Cat Progress Update

Work on preparing the port engine is well advanced - despite the awful working conditions of late - with the intention of conducting an engine run on either Thursday or Friday of this week. One suspects that the graffito in the snow might have been the work of a previous owner...

27 January 2009 - Preparing to work on the port engine

Work has now commenced on No1 engine with a view to running it within 6-7 days all being well. The substantial structure covering the engine is a prerequisite to ensure that both engine/engineers alike are protected from our ever-changing weather..... Aiming for departure flight towards end Feb!


20 January 2009 - First Engine Run

On the afternoon of 20 January we ran the Starboard engine for the first time in over 7 years. It started first time and literally ran like a sewing machine. A great tribute to the Chief Engineer. We are absolutely delighted... Work on the Port engine begins at the weekend after the boys have had a rest.

Creative Catalina Conundrums….
By Geoff Pell

Happy New Year to one and all…..

Following a restorative break, work has re-commenced on RS. The current objective is to get both engines running – fundamentally important as without them, all other effort is wasted! In view of the protracted cold spell, it was considered vital to build some form of shelter over the engines in order that work could continue without people contracting hypothermia. Additionally, such a shelter – suitably lit – would enable work to continue after dark. You will forgive the levity but Punch and Judy seemed rather appropriate bearing in mind the shape of the structure…..all work, no play etc. springs to mind….

Using much ingenuity, 4 x 4 and B&Q’s available supplies of blue tarpaulins, this has been achieved and the starboard engine is as snug as a bug in a rug – well, almost! Cleaning of rocker covers, removal of corrosion, replacement of certain hoses and gaskets has begun and once complete will lead to the re-assembly phase – re-attachment of magnetos, carbs, fuel pumps etc. Providing no untoward problems are discovered it is hoped to run the engine within the next couple of weeks (watch this space for details). Once proved, attention will then switch to the port engine and a similar process.


There is still a great amount to do – checking out main gear (wheels, bearings, brakes) plus of course retraction tests. This is a potentially hazardous operation and will depend, amongst other things, on still wind conditions. Thereafter, replacement of nose gear, re-attachment of elevators plus a myriad of minor but nonetheless important tasks will follow.

The operation to get RS back into the air is, of necessity, a laborious process but the successful running of both engines will signal a very major milestone.

We are keen that as many people as possible should be able to witness the engine runs and to that effect, we will do our best to keep everyone abreast of developments.

PBY Aviation
8th January 2009

Catalina Christmas Catch-up

By Geoff Pell, Photos by Bob Wealthy

Introductory Note: Flattered though I am to be credited with the role of overseeing much of the work on the Cat, I fear my function is much less exalted. I’m more of the ‘local fixer’ – purveyor of towing tractors, fork lifts, ground power units etc. to the nobility and the gentry - and ‘gang master’ – when labour is required, I turn to a knowledgeable, willing group of friends without whom the major task of sorting/cataloguing 1000s of spares would not have been possible.

No, the person really in charge of the operation is Clive Edwards, a very experienced and resourceful engineer who arguably, knows more about piston-engined warbirds – Catalinas and DC-3s a speciality – than just about anyone else on this side of the Atlantic.

Update: Having finally been pulled from her muddy parking place, the Cat (we’ll refer to her as RS – the last two characters of her registration) is now positioned in front of ‘L’ hangar. Some two weeks ago, the port prop was re-assembled and re-attached – a delicate manoeuvre with barely centimetres to play with as the fork lift was at maximum extension. Resourcefulness played its part however and with judicious lowering of the port oleo and deflation of the mainwheel, it slipped back on……just!
Since then most of RS’s systems have been run successfully – a remarkable achievement when one considers that it had not turned a prop in seven years! The float lowering system, boost pumps, feather pumps and radios have been activated with the minimum of problems and the major tasks ahead now centre on re-installing carburettors, magnetos, fuel pumps etc. Both elevators have been repaired and recovered and these will be re-attached at the last moment.
On the subject of spares in general, the majority of the major engine components – magnetos, pumps etc – have come from California where such items are more or less, readily available off the shelf. Believe it or not, one of the biggest headaches has been the sourcing of spark plugs – all 56 of them! Although of a standard type, these were unavailable in large quantities from one single source and have been acquired from a variety of suppliers. Aeroshell 100 is the desired oil and in view of the fact that each engine tank holds no fewer than 60 US gallons, this was again a logistical problem. In the event, it was supplied through Far North Aviation of Wick – not exactly on the doorstep!

Other major jobs include the replacement of the entire nose wheel assembly (we have four spare examples in the hangar) and the ‘pulling’ of both mainwheels in order that brakes and bearings can be checked/serviced.

There is much still to do although providing no significant problems rear their heads, there is every confidence that the aeroplane will depart for North Weald some time during January. I will provide regular updates as work progresses.


Happy Christmas to one and all and our thanks to those who have offered both help and support – it is much appreciated.


24th December 2008



After some 7 years at Lee, the Catalina flying boat, which has been quite a local landmark, is soon to leave. Catalinas have an amazing history and it is believed that this one will be only the second airworthy example in the UK. Unfortunately not for long though as, after a full service at North Weald, it will be flown to the USA !

This is not the Catalina which crashed in the Solent in the Summer of 1998, killing Southampton's Mayor and another passenger - that was at Lee but went some time ago.

The paint scheme of this one is based on that of JV928 "Killer Cat", flown by John Cruickshank VC of 210 Coastal Command Squadron. On 17th July 1944, Cruickshank was severely injured when a shell, fired from a German U-Boat, exploded inside the aircraft. He bravely continued flying and eventually sunk U-347 with six depth charges. He struggled back to base where he was found to have sustained 72 separate injuries. Although JV298 did not carry any nose art a U-Boat is depicted in the Killer Cat's claws in the nose art by the cockpit.

There is a huge amount of interest in old warbirds, and we anticipate quite a turnout to see it off.

Much of the work is being overseen by Commander Geoff Pell who can be contacted by e-mail by clicking this link.

Commander Pell served on HMS Daedalus between 1993 and 1996 and has worked on a number of publications relating to the history of Daedalus. Cmdr. Pell was responsible for the handover of the base to the police, especially on the administrative side. He specialised in missiles and gunnery but had close contact with the military aviation on site. And of course, Cmdr. Pell is a very active member of the Lee Flying Association.

History of N423RS

Many thanks to David Legg for providing the following history. More Catalina information may be found on the Catalina Society's website, click here.

PBY-5A Catalina N423RS:

Built Consolidated Aircraft Corporation, San Diego, Ca. for the US Navy as BuAer48423, c/n 1785.

The first US Navy squadron to operate BuAer48423 was VP-73 based at Floyd Bennett Field, New York and it took the Catalina on charge in January 1944. Later, it flew rescue missions from San Juan in Puerto Rico but came back to the mainland USA at the start of 1946. It was struck off of military charge in July 1956 before being allocated the US civil registration N4002A. It then went to Canada and flew for many years as a geophysical survey aircraft with such companies as Survair, Canadian Aero Service Ltd, Spartan Air Services and Kenting Earth Sciences. During this time, it had various different types of electronic transmitter and receiver equipment attached to the front and rear of the airframe, some of these being very large indeed. In all this time, it flew with the Canadian registration CF-JJG, later C-FJJG.

Kenting disposed of C-FJJG in 1986 and it was re-registered in the USA as N423RS, its current marks. It was flown down to Reno, Nevada from Canada and was stored there for a time, passing through a number of owners before starting a new life with Dr Reginald Slade of Dallas, Tx. who used it on fishing charters up into Canada. Slade christened his Catalina Polar Cat. It was sold again in 1997 and, in October of that year, was flown across the Atlantic to Hamburg, Germany where it was to be used by the campaigning organisation Greenpeace. It was repainted in an appropriate rainbow scheme and was flown on pollution spotting flights over the North Sea and was also used in Palma for investigating the use of dragnets by local fishermen.

In early-September 1998, N423RS was flown to Duxford in Cambridgeshire for a period of storage whilst awaiting sale. It remained there for some time until acquired by Lasham-based Super Catalina Restoration which at the time was in the process of rebuilding another Catalina that had suffered an accident on Southampton Water in July 1998. The latter project later moved to Lee on the Solent and, still incomplete, was in due course sold to a new owner in Eire. N423RS was prepared for flight at Duxford during the Summer of 2001 and it was repainted to resemble the RAF Catalina JV928/Y flown by Flt Lt John Cruickshank at the time he earned his Victoria Cross.

N423RS was flown to Lee on the Solent on November 11th 2002 captained by veteran Catalina pilot Chuck Ellsworth and, at the time of writing (December 2008), has not flown again since.

David Legg
Editor: The Catalina News, The Catalina Society
Author: Consolidated PBY Catalina – The Peacetime Record