Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Another warbird comes home

An e-mail from reader Christopher Carmichael (to whom a grateful tip o' the hat) alerted me to this news story.

Local businessman Jim Slattery loves naval aviation, and it seems he will spare no expense to preserve it wherever possible.

Two years ago, Slattery, 62, of Poway purchased a broken-down, World War II-era PBY Catalina that was being worked on at an airport in South Africa. Tuesday afternoon, the plane arrived at its final destination, Gillespie Field in El Cajon, following a 16-leg, 12,000-mile journey that lasted three weeks.

The aircraft is the 46th in Slattery’s collection and will eventually be on display in a “Greatest Generation Naval Museum,” that he intends to open in the coming months.

“It’s a labor of love,” Slattery said. “It’s about saving the airplane. It’s all about trying to preserve history.”

. . .

Just getting the plane qualified to return to the United States was a substantial undertaking, because Slattery had to fly a Federal Aviation Administration official to South Africa for an inspection.

The plane couldn’t return to the United States until it met FAA regulations, he said.

Once all the repairs were made, in all a six-year project, and it met federal guidelines, the next step was flying the plane halfway across the planet. That’s no small task for a 70-year-old aircraft that travels at a top speed of 120 miles per hour.

So Slattery sent three of his full-time employees — pilots Bob Franicola and Mike Castillo and chief mechanic Matt Voigt. The trio flew from South Africa to Namibia to Angola to Cameroon to Liberia to Brazil to French Guiana to Trinidad to Panama to Costa Rica to Mexico. The first 14 legs of the trip ranged from five hours to 13 hours apiece.

The final two legs, from Tijuana to Brown Field and then on to Gillespie Field, were significantly shorter.

There's more at the link, including a photograph of the plane making a fly-past before landing.

The story is of personal interest to me, because I think I remember that particular airplane.  If I'm right, it was parked at a Witwatersrand-area airport for many years in near-derelict condition.  After I left South Africa, there were plans to restore it, but I don't know how far they got before Mr. Slattery bought it.  (Three squadrons of the South African Air Force were equipped with PBY's during World War II.  They were replaced with larger Sunderland flying-boats in 1945.)

Kudos to Mr. Slattery for being willing to invest the money, time and effort to bring a loyal warbird home again.


1 comment:

TheAxe said...

Makes me really happy to read this :)