Miss Pick Up’s 75Th Year By David Legg
Guest Editorial written by David Legg – The Catalina known as Miss Pick Up that is operated out of Duxford near Cambridge in the UK is a well-known sight at air displays throughout Europe. 2018 saw her reach the milestone of her 75th birthday and she celebrated it in style with airshow commitments far and wide.
Originally built by Canadian Vickers Ltd for the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Canso A, equivalent to the US Navy’s PBY-5A Catalina, G-PBYA has been flying at events with its present owners Catalina Aircraft Ltd every year since the early-Summer of 2004. Unusually for such a large ‘warbird’, she is owned by twenty shareholders, about two thirds of whom are pilots. The overall operation of the Catalina is managed by Plane Sailing Air Displays Ltd, experienced in flying Catalinas in Europe and further afield since 1985.
Given her age, Miss Pick Up could perhaps be excused for displaying a certain amount of truculence this season and problems with a main undercarriage strut and the starboard engine led, most unusually, to a small number of show cancellations. This was very frustrating as we hate to let air display organisers down (and very rarely do), plus of course we lost income from those shows. However, the season turned out to be a classic with plenty of opportunities to operate on water and to visit countries not previously on our itinerary.
As is the trend in the UK and Ireland, several of our display bookings were for ‘seaside’ shows and we performed for large crowds at Bray and Foynes in Ireland, at Portrush in Northern Ireland, Great Yarmouth and Weston-super-Mare in England and Ayr in Scotland. We also visited the Toulouse-Francazal airshow in France and displays at Sola in Norway and Aalborg in Denmark.
At the beginning of June we flew to Northern Ireland to join in the RAF100 centenary celebrations beside Lough Erne, a former RAF Catalina base in WWII. Operating out of St Angelo/Enniskillen airport, we made a number of water landings on the Lough over the weekend, thrilling spectators as we emulated the wartime Catalina operations from the local Killadeas and Castle Archdale flying boat bases.
Our next opportunity to fly from water was at the Mazury Airshow, held over Lake Niegocin at Giżycko in the north-east of Poland, close to the Russian province of Kaliningrad. We left Duxford on August 2nd and stopped at Lübeck in northern Germany for customs clearance and a great reception with several press photographers in attendance.
The intention was to then fly direct to our land base for the weekend at the lovely grass aerodrome at Kętrzyn, once used as the airfield for Hitler’s wartime ‘Wolf’s Lair’. However, a series of severe storms stood between us and our destination and a diversion to Gdansk proved necessary. We night-stopped there and flew on to Kętrzyn the next day. During the two-day show on the lake, Miss Pick Up performed a number of water landings and takeoffs as well as giving several displays.
In-between these, the Catalina was moored on a buoy a short distance from the shore so that spectators could see her from their vantage points along the lakeside. We were made very welcome during our time in Poland and amongst other gifts were awarded a large trophy to mark our attendance, now on display in our Duxford office.
After leaving Poland we flew direct to Uetersen-Heist north of Hamburg for the Wings & Wheels show there. This was a great show, mixing classic aircraft with classic vehicles, and was notable for providing the opportunity to spend much of the weekend with Seaplanemagazine.com’s editorial team. Great guys! After Wings & Wheels, we stayed in Germany for another weekend, this time at Bad Sassendorf near Dortmund before finally returning to the UK.
Arguably the best ‘gig’ of the year was our trip to the Sivrihisar Hava Gösterileri (SHG) Airshow at Sivrihisar, Eskişehir Province in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey. The team at the SUSHM (Sivrihisar Uluslararası Sportif Havacılık Merkezi or Sivrihisar İnternatıonal Sportive Aviation Centre) Airpark have done an amazing job in creating their aviation centre from scratch in the middle of the desert and it is an amazing location for an air display!
Our Catalina flew out from Duxford and overflew Belgium, Germany and Austria before a night stop in Hungary. Then it was on over Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria before reaching Turkish airspace. We flew a similar route back to the UK so our total airborne time was 25 hours 6 minutes. It was a terrific show before a really appreciative audience and the Catalina behaved impeccably throughout!
The year ended with more water work when many of our pilots carried out training on the waters of Lake Biscarrosse in south-west France, a perfect end to a great year.
It is a privilege to be able to operate Miss Pick Up and we hope to be able to do so for many years to come. She is the most-flown of the diminishing number of Catalinas and Cansos still flying – the original USAAF Miss Pick Up was not so fortunate, lasting less than a year before being lost in action in March 1945.
You can help our efforts to keep Miss Pick Up flying by joining The Catalina Society. For a modest subscription you can contribute to her upkeep and keep in touch through our twice-annual magazine The Catalina News. For more information look at the ‘Memberships’ tab at https://www.catalina.org.uk
David Legg has been flying as a crew member with Plane Sailing Air Displays Ltd. since 1985 and is the Editor of The Catalina News. You can learn more about the Catalina Society on Catalina.org.uk and via Facebook. Seaplanemagazine.com has a wide collection of articles about the PBY Catalina. See more here!