PBY Catalina International Association
1990 Volume 2, Number 2 (p.06)

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


Calculated risks of course have to be on the positive side, to minimize risks to primarily lives then to lesser valued concerns. So to proceed in the most direct navigational course, would take the planes out over some very unforgiving expanses of the Eastern, north by north west section of the Amazon basin, too much of it unchartered and canopied by vast and dense rain forest coverage. This disturbing factor combined with the questionable behavior and condition of these tired old "amphibian airbourne relics" ruled out taking such a short-cut. So! after it was desired, the three PBY-5As were shifted from the Julio Cesar facility for an early morning departure from Belen's "Val de Caes International Airport" some three miles or so distance. "Murphy's Law" with regard to projected departure time, was applied as so often, by bureaucracy, so instead of leaving at day-break with more optimum favors such as less airport congestion, more time with less tropical haze etc. the flight was discouragingly delayed until each element of the government was satisfied for whatever reason. Not to be disrespectful to one government over another, but most governmental officials appear to be prone to some degree of officiousness! It does get more complex when language barriers emerge, but after a due course of paper waving, gesticulating, some interpretation points were made and permission to take-off was achieved. The decided route of course was to string out with the port wing pointing to the interior and the starboard toward the sea, so that there was a better chance for the beaches and habitation to be in view. Water landings were the least desirable mode because of not only obvious visual determinations, but from the sage advice insisted on by those Brazilians who knew the plane so very well. The thought must have been with all of these ferry-pilots as they departed from Belem at the southern side of the mouth of the Amazon river system, heading northeastly to go around the treacherous midlands of the "Ilha de Marajo" delta, then head northerly around its Atlantic peninsula until it was time to veer northwest over the nearly two hundred miles of the turbulent mixed river and ocean waters; Oh! please dear plane, be as reliable and faithful as your reputation precedes you! Their next destination was Port of Spain, Trinidad, a calculated 12 hour flight. There were no life-rafts aboard, only the individual jackets and to "Think Positive" or pray, whatever was each person's persuasion. The intentions of staying within sight of this strung out formation disappeared soon after take-off. STIRM and PERRY assumed the lead and were visible from time to time with TALLICHET and Gene SMITH, but DEGAN, PHELAN and EBBS in N-4582T were not seen for the rest of the day. David T. and Gene, discovered after a couple of hours as they lowered altitude, that there was nothing but jungle under them and responsible for this was that their gyros were unresponsive. The next "Gremlin Attack" took place within the cylinder head temperature, "there wasn't any", the oil temperature and pressure was in normal ranges as was manifold pressure and tachometer readings. There was also the matter that both fuel and oil quantities were zilch, however checking, rechecking periodically revealed no signs of leaks or seepages, so the dip sticking prior to take-off remained comfortable. Gene, who had never even been in a PBY before this challenge, was receiving both a compressive and impressive knowledge as a complete crewman to be able to state "I am a PBY-5A pilot"! As they reached the country of Surinam, the overcast was disbursed quite satisfactory to be able to see the more picturesqueness of the terrain though and across the Orinoco River in Venezuela where a right turn headed them for their destination on the Island of Trinidad/Tobago. N-4582T was first on deck, then N-4583B with David and Gene, N-4583A with Bob Stirm and Art Perry were having some hydraulic leaks, that necessitated the landing gear to be lowered & locked in place manually. Art became the artificer for this awkward and strenuous task. Some of you may remember, the two special tools that respectfully & traditionally are in their respective holding devices, just for such an emergency.*
* This writer remembers being involved in the preparation of the PBYs Pilot's Flight Operating Handbook. Having previously experienced a successful means by "rocking" the plane to get the main side mount gear down but had not recalled how much rocking was involved. A PBY-5A then had to be flown, to establish a referenced 14 degrees of wing dipping to cite in the manual. More stubborn resistance for the gear to be put in the "down & locked" position requires more strain on that "Emergency DOWN LATCH Lever"!

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