The Catalina – The oldest airworthy flying boat in the UK

Sunday was another red letter day for me in the flying world. We went to the Duxford Airshow, a first time for me and quite a different experience to an afternoon at Shuttleworth, but yet again we were blessed with a fine, relatively warm day for early October.

The 80% male contingent ooohed and ahhhed at the Gloster Meteor, the first British Jet fighter and the Lockheed Martin F-16, a fighting falcon with a

Sitting inside the Catalina!

maximum flying speed of Mach 2+ (whatever that might mean, but it was certainly Fast with a capital F.) Both of these jets were loud, impressive and certainly captured our undivided attention in their unnerving displays of flying antics at speed.

Then, of course, the Supermarine Spitfire MkIX, built in 1943 in Castle Bromwich rather than at Southampton where my main interest lies, as always gained a well deserved respect from the crowd.

The highlight of my day though was the PBY-5 Catalina; a flying boat built in 1943 in Canada, which is certainly the oldest flying boat still capable of flying at this moment in time in the UK. I had never witnessed a flying boat in the air before and enjoyed the pleasure of going on board before the flight and meeting some of the crew. (not me personally I might add, but it was open to the public at £4 a head)

The Catalina glided over us like a graceful white albatross, then swooped on its prey, the enemy submarines below; its smooth hull ready to land on water if a rescue mission was required.  The scene was easy to picture in your mind’s eye, even though the sea was many miles away and fortunately the Catalina had a tricycle like undercarriage in order to land safely at Duxford. It will be on
display in one of the many hangers there over the winter months; as well as undergoing any maintenance due.

I asked a question which the crew were unable to answer.

Which is the oldest airworthy flying boat in the world? Can anyone help with this one?

If you click on the photo below you’ll find a short video on my Diana Jackson’s Author Facebook page:

PBY-5A Catalina at Duxford Oct 2011

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Filed under Early Flight, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Supermarine

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