PBY Catalina International Association

     In 1987, to our knowledge, there was no existing universal PBY organization. A few of us decided to put a notice in various military magazines calling for an “ALL HANDS PBY” reunion. To our surprise, we had just under a hundred men and their spouses show up and we felt we were well underway. With six from New Zealand, it was deemed appropriate that the fledging group be designated as being “international”; thus the name PBY Catalina International Association came about. The PBY CIA is a non-profit organization whose mandate is to promote enjoyable camaraderie within the Catalina flying-boat international community and within the purview of non-political relations or commercial gain.

     We have about 700 active members on the roster from all over the world. We are especially happy that veterans of the US Army Air Corps who flew PBYs in the Emergency Rescue Squadrons and the ATC Rescue groups have become PBY CIA members and make up a large part of the membership in addition to the growing numbers of younger family members and PBY Enthusiasts.

     PBY CIA has held 19 annual reunions, usually in late September or early October. Our most recent reunion was held in St. Louis at the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel. After registration the reunion began with food and spirits at the First Timers Reception. It’s always a good event at which to make new friends and update what’s happened in the lives of other PBY members since our last meeting.

     We enjoyed a bus tour of the city, Forest Park, the surrounding area and then toured Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis with its 41.5 million pieces of glass mosaic. While downtown, we visited the 630’ Gateway Arch where many rode the tram to the top. That Thursday afternoon we held our annual general membership meeting to outline the year ahead as well as discussing organization business. The remainder of the afternoon was free for squadron activities or individual sightseeing.

     Friday we divided into two simultaneous tours. The first tour visited the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and then the Museum of Transportation. The second tour started at the Missouri Botanical Garden, featuring Chihuly’s Glass in the Garden exhibit. That tour moved on to St. Charles, the Oldest City on the Missouri River with many quaint shops and narrow streets, for lunch at the garden terrace of one of its charming restaurants.

     Saturday was open for individual pursuits. Our Annual Banquet was held on the final evening of the reunion and, as is our tradition, the names of those who have taken their Final Flight during the past year were read aloud. Dinner was followed by entertainment, special announcements and the awarding of door prizes after which we adjourned for the evening. The reunion came to a close Sunday morning with our traditional Farewell Breakfast.

     The year 2007 will mark our 20th reunion to be celebrated in Omaha, Nebraska.

     Other memorable reunions have been in 1992 at Virginia Beach when we arranged for the PBY from the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York to be there and take members for a little spin and some yoke time. At the 1995 reunion in Pensacola, Florida we marked the 50th Anniversary of the end of WWII. At that time we paid a special tribute to those throughout the world who gave their life in the operation of PBYs during that conflict with the reading of more than 2100 names. In 1999 we went to Ottawa, Canada where a PBY-5A Canso was flown in from Canada’s Warplane Heritage Museum at Hamilton, Ontario and again our members had a chance to go up for a memorable flight around the city of Ottowa and the surrounding countryside. In 2002 the "Cutaway PBY" was dedicated at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at NAS Pensacola during our reunion. We were also on hand for the Homecoming and Air Show of the Blue Angels.

     One of the most interesting and challenging activities we have undertaken is the “Cutaway PBY” project. In 1995, the PBY CIA started the wheels in motion in an effort to raise the funds ($150,000) necessary to restore Navy Number FP-216, PBY-5B to its original glory with a crew of life-like mannequins dressed in vintage uniforms at their work stations with radio gear and instruments back in place. Thousands will view this very interesting, historical and educational exhibit each year.

     To the anticipation of our members, we print and mail a newsletter at least three times a year. Input to our editor by members is encouraged.

     The PBY CIA does not intend to infringe upon the activities of any squadron or other group, but rather simply to provide a home for those of us who do not have an organized group and a place we can gather occasionally to renew old friendships and meet some folks that will become new and lasting friends. There is no way such gatherings can happen without hearing some good sea stories as well as telling a few. We are an ALL HANDS group made up of folks who at one time were operational in some fashion with the PBY and others who simply have an interest and enthusiasm for that old warbird that just doesn’t know when to quit.

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