PBY Catalina International Association
1990 Volume 2, Number 2 (p.04)

I've made minor corrections. Click here to see the original Search


The FEATURE STORY is again a reflection of "chance communications" from within our Association's membership. This account will be entitled, "PBYs IN PERPETUITY": There have been occasional "Heresay Reports" (That rule that is not admissible within the legal/court situations, regardless of investigative merit!) of someone reporting of having seen a PBY/"Catalina" somewhere, that had been retrieved from somewhere out of the Amazon area of Brazil. Objectively one has to neither believe nor disbelieve such a report! Then a letter was received from Chuck REMY, relating some historical first hand account of the U.S.Navy's Patrol Squadron NINETY FOUR (VP-94)'s duty in Brazil during the period of 16 January 1943 through to 15 May 1944. While in Brazil, VP-94 operated from Natal, Belem, Maceio and Ipetango of that country. In the course of their extensive search patterns and escort service provided shipping activities along that expanse of the Brazilian coastline, they were credited with the demise of TWO Nazi German submarines, "U" boats number 590 and 662, both during the month of July, 1943. Following the period of one year and four months deployment, VP-94 in a formal occasion, turned all 15 of their PBY-5As over to the Brazilian Air Force on 12 December 1944 at Rio de Janeiro. Three days later the squadron disembarked aboard ship for Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.A. where on 22 December 1944, VP-94 was decommissioned. For many of the crewmembers especially, they missed their reliably faithful, albeit a material machine. It did possess character of a lasting nature. How little did they even imagine, how long the lasting nature of these early production models from the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation's New Orleans manufacturing facility would endure?
Then FORTY FIVE years and THREE months later, Chuck REMY was visiting the U.S. Military Aircraft Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. There among the multitudes of material airborne warriors in their position for homage, was a beautifully restored PBY-5A in her full dress presentation. As the swelling of emotion welled within "CHUCK", it really overflowed as he saw the U.S.Navy Bureau Number 46595 affixed to its respective location on the empenage. This was one of his squadron's "faithful" and Chuck was informed that another of its "sisters", BU.No. 46457 (Editor's critical eye and reference has 457 made in San Diego!) is now located at "The Air-Sea Rescue Museum" at Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A., This #46457 is recorded in Chuck's "Flight Log" as being the plane he flew in most often.
Then low and behold, within TWO days upon receipt of "Chuck" REMY's information, the editor received yet another letter from our member, Mitchell "Art" PERRY with details as to how he was involved in the recovery of THREE tired old PBYs from the Amazon city of Belem, Brazil. It all began for "ART", when a neighborhood friend responded to a request for eight pilots to fly FOUR PBY-5As from Brazil to the U.S.A. "Art" perceived the opportunity as a gainful challenge. The first reality of the challenge confronted Art, when they arrived at the PBYs resting site of the "Julio Cesar Airport of B.A.F.* Belem. They were perhaps the least inviting aircraft PERRY had ever expected to have to fly! Following the Brazilian Air Force's extensive use of them, there had been four decades of applicable configuration uses of them, mostly in various transport/support purposes in the distant reaches of the Amazon basin by a series of operators. Due to the turn-over of operators and the vagaries of operating conditions encountered over FORTY years, one could only speculate beyond the immediate examination of the airplanes as to what unknowns were awaiting an unforgivable discovery while airbourne. The degree of encouragement coming from those survivors who had flown or maintained these "precious relics" was something to the effect that, "For Those Who Fly These Airplanes Now, Are Only Too Brave"!? It was now February 1984, that Art Perry and his associates were in Belem to retrieve these -4- PBYs and the planes had not been in service since late 1981 by the Brazilians. To add more anxiety to the growing concern of being more likely playing a game of "Russian Roulette" instead of the lesser anticipation of being involved in "Calculated Risks", information was related that one of those PBYs had been at the bottom of the river for quite awhile before it was recovered.

* NOTE: "Julio Cesar Airport of the Brazilian Air Force, is the site where the U.S.Navy came in 1942 and built its Belem, Brazil station along with several other Brazilian sea coast support stations for the interim period that the U.S. was operating. The U.S.Navy turned this Belem station over to the Brazilian government in 1944."