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Flying On The Legendary Consolidated Catalina  
User currently offlineCrimsonNL From Netherlands, joined Dec 2007, 2151 posts, RR: 26
Posted (3 years 3 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 9736 times:

Hello everyone, and welcome to this trip report! This report is about a flight on one of the last airworthy Consolidated Catalina’s in the world. I haven’t been active in the TR forums for quite some time now, but this flight was so unique that it had to be TR’ed!

Late 2012, the PBY-5A Catalina of the Dutch “Stichting exploitatie Catalina PH-PBY”, was once again cleared for take-off by the Dutch civil aviation authority. After a very long time on the ground, she’d finally be gracing the European skies again, taking passengers on board with her! She has long been on my “To-fly list”, and all that remained was waiting a few months through winter until the start of the 2013 flying season. I was lucky enough to book a seat on the first flight with passengers of the new season.

Before I start about the actual flight, I want to focus on the history of the PH-PBY, which goes by the name of “Karel Doorman” these days, and the history of the Catalina in general. Karel Doorman was one of the first pilots of the Royal Dutch Navy in the 1910’s and later became an important figure in the Dutch Navy.

The Consolidated Catalina is an extremely successful aircraft. It has saved the lives of thousands in search and rescue missions, performed bomber roles, and was even seen in airline use with early Qantas, AirGreenland, and China Airlines. She could easily fly for over 20 hours, and was one of the first long-range aircraft of her time. Powered by 2 Pratt&Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engines, the maximum range is about 4000KM (2500Mi). She’s not very fast however, cruising at about 125 mph (201 km/h). The Catalina played a big part in WWII, mainly in the pacific where she’d operate from poorly equipped remote island locations. The US Navy also had the Catalina stationed in the North-Atlantic, which is where the PH-PBY comes in.

The PH-PBY has a long and impressive history, which all started when she rolled off the assembly line of the Consolidated Aircraft factory, in San Diego in late 1941. She’s the 300th Catalina ever built (out of an estimated 3300 built) and is currently the oldest Catalina still flying in the world. There’s an estimated 13 of her sisters still airworthy, but few are still able to land on water, and even fewer take passengers on flights. She started her career with the US Navy, in Iceland during World War II. She has an extremely impressive kill record, sinking no less than 3 German submarines during the war, and damaging a fourth example. Later she flew for the US Coast Guard, and after the war she served as a firefighter in Canada and South America. If you want to read a detailed account of the PH-PBY during WWII, I can refer you to this excellent article written by Prudent Staal.


71 years later, the PBY still goes strong and looks as good as when she was delivered! The foundation that maintains and operates her, now offers scenic flights from various airports and airshows in Europe. One of the regular scenic flights which can be booked from the foundation’s website, is a 30 minute flight which departs and arrives at Lelystad Airport. Included in this flight, is one or more (weather permitting!) touch and go’s (or Splash-and-go as they are called) on the Ijsselmeer.

After obsessively checking the weather all week, it was finally time to fly! April 20th proved to be a fine day for flying. A bit windy, but clear skies for as far as you could see and very little clouds. I drove the 45 minutes to LEY and waited in the airport building, where the volunteers of the Catalina foundation would pick us up. I always consider LEY to be my second home base, after AMS. It’s a friendly little airport with a nice, relaxed atmosphere. There were 14 others waiting for the flight, most of them Catalina enthusiasts. A waiver had to be signed, acknowledging that even though she is fully in accordance with European aviation regulations, it is a 1930’s design that has lower safety standards then modern aircraft. First an introduction and safety video would be shown in one of the conference rooms in the airport building. After a small delay and having been briefed about on-board procedures, my 3 year wait was finally coming to an end!

Another interesting aircraft, this cute little Merlin http://imageshack.us/a/img69/1285/dscf2022d.jpg

There she is! http://imageshack.us/a/img339/5869/dscf1936l.jpg


Entrance through one of the blisters, that takes some agility.

The interior basically consists of 5 little compartments. First there is the cockpit, then a seating area. After that a small walkway underneath the wing root, followed by a second seating area, and finally the area below the two blister windows. I made my way to the first seating area and found a seat with a nice view. The smudges on the window are oil drops from the engines!

View from my seat


Forward view, that’s the pilots in the orange flight suits on an elevated position

Forward seating compartment

Captain G. at the controls

You didn’t think you’d ever see a Catalina safety card did you?



One of the Twin Wasp engines overhead http://imageshack.us/a/img802/6341/dscf1946x.jpg

Pretty decent legroom http://imageshack.us/a/img202/4268/dscf1942y.jpg

No cabin isolation, it’s the outside skin you’re looking at!

One thing you immediately notice upon entering the Catalina, apart from that lovely old-airplane smell, is that the Catalina was not designed with crew comfort in mind. There is no form of isolation, so it’s basically the same temperature inside as outside. There’s also no lavatory on board! Between the 2 seating compartments is a small walkway, in the area where the wing root meets the fuselage, and where the landing gear is stowed. Access to the different compartments is gained by climbing through small hatches and is quite a challenge during turbulent flight for a tall guy like myself.

Apart from the two pilots, one cabin attendant is seated in the aft seating compartment. The attendant on our flight is a cabin trainer for Transavia in his daily life, and works as a Catalina flight attendant on the side!

The Catalina uses the same engines as the DC-3, but these are models without much of an exhaust pipe and as a result are more noisy then on the DC-3. (Which of course, is a good thing!) Combined with the lack of cabin isolation, it’s very noisy inside the aircraft at high power engine settings.

Once the cabin was secured, the unmistakable sound of the fuel pumps filled the airplane, followed by the engine start. Both PW’s started without hesitation. The aircraft vibrates quite a lot, especially combined with turbulence. You’ll see that some of my pictures didn’t come out as well as I hoped, for which I apologize. My camera apparently doesn’t deal well with vibrations.

A nice Beech and a Fokker 50 as seen during the taxi-out

Another aircraft from the same era, a P-51D “Damn Yankee”

We parked at the end of the runway for the necessary run-up checks to warm and prep the engines for the take-off power setting. The actual take-off roll was quite short and the noise level inside was very impressive, I was glad I had earplugs! A short take-off video can be found here:


Shortly after take-off the seatbelt sign went off and we were free to roam through the cabin. The cabin attendant makes sure not all of us gather in the back or front at the same time, to prevent balance issues. Towels were put on the 2 seats behind the cockpit, so you could stand on the seats and look over the pilot’s shoulder. A nice idea!

The cockpit, gotta love the throttle leavers coming from the ceiling!



Some interesting switches

Flying over the Houtribdijk, separating the Ijsselmeer and Markermeer lakes

Some diagrams

A look into the nose. Empty these days but there used to be a gunner position here


My seat

Let’s go to the aft, I’ll have to climb through this hatch.. http://imageshack.us/a/img850/605/dscf1966i.jpg

The engines and wing seen from a small inspection window in the wing-strut


A manual float-extension point, sorry for the blur..

More fly-by-cable!

Once you step into the very aft compartment with the blisters, you’ll have perhaps the greatest view you’ve ever had from an airplane! It’s like standing on a flying carpet. You can look in every direction and the views are spectacular!

The famous PH-PBY view, along the fuselage

The left float is just retracting

The flight attendant signals us to take our seats, we’re gonna make the first splash-and-go!

What an awesome shadow descending onto the lake!


Touching the water, at 90kts

I would have loved standing on that boat as well!

I have compiled some video-footage of the splash-and-go’s into a 3 minute video. We ended up doing 2 splash-and-go’s, one of which you can see here. There’s some lovely sound of the PW’s towards the end of the video!


As soon as we regained altitude we were once again free to roam through the aircraft. Back to the blisters!


My god, what a view!




The tail

Waterproof door towards a hatch in the tail

It really feels like you can just climb on top of the wing!


Back to my seat, unfortunately the flight is coming to an end!

Running like its brand new

The flight over the water was very smooth. Over land it was a bit bumpy due to the rising warm air. The Catalina’s fuselage basically hangs beneath a giant wing and is quite susceptible to turbulence. A short landing video can be found here, look how that oil has spread out! A loud squeak was heard when the main gear touched the ground, bringing this fantastic flight to an end.


Once back on the stand we were asked to remain seated until the tail-stand had been placed and the stairs positioned. We were welcome to do a walkaround and take as many pictures as we could. Let’s have a look at the outside!


Isn’t she gorgeous?

That’s me

And the same angle without me, a much better sight indeed http://imageshack.us/a/img708/1097/dscf2004z.jpg





The gear bay

And the dual Twin Wasps


Royal Navy it says

And the hidden hatch in the back, which I’m sure is quite useful!


Pulling the drain plugs, apparently she took some of the lake back with her

Some close ups



A cool feature are these built in tie-down points, along with rope to tie her to a buoy or anchor

Bye! Thanks for the good flight!

After everyone took plenty of pictures, we headed back to the conference room where we got our flight-certificate. I don’t have a picture unfortunately but it featured a lot of details about the aircraft which I really liked. The PH-PBY was towed back to her hangar which she nowadays shares with the DC-3 PH-PBA, and a Fokker 27 which registration I don’t know.

In all this was a fantastic flight which was well worth the wait and the money! It’s great to see this legendary and nowadays unique aircraft in such a pristine condition. The volunteers and operators that keep her flying have a great passion for this aircraft, which you can really sense when they take you on a flight. I can highly recommend flying the PH-PBY to anyone, whether you are crazy about old props like me, or just want to experience flying as it was meant to be. You won’t come to regret it! The Catalina is a long awaited, spectacular accomplishment in my quest to log as many types as I can afford.

You can find more information on the website of the Catalina foundation here: http://www.catalina-pby.nl/

I hope you liked reading my first report in a long time. Any questions or comments are always welcome.

Thanks for reading and best regards,


Always comparing your flown types list with mine
14 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlinevio From Canada, joined Feb 2004, 1583 posts, RR: 8
Reply 1, posted (3 years 3 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 9670 times:

Wow! I'm in a hurry and I only really glanced at the pictures, but oh my oh my... What a machine! Beautiful! I'll come back and read the text as well...   Cheers

Superior decisions reduce the need for superior skills.
User currently offlineairkas1 From Netherlands, joined Dec 2003, 4509 posts, RR: 51
Reply 2, posted (3 years 3 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 9626 times:

Very nice pics and videos!

User currently offlineinvaders From Norway, joined May 2012, 409 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (3 years 3 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 9497 times:

Awesome! I just love how those old aircrafts are being kept alive and well.

User currently offlineThe777Man From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 6831 posts, RR: 54
Reply 4, posted (3 years 3 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 9302 times:

Hi Martijn !

Thanks for a very unique report with amazing pictures !

That's great to experience a flight in a PBY! Very nice that you had some splash and go's as well.

Thanks for posting about your very unique experience.

Looking forward to your next report !


Need a Boeing 777 Firing Order....Further to fly....LX and LH 777s
User currently offlinephotoshooter From Belgium, joined Feb 2010, 459 posts, RR: 7
Reply 5, posted (3 years 3 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 9292 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Hi Martijn,

A very nice trip report you've got there. Unique, exciting and pleasant to read.

Quoting CrimsonNL (Thread starter):
I haven’t been active in the TR forums for quite some time now

Yeah, great to see a new one again!

It's great to see there are (voluntary) people who take care of this beauty. I'm sure it must have been a nice experience and I hope you can log more of these special birds in the years to come. Still working on the 'Fedex adventure'!

Thanks for posting and Belgian regards,

Niek B.

'A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.' - Winston Churchill
User currently offlineryan h From Australia, joined Aug 2001, 1658 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (3 years 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 8408 times:

Very unusual trip report.

Great photos.

South Australian Spotter
User currently offlineaerdingus From Ireland, joined Dec 2006, 3186 posts, RR: 9
Reply 7, posted (3 years 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 8385 times:

Fantastic, well done! Amazing how much of the aircraft you can see from the inside! Beautiful classic machine.


Cabin crew blog http://dolefuldolegirl.blogspot.ie/
User currently offlineMSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2474 posts, RR: 14
Reply 8, posted (3 years 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 7864 times:

Hi Martijn

Great trip report on this special bird, I'm glad you had the chance to take it.
I was thinking about heading out to LEY soon or later but this report convinced me completely.


Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
User currently offlineglobalflyer From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 1047 posts, RR: 3
Reply 9, posted (3 years 3 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 7820 times:

Hi Martijn, nice and very exotic TR. What a rare find. Glad you had a chance to sample. Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Will

Landing on every Continent almost on an annual basis!
User currently offlineCrimsonNL From Netherlands, joined Dec 2007, 2151 posts, RR: 26
Reply 10, posted (3 years 3 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 7626 times:

Quoting vio (Reply 1):
Quoting airkas1 (Reply 2):
Quoting invaders (Reply 3):
Quoting The777Man (Reply 4):
Quoting ryan h (Reply 6):
Quoting aerdingus (Reply 7):
Quoting globalflyer (Reply 9):

Thanks guys, I'm glad you liked it!

A very nice trip report you've got there. Unique, exciting and pleasant to read.


Quoting photoshooter (Reply 5):
Still working on the 'Fedex adventure'!

That too will be an awesome trip if all goes through  
Quoting MSS658 (Reply 8):

Great trip report on this special bird, I'm glad you had the chance to take it.
I was thinking about heading out to LEY soon or later but this report convinced me completely.

Thanks Mark, do let me know when you visit LEY.

Best regards,


Always comparing your flown types list with mine
User currently offlinevandenheuvel From Netherlands, joined Dec 2008, 516 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (3 years 3 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 7441 times:

Hi Martijn,

This has got to be your best TR so far. I enjoyed reading your introduction and watching your pictures.

Your video of the splash and go was awesome. I think I have to look into flying this one as well.


User currently offlineairbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4402 posts, RR: 48
Reply 12, posted (3 years 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 7257 times:

Hi Martijn,

I really enjoyed the report on your Catalina adventure. Great pics especially those forward views.


"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
User currently offlineCrimsonNL From Netherlands, joined Dec 2007, 2151 posts, RR: 26
Reply 13, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 6983 times:

Quoting vandenheuvel (Reply 11):
Quoting airbuseric (Reply 12):

Thanks guys! You really should fly it yourself, Tim!


Always comparing your flown types list with mine
User currently offlineLFutia From Netherlands, joined Dec 2002, 3407 posts, RR: 30
Reply 14, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 6960 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!


What an awesome awesome trip report! Great photos and videos! Definitely much different than today's trip report. Thanks for sharing!

Met vriendelijk groeten,


Leo/ORD -- Groetjes uit de VS! -- Heeft u laatst nog met KLM gevlogen?
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