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Designed in 1935, the PBY-5 Catalina served with distinction in both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres, as long-range maritime patrol bomber and air-sea rescue aircraft. Catalinas also pioneered air routes over vast tracts of empty oceans, sometimes staying in the air in complete radio silence, for more than 24 hours. After the war, Catalinas continued to serve as transport and water bombers, but numbers dwindled over the years and unfortunately only a handful of airworthy examples remain today. The aircraft featured in this DVD is one of them.
We join ZK-PBY en route to scenic Lake Taupo in New Zealand’s North Island, for a training weekend. This is a rare occasion; to preserve the hull from erosion the PBY-5A never lands on sea and visits freshwater Lake Taupo rarely. We take time to enjoy air-to-air footage of this historic aircraft against the spectacular New Zealand landscape (and the company of a formation of Yak trainers), before landing on the runway at Taupo Airport, with snow-clad (and volcanic) Mount Ruapehu in the background. Training Captain Brett Emeny takes us on a walk-around. The hull shape, as well as the fittings and features, reflect the aircraft’s dual roles of big speedboat and flying machine.
In the cockpit, Brett passes on some valuable handling tips. We learn that ailerons require one and a half turns of the control wheel for full travel and that they are used a lot, in careful co-ordination with the rudder, so flying a Catalina is a very physical experience!