Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina Found in Puerto Rico is Australia Bound

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Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina as found on eBay in Puerto Rico (Image Credit: RCMPT)
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina as found on eBay in Puerto Rico
(Image Credit: RCMPT)
The Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Trust (RCMPT), after a worldwide, seven-year search, located and purchased a rare Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina finding the plane (un)surprisingly enough, on eBay, located in Puerto Rico, reportedly acquiring the plane for of AU$20,000 (US$19,000).

RAAF Base Rathmines  (Image Credit: RAAF)
RAAF Base Rathmines
(Image Credit: RAAF)
The RCMPT is dedicated to maintaing awareness of the role played by the Seaplanes and Flying Boats of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), their crews and the ground support personnel at RAAF Base Rathmines, located on saltwater Lake Macquarie in New South Wales, Australia. Founded in 1939, RAAF Base Rathmines became the largest seaplane base in the southern hemisphere and played a crucial role in the defense of Australia in World War II. Notably its flying boats were involved with the mining of Manila Harbor and played an important part in the Battle of the Coral Sea. At its peak, the base was home to over 3,000 RAAF personnel and comprised 230 buildings and marine facilities and had forty aircraft in service.

While RAAF Base Rathmines served as a base for nearly every type of amphibious aircraft and flying boat used by the RAAF including the Curtiss SOC Seagull, Douglas Dolphin, Supermarine Walrus, Short Sunderland, Martin PBM Mariner, Dornier Do 24, Short S23 Empire and the Vought OS2U Kingfisher, but it is the Consolidated PBY Catalina that is held most dear by Australians.

Between 1941 and 1952, the RAAF operated a total of 168 Catalinas, flown by four front line squadrons, two communications units and three air-sea rescue flights. In January 1952, after the war, the Catalina was declared surplus and the RAAF ceased operating seaplanes and RAAF Base Rathmines was used as a ground-training base and ceased operation altogether in 1960/61, deeded to the Lake Macquarie Council.

PBY6A Catalina, VH-CAT at Lake Macquarie in 2008 (Image Credit: Mike Usher / Catalina Flying Memorial)
PBY6A Catalina, VH-CAT at Lake Macquarie in 2008
(Image Credit: Mike Usher / Catalina Flying Memorial)
The PBY-5A Catalina will become one of the key attractions of a hangar-style museum planned for the heritage-listed lakeside memorial park at Rathmines. It is intended to be the museum’s centerpiece restored to static display standards and will complement an operational PBY6A Catalina, VH-CAT operated by the Catalina Flying Memorial.

RCMPT Registrar Penny Furner says the purchase of the Catalina PBY-5A was a real coup. “Catalinas are very hard to come by and this is one of the models that flew out of Rathmines during the war,” she said. “It will make a marvellous static display for our proposed museum and will boost our efforts to secure government support for the project. We want to build a fitting home for VH-CAT and the PBY-5A so anyone interested in wartime history or aviation can come and see these wonderful old aircraft first-hand.”

The acquisition of the PBY-5A Catalina was paid for with money raised by the Trust through donations and community events such as the annual Rathmines Catalina Festival. At the time of this writing, crews from Australia are on site in Puerto Rico, disassembling the amphibian for shipping to Australia.



  1. Hello from Venezuela, that plane operated for several years in my country (YV registrations). We are happy to see that the restoration will be a reality.

    Aircraft data:
    8412 (c/n 1774) civil identities (oldest first) were N10024, N96R, YV-P-EPX, YV-P-EPZ (Orinoco Mining Company), YV-O-CFO-4, YV-56CP, YV-585CP, YV-485C (Rr 1973), now N7238Z.

    Alejandro Irausquin
    Aeronautical Engineer / Latinoamerican Aviation Historian

    • Vi muchas veces despegar ese Catalina y el Canadair que lo reemplazó desde mí casa en Alta Vista en Puerto Ordaz.

      Me alegro mucho de que esté siendo rehabilitado.

  2. Thanks for that data, Alejandro.

    We’ll be monitoring the progress of the restoration and will keep you updated on its progress.


  3. I am a pilot/A & P was working and going to school at Burnside-Ott at Tamiami Airport near Miami Florida in 1985. I have a great photo of PBY # YV585CP when she was in airworthy condition. I would be happy to forward it if interested.

    Regards, Capt. Dave Walker

  4. My brothers PBY 5A headed from Miami to Cavanaugh Flight Museum?
    Maybe I’ll finally get a ride in it, painted the top of the wing 20 years ago in FTL. It was like painting a double tennis court. Cessna SkyMASTER taxied by in the AM, in the early evening we were still painting, he taxied up and asked us if we noticed anything different about his plane: The belly pod had been knocked off by a CG Falcon jet practicing intercepts over the Gulfstream!! His passengers luggage was spread out in the Gulfstream, he called the FTL TV station and they were interviewing him with us in the background. We mooned them but fortunately the cut just as we dropped Trou, Mother was watching the 9 o’clock news and wouldn’t have been pleased

    • Hello Les.

      Great story!
      I flew with your brother a couple of times! Great guy!!
      Greetings, Heijo Kuil.

  5. I did not quite realize these boats are from 1933 design. I only thought nifty of it, like the Albatross they are, would fit nicely at our auction bought Lake Payette in Idaho. They say the house there used groveling to Sanderson, or really named Sid Anderson.

  6. Is there really a Clyde Adams out there? My best mate of same name, passed away in Perth Western Australia some years back.
    There was also a Sid Anderson there, ran a 16 cylinder speed car from his city motor business. Jim

  7. Great to see that gorgeous bird come back to life, even if it’s only a static display and far from it’s former home. I’m an A&P mech that worked for Airborne Express (DHL) and American Eagle out of San Juan, PR. Tony’ Tiri’s original plan was to restore it to airworthy condition and he had an open request for any mechs available to volunteer. I was interested but had a full time job and a family to feed. A resto like that is a major maintenance evolution not to mention the expense. Maybe some day I will get to see her again, Down Under…..

    Keep up the good work mates and kudos for this great endeavor.

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