June 13, 2013 - When Jim Slattery, EAA Lifetime Member 1021734/Warbirds 594956, acquired his Consolidated PBY5A Catalina from two Americans in South Africa in 2010, he didn't expect it would take until 2013 to get her back to the United Sates. But after a six-year restoration, Slattery's PBY N427CV touched down in El Cajon, California, on January 15, 2013, and is slated to fly to Oshkosh next month to participate in AirVenture 2013.
The airplane was built S/N 11089 by Canadian Vickers in Cartierville, Quebec, Canada, in 1944 and delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force, which used it for anti-submarine patrols out of Reykjavik, Iceland. Post-war, the plane served at various locations around Canada before it retired from military service in 1962. It was converted to a water bomber and spent the ensuing 32 years as a firefighting platform. N427CV was flown to South Africa in 1999. The restoration project was performed starting in 2006 at Springbok Aviation Services, Johannesburg.
During World War II, PBYs were used for anti-sub ops, patrol bombing (where the "PB" comes from), and convoy escorts, but most famously for air-sea rescue missions. In perhaps its most storied mission, a single PBY commanded by Lt. R. Adrian Marks rescued 56 surviving sailors from the USS Indianapolis that was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese sub after delivering critical parts for the first atomic bomb to Tinian.
It was a long haul back to California for Slattery's Catalina. The plane's cruise speed is 125 miles per hour and it was located halfway around the world - about 12,000 miles away. He sent three of his employees to South Africa to fly the plane home.
Mike Castillo, one of the pilots that flew the plane back, called it a trip of a lifetime. In a story about the plane earlier this year, he told the San Diego Union-Times, "I've done a lot of fun things, a lot of unique things in aviation, and this one takes the cake," Castillo said. "It was a dream trip."
The 16-leg, 12,000-mile journey departed South Africa with stops in Namibia, Angola, Cameroon, Liberia, then across the Atlantic to Brazil, French Guiana, Trinidad, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Slattery met the plane at Brown Field Airport in San Diego and flew with the crew to the final destination at Gillespie Field in El Cajon.
There's a presentation being put together about the airplane for AirVenture, and we'll have further details when they're confirmed. Stay tuned, because this WWII hero will be a warbird worth seeing.
Slattery is in the process of creating The Greatest Generation Naval Museum, featuring aircraft (all airworthy and flyable) from his vast collection and other memorabilia that demonstrate how WWII changed the way Americans live today.
Jim Slattery's PBY5A, flying recently at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, California, will appear at AirVenture for the first time this year. Photo Credit: Gary Takeuchi.