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Consolidated Catalina PBY-5a (Canso)

During the Second World War, the RNZAF operated a total of 56 Catalina flying boats. None of these aircraft were of the amphibious type as is ZK-PBY, but this Canadian built example is painted to represent one of the flying boats operated in the Pacific Theatre.

The Catalina is just moments away from touching down on the fresh cool waters of Lake Wanaka in the South Island of New Zealand.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

Noteworthy for its extremely long range, the Catalina crews often spent up to 12 hours in the air at a time, covering hundreds of miles of open sea.

The two New Zealand 'Cat' squadrons had little success as maritime patrol bombers, however they did achieve considerable success in the air-sea rescue role.

During the campaign in the Solomons, RNZAF Cats were stationed at strategic sites throughout the islands, ready to take off whenever they were needed.

Not only did they rescue many allied airmen from the sea, but their mere presence helped to keep up the morale of other aircrew, who knew they had a good chance of being rescued if they had to 'ditch' into the sea.

A truly elegant aircraft, this is currently the only airworthy Catalina in New Zealand, and is lovingly maintained by the New Zealand Catalina Preservation Society - see their web site for many more details about the Catalina in New Zealand service. In New Zealand the Catalina is regularly seen landing on the fresh waters of Lake Taupo in the North Island, and as seen in the photo above, on Lake Wanaka in the South Island.

The rumble of two Pratt and Whitney radial engines, and the slow lumbering passes that the aircraft makes, ensures the Catalina display is always a crowd favourite.

For more details about this wonderful aircraft check out the website at:

This Canadian Vickers-built "Canso" has been operating in New Zealand since 1994 when it was purchased from its former owner in Africa.

 And for something a little different, here's a 360° VR image from inside the Catalinas cockpit. Let us know if you'd like to see more images like this. © Historical Aviation Film Unit

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