The Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina was built as a maritime patrol aircraft for the US Navy and also used by the British Royal Air Force and other forces. During World War II it was successful in hunting for submarines. Around 3000 aircraft were built until 1945 and used in the Pacific and the Atlantic as well. After WW II many Catalinas remained in service, some of them were used for fire fighting. There are different types of Catalinas, either flying boats or amphibious aircraft with a retractable landing gear like the PBY-5A I flew on.
Today most of the surviving Catalinas are on display in museums around the globe, some Catalinas are still airworthy or flying. But I think there are only a few, that you can actually book and fly.
My flight with the Catalina
My flight was a birthday present from my loved wife. The “Stichting Exploitatie van de Catalina” operates one PBY-5A out of their homebase in the Aviodrome at Lelystad Airport in the Netherlands. I chose to go on a nice summer weekend, since Lelystad would be only a two hour drive for me. The flight would be around 30-40 minutes and include two touch and go on the nearby Ijsselmeer.
There was a briefing including a film about the history of the Catalina shown, which was very interesting. The briefing also included the safety instructions. After that we were guided to the parking position next to the Aviodrome compound. The boarding took place using one of the domes in the back of the plane. I found my seat in the back of the plane, close to the exit. I was also able to install my camera onto one of the glass domes in the back of the planes.
After a 10 min. warm up for the engines we taxied to the runway and took off towards the Ijsselmeer. After a few circles over the water we descended for the first touch and go on the water. What a feeling to plow through the water in a plane! For the second touch and go the pilots extended the stabilizers at the end of the wing!
Shortly after the second touch and go we flew back to the Lelystad Airport and were given some extra photo opportunity. They also held a debriefing asking for feedback. Some souvenirs were also available.
For me this was a perfect flight and a great experience! It is highly recommended. More information about the flights can be found here: catalina-pby.nl